The Best and Worst Hotel Trends—We Love Rain Showers, Hate Pillow Menus
We had the best of times…we had the worst of times. Cheers and jeers for the trends we loved (and loathed) in 16 years of reporting the Hot List of best hotels, restaurants and spas.
Remember when hotels didn’t have pillowtop beds…or rain showers…or turndown gifts? We do. Here, the 10 best hotel innovations from the past decades—just try to imagine your hotel stay without them (it’s not easy).
1 The Celebrity Chef Restaurant, debuted c. 1997 Jean-Georges Vongerichten opened his much-lauded namesake restaurant in the Trump International Hotel and Tower 15 years ago. Now, celebrity chef collaborations are the norm, and foodies flock to hotels for their prix-fixe menus.
2The Pillowtop Bed, debuted c. 1999 It’s launched a thousand copycats: Westin’s Heavenly Bed, a lofty mattress topped with down blankets, now found throughout the hotel universe.
3The Return of the Read, debuted c. 2000 Forget those mediocre hotel magazines. Today’s bibliophiles head to the hotel reading room for a large selection of titles. The Study at Yale in New Haven has its collection curated by the legendary N.Y.C.-based Strand bookstore.
4The Rain Shower, debuted c. 2001 The quest for perfect water pressure made strides with the introduction of rain showers (which harness gravity to let large drops fall at a soothing, rain-like rate).
5The Turndown Gift, debuted c. 2004 Chocolates on your pillow? So ‘80s! Hotels have raised the stakes on nighttime treats. Sri Lanka’s Amanwella offers straw hats and books.
6The Flat-Screen TV, debuted c. 2006 Rooms received an upgrade as hotels phased out clunky box-shaped TVs in favor of sleek flat panels.
7The Pool Amenity, debuted c. 2007 Crying kids no longer define the resort pool experience. Instead, how about a spritz of Evian water or some fresh fruit as you work on that tan?
8The Free Minibar Treat, debuted c. 2007 The minibar is infamous for price gouging, but some hotels have begun offering complimentary snacks. All Andaz Hotels let guests have their pick of any non-alcoholic drink and a selection of small bites.
9The Paperless Check-In, debuted c. 2010 After battling crowds at the airport, the last thing anyone wants to do is wait to check into the hotel. Self-check-in kiosks (like those in airline terminals) make the process seamless.
10The Wireless Concierge, debuted c. 2010 You need to find a restaurant or last-minute theater tickets. You are also miles from your concierge. Don’t fret. Some hotels now have a remote concierge service accessible via text message. All you need is a cell phone.
We’ve witnessed the birth of the best of hotel innovations…and, alas, some of the worst. Here are the ones we wish would just die already.
1The Pillow Menu, debuted c. 1997 Mustique’s Cotton House Resort was the first to offer a bedside card with a selection of fancy pillows, and the idea soon went worldwide. But really, who cares? It’s an overly cute service that sets off our gimmick radar. Just keep the pillows clean and neatly stuffed. We’ll pass on the buckwheat hulls.
2Club Lighting, debuted c. 1998 You could be in sunny South Beach and not know it, thanks to the dim, multicolored lighting in some hotels. Last we checked, we paid for a room, not a private discotheque.
3The Hotel Channel, debuted c. 2000 Question: Wouldn’t it be fun if guests had a TV channel with information about the hotel accompanied with a sound track of elevator music? And if whenever they turned on the TV, it would always revert to that channel? Answer: No. It takes hours (well, it feels like hours) to scroll through every channel to find one we like. Why would we want to repeat that process every time we hit the power button?
4The Bath Butler, debuted c. 2000 Butler-drawn baths were a hot commodity in Asian hotels that arrived stateside last decade. It’s a lovely idea: dipping into a cedar ofuro pre-drawn with steaming hot water, with a smattering of votive candles to set the mood. But perhaps the charm was lost in translation, because we can’t help but find something creepy (and depressingly regressive) about someone turning on the bath faucet for us.
5The Canine Concierge, debuted c. 2006 Forget doggy sweaters: At the Rome Cavalieri, your pet can get a cashmere jumper monogrammed with rhinestones (not to mention access to a nearby pampered pet spa service, which offers “comb outs”). But isn’t that time and money better spent on the two-legged guests?
6The Mandatory Resort Fee, debuted c. 2006 Long ago, hotels charged one flat rate for your stay, and that was that. But then they started sneaking in all sorts of hidden charges, one by one—including, most notoriously, mandatory fees for the pool, tennis courts, and gym. These extras should be included as part of the stay, not as covert costs to make the hotel appear less expensive.
7The All-in-One Room Controller, debuted c. 2006 In what’s become the (extremely) lazy man’s deus ex machina, a single gadget now controls everything from the lights to the temperature. But these gizmos are often so confusing that far more time is spent figuring out how to turn off the lights than would’ve been spent simply walking five feet to the switch.
8The Wall-Less Bathroom, debuted c. 2007 Sure, a bright, wall-less bathroom is practical on Anguilla, but in a big-city suite, it looks like the room is missing a wall. This is just too voyeuristic for our tastes.
9The Motion-Sensor Minibar, debuted c. 2008 One too many disappearing Toblerone bars led to the introduction of the minibar sensor a few years ago. Now, if you dare to move a soda from its rightful place in the fridge, a charge will automatically be added to your bill. Yes, hotels need to prevent theft, but treating guests like Jesse James is not a good business strategy.
10The Half-Wall Shower, debuted c. 2009 This unfortunate fad is in the same family as the wall-less bathroom. With only half a glass panel and no doors or curtains, these showers do look great, but just try not to get water on the floor: It’s next to impossible.