I wasn’t sure what to title this post when I started writing it, a member on Milepoint asked whether they should cash out their Hyatt Gold Passport points at the Park Hyatt Tokyo or the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris?
I wrote a brief reply that set me off on a 90 minute long journey through Youtube trailers, clips, and music of various kinds, only slightly connected to one another.
The PH Tokyo is one of my favorite hotels in the world. I’ll acknowledge it’s hardly tops in Tokyo. I disagree with those who make the fair point that the Grand Hyatt’s location makes it a superior property. It is a good property. But the Park Hyatt is special. Perhaps it’s emotional attachment, the same way that i will always love the Fairmont in San Francisco, such a classic hotel atop Nob Hill. Of course I’m not a huge Paris guy anyway…
Watch Lost in Translation and then tell me you don’t want to stay at the PH Tokyo.
There are some hotels that you just connect with on an emotional level, some places that you just want to be or go back to, and others that feel like home and I don’t have a unified theory as to why, there probably isn’t just a single reason.
Take the Fairmont San Francisco. It’s a nice hotel, a prestigious hotel that in some ways lives on its past grandeur. It’s grand but not even close to the nicest hotel in the city. And yet, to me at least, it’s special. It’s in many ways too big a hotel for my usual preferences, so why do I feel that it’s a special place? Maybe it’s because when I was still in high school Dylan talked about taking Kelly there on Beverly Hills 90210? Or because I first stayed there more than a dozen years ago and I still remember my great stay where I had the great fortune to meet the late Milton Friedman who lived down the street. The funny thing is that I’m actually afraid to go back, because I don’t want to ruin the special place that the Fairmont holds in my memory, since I know that my tastes and experiences have grown since then. In that way, the Fairmont is the exception.
The Park Hyatt Tokyo has such clean lines, it’s grand and somehow both friendly and impersonal. Very Japanese. Both The Points Guy and Matthew recently reviewed the property. Here’s my meal at Kozue, the hotel’s Japanese restaurant, though I really do need to fix some of my old archive photos. Is the hotel more special to me from the way that Lost in Translation affected me? Perhaps. I hate to acknowledge being so fickle as to be influenced by pop culture placements, commercial associations that attach me emotionally to a brand or product. And yet there’s a reason that the hotel worked for the movie, seeing some of yourself in the characters can make you feel as though you belong in the place those characters are set.
In much a different way, I’ve long been at home in several of my most frequently visited properties. You just know how they work, they’re utterly familiar, and you’re welcomed back (more or less). I’ve probably made more trips to South Florida than to anywhere else, largely due to family, and two of the hotels I’ve stayed at most frequently are the Westin Diplomat and the Renaissance Boca Raton.
The Diplomat is perhaps the very best property for Starwood Platinums of any in the world. To be sure, it’s not the best property in the world or even perhaps the best Starwood property in South Florida. But for Platinum recognition, they have something like 86 suites in the upgrade pool the most common of which has an ocean view and wraparound balcony, some have views as well of the intracoastal waterway. A Platinum upgrade is so much of a gimme here that the hotel has been known to send out emails to PLatinums during true peak demand periods like the week between Christmas and New Years letting them know that of course they are still going to be upgraded to a suite if it’s available but there’s a reasonable chance it won’t be, and since everyone so expects a suite here as an upgrade they ought to know in advance that they might need to take steps to confirm it rather than hope for it at checkin. Meanwhile, there’s such a lovely lounge space on the 33rd floor with both indoor and outdoor seating (two decks, one facing the ocean and the other the intracoastal) and breakfast is well-provisioned.
Unfortunately the lounge experience has eroded over time, they started handing out $0 checks to prompt staff tips and they’ve cut back on the evening hor dourves. They used to keep bringing out more as food was finished but they started rationing the food, when it’s gone it’s gone, and large families descend quickly like vultures when the food comes out, figuring they can save on dinner. Meanwhile, there used to be an amazing after dinner dessert presentation, they had the most delicious treats…
Meanwhile, the Renaissance is older, it’s gotten some renovations after hurricane damage but could still use investment. It has a nice pool area but the rooms are fairly generic. The hotel restaurant used to do a fabulous breakfast but now I find I don’t bother (and don’t mind not currently being a Marriot Gold one bit). The staff are exceptionally friendly, maybe not as remarkably as they were in the earlier part of the last decade but compared to most hotels they stand out. I’ve just been there so many times that like the Diplomat it feels a home away from home. I don’t worry about coming back here and ruining a memory because the place itself isn’t so fabulous or cherished to begin with, it’s just an old, reliable good friend. I know exactly what I’ll get.
And when a place becomes familiar it becomes an extension of you, and in a way an extension of your living room. It’s how I think I understand one of my close friends to mean when she talked about the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit in Bangkok. And though this post is really about hotels, it’s also how I feel whenever I hear “Rhapsody in Blue.”
Last month I had a meeting up in New York and met someone in advance to prep for it in the ‘library’ space of the Andaz 5th Avenue. I wasn’t a guest there, but both of us knew the hotel, I’ve stayed there many times and it was close by the meeting. I got there first, fired up their laptop which is available for guest use and took a water from the fridge. Andaz folks, if you’re reading this, I guess you can send me a bill if you’d like. Yet I felt it was perfectly ok, I’ve stayed here plenty and maybe just think of it as a bottled water I meant to take on one of those occasions?
It’s actually why I’ve really wished some hotel chain would pick up on the now-defunct “Our World, Your Lounge” benefit that Radisson’s Goldpoints Plus used to offer, all elite members were explicitly welcome to come into the hotel’s lobby, use the hotel’s internet, and have a complimentary cup of coffee. You’re regulars which means you’re important, you’re family, every time you walk in the door whether or not you are actually staying at the hotel on a given day. It was such a powerful message. They eliminated the benefit, I wonder if this was a well thought out decision based on data or it just struck someone as odd and couldn’t demonstrably show a positive cash flow.
I don’t know what it’s worth to a hotel to have my heart. I know that they frequently make offers of points (so real cash) for me just to like them on Facebook. I like plenty of things on Facebook, and what any given liked property posts rarely even pops to the top of my feed and I certainly don’t regularly check into the Facebook pages of hotels I’ve liked. There are hotels that I actually feel, deep inside. And watching a few clips from Lost in Translation is enough, on its own, to cause me to start contemplating a trip to Tokyo. Where I will almost necessarily have to book the Park Hyatt.
Where are your special places, where you feel most at home? And am I just a sucker for simulated hospitality, or is there something real here?
(Just don’t stop the video before 1:07.)