During a recent tour of the most exclusive hotel suites in Washington D.C. we learned how hotels prepare for VIP visits from world leaders, CEOs, and influential media moguls. Oprah Winfrey has made many appearances in the capital to visit the first family for the inauguration and to attend the Kennedy Center Honors. Washington D.C. is a city that knows how to welcome the queen of daytime TV, business magnates, and heads of state from around the world. The Mandarin Oriental, The Four Seasons and The Ritz-Carlton offer lavish suites to pamper the powerful people who visit Washington D.C.
Prepping for VIPs: It Takes an Army...Or a Security Detail
When asked how the hotel staff prepares for the arrival of a VIP, Mandarin Oriental General Manager Amanda Hyndman leads her team to understand the specific requirements for each guest. The staff confers with their travel agent or butler to find out how the room should be prepared.
With many guests arriving from around the world, we asked Hyndman how the Mandarin Oriental handles caring for guests who speak so many different languages. The staff at the hotel represents 58 countries and many languages, so they can plan accordingly. Last year delegations from China, Thailand and the Ukraine were all met and cared for by staff members who speak their language.
Hyndman tells of times when high-level delegations have sent their security team to the kitchen to help choose a piece of meat then taste it before the meal is sent up to the room. Extreme requests have included 20 vases of gardenias, particular brands of candles, and precise food requests. Recently one musician required a specific set of ingredients for a shake that included kale, broccoli, lettuce and spirulina ready for when he checked into the hotel.
When asked how the Four Seasons prepares for VIPs, Head Concierge Javier Loureiro responds, "Things change. Needs change. Our job is to respond to the changes."
On call 24 hours a day, a hotel butler is the main point of communication between the delegation and our hotel staff. "During a VIP's visit we get very little sleep. Our job is to take care of immediate needs of the VIP at any time of day." When asked about unique requests, Loureiro adds, "Some guests are interested in fast automobiles. One man wanted the hotel to arrange a choice of four to five ultra-luxury cars parked downstairs for him to choose from."
Suzie Sims, director of diplomatic sales at The Ritz-Carlton, emphasizes the importance of a security plan. The Ritz-Carlton on 22nd Street has two entrances, required by the Secret Service, including a separate diplomatic entrance. Most teams set up cameras in the hallway and a command post.
Anything a Guest Wants, They've Got It
Some Ritz-Carlton guests have been known to reserve a connecting room to be transformed into a gym, lounge, or formal meeting room. The hotel staff has also transformed adjoining rooms into dressing areas for their butler to iron, steam, and arrange extensive wardrobes. Some guests have arrived with such a large number of suitcases delivered by moving truck, that an extra room was reserved to store the luggage.
Recently, Sims was asked by a VIP to help with a birthday surprise for a guest. Hotel staff got to work pre-dawn to quietly fill the suite with hundreds of balloons while the guest was sleeping in the next room. The staff often gets requests for specific TV channels. Sims remarks, "We bring in a cable guy to reconfigure the channels. There is always a way to make it work." If the President of France wants to watch Bravo, they will make sure the giant TV in his suite has Bravo.
The Ritz-Carlton staff represents more than 30 nationalities. "We need to speak their language and be ready to cook their food. I work closely with the ambassador's protocol office to learn how to communicate with each guest properly and be as culturally sensitive as possible. Since we have Ritz-Carlton hotels throughout the world, we reach out to our colleagues in that country for resources and recipes. We can recreate the club lounge experience from another country."
The Ritz-Carlton Suite, the Presidential Suite at the Mandarin Oriental, and The Royal Suite at the Four Seasons were designed to entice the rich and powerful with the highest level of luxury, service, and security. Now that Oprah has wrapped up the 25 year run of her show, we may see her enjoying the posh hotels of Washington D.C. more often, unless she has already reserved the Lincoln bedroom.
For $6,000 a night, VIPs can stay at The Ritz-Carlton Suite at The Ritz-Carlton, Washington D.C. The 2,250-square-foot accommodations include a private terrace, formal dining room, and lavish master bedroom complete with dressing area and a double vanity. Inside the hotel guests have access to Sports Club/LA (there is a full-size basketball court), Eric Ripert's West End Bistro (two seats are available at the chef's counter to watch the action in the kitchen for every meal) and a classic cocktail bar. For more ultra-VIP accommodations, The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown offers modern decor with river views from the 2,900 square-foot the Royal Potomac Suite for $6,500. Photo: Ritz-Carlton
The expansive The Ritz-Carlton Suite terrace extends from the master bedroom to the dining room. Special security measures are taking to protect guests who are enjoying the outdoor seating. Photo: Ritz Carlton
When staying at The Ritz-Carlton, VIP guests often request specific candle brands and lavish flowers. Some arrive with their own liquor that their security team needs to keep protected from tampering. The staff will draw a bath, light candles, and pour drinks any time of day. Photo: Ritz Carlton
Favored by head of state, entertainment moguls and high-powered lobbyists, for $10,000 a night the 3,500-square-foot Presidential Suite at the Mandarin Oriental was recently completely renovated by Atlanta-based design team Karen Kent and Cristi Moore. The lavish suite features a marble entry, a grand piano, a spectacular bathroom with an infinity-edge tub, and gorgeous living room with high ceilings and sweeping views. Two balconies offer vistas of historic landmarks and monuments. Photo: Mandarin Oriental
More and more hotels find that the lists of special requests include at least one piece of cardio equipment. At the Mandarin Oriental, the Presidential Suite includes a room with a state-of-the-art treadmill. In addition to the treadmill, guests have requested private pilates instruction and other fitness and beauty treatments. Photo: Julie Wolfson
The view from the dining room of the Presidential Suite at the Mandarin Oriental. Photo: Julie Wolfson
For $15,000 a night, interior designer Pamela Anderson sets the stage for the opulent decor in the 4,000-square-foot Royal Suite at the Four Seasons. At the entrance, a canopy of Swarovski crystal lights embedded into the ceiling reflect off of the gleaming white mosaic floor. Perks include a personalized butler, 24-hour concierge service and a luxury car. Also available by request: personal trainers, massage therapists, personal chefs and customized security. The spacious one-bedroom suite offers guests in need of privacy state-of-the-art security with the option of closing off hallway doors to one, three or eight bedrooms. Photo: Julie Wolfson
A dramatic crystal fixture hangs over the sculptural freestanding tub in this sleek cream-colored Royal Suite marble bathroom at the Four Seasons. Photo: Julie Wolfson
This image of the terrace was shot through the thick bullet-resistant glass that has been installed throughout the Royal Suite. Photo: Julie Wolfson
This lighting control at the entrance of the Four Seasons Royal Suite gives guests the option of four lighting levels throughout the entire space at the touch of a button. Photo: Julie Wolfson