As one of the world’s great diplomatic hubs, Washington, D.C., gets a lot of traffic from international visitors. Marketing organization Destination D.C. reports that last year, 10 percent of guests to the United States’ capital were foreign travelers, and they accounted for 27 percent of the District’s tourism spending. Last year, more visitors to Washington D.C. came from China than from any other country, and the city’s premiere hotels have gotten creative with their hospitality.
“You have to be very sensitive,” said Timothy Harleth of the Mandarin Oriental in Southwest Washington on tailoring hospitality to the cultures of visitors. “A lot of times Middle Eastern clients just want to come in and have a steak — not necessarily the same thing they eat back home.”
Even still, many hotels have added amenities that are pleasing to guests, particularly those from China. “Sometimes we set out bowls of oranges and tangerines because they’re a sign of wealth and good luck,” said Pierre-Louis Renou, general manager of the Sofitel. “We have so many Chinese travelers that we started getting China Daily News every Monday to Friday.” The Sofitel’s staff has received training in Chinese customs, and the hotel broadcasts the 24-hour Phoenix InfoNews channel.
“Expectations are becoming so high that nothing seems that outrageous anymore,” said Sarah Deam, director of marketing and sales for the Hay-Adams. Her hotel offers hot noodles to Chinese guests upon their arrival, and a high-end luxury magazine (in Mandarin) may soon be standard in rooms.
Customized guest experiences are also offered by all of the D.C. area hotels. “It’s really all about personalized service,” said Ernie Arias, director of sales and marketing for the Park Hyatt. “We try to find out right away what their preferences are.”
At the Ritz-Carlton, guests frequently fly in furniture and have the staff arrange it for them to resemble rooms from home. The Fairmont offers “blackout” rooms to jetlagged visitors, and will serve breakfast for dinner or vice versa for those guests still adjusting to the new time zone.
“You find out what makes the guests happy,” said Mark Andrew, general manager of the Fairmont in Washington. “And then you exceed their expectations.”
photo credit: mandarin oriental