Executive Floor

The Executive Floor (also Club Floors or VIP Floors), usually comprising several whole floors with the best locations and views (usually top floors) and a lounge or bar, which like a first-class section on a plane with enhanced and extended facilities and services, is for guests willing to spend more or demonstrate loyalty to a hotel. The entire area is accessible sometimes only to guests with authorized room keys. As a “primary hotel inside a hotel”, executive floor guests can get almost all the services a hotel can offer apart from regular floor guests: big rooms with better amenities, dedicated driver, dedicated concierge, private check-in/out, butler, complimentary food and beverage etc.

An executive lounge is like a lobby inside executive floors.

Executive Lounge Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel

Executive Lounge Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel

A hotel with a high proportion of corporate/business customers—four/five stars hotels—may offer a dedicated floor, block or area of the hotel specifically to the most valuable guests to be more competent. All well-known hotel brands integrate the executive floor/executive club/club lounge policies into their loyalty programs such as Four Seasons, Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt and IHG.

An executive lounge may include accommodation specially customized for corporate customers, with extra space for work (e.g. business center) and rest, high-speed Wi-Fi, hot buffet breakfast, afternoon tea, all-day refreshments, complimentary non-alcoholic beverages, cocktails for a fee, complimentary business services.

Executive-grade rooms may also offer extra amenities: Complimentary local calls, garment pressing, local and international newspapers and magazines, express check-in and check-out, personalized business and concierge services, complimentary use of meeting room and special discounts on some hotel services.

Ken D'arcy, the former president of Crosman Corp., always opts for a room on executive floors. He explains, "Because they are executive-level, they are usually full of executives or frequent travelers. They are in town to work, not for pleasure; thus, peace and quiet usually prevails. Most of these floors offer club lounges where one can either work or simply relax and enjoy a drink or light snack." He adds there's a safety factor, too, because access to these floors often requires the use of a special key card in the elevators.

Donald Jacobs, president, Inteck, a management consulting firm, says, "I like these floors because of the concierge room that is set aside. There I can get some hors d'oeuvres and relax instead of just staying in my room. It feels like a comfortable family room."

Some frequent travelers, however, are more interested in the price of a room than the amenities offered on executive floors. They claim the ability to book discounted rooms through such online websites as Priceline.com and Hotels.com is more appealing. Dan Herman, managing principal, Aspen Advisors, says, "I don't have loyalty to any hotel brand, and I use Priceline to secure a hotel the day I land in a new city." As a frequent visitor to certain hotel chains, however, he is often bumped up. "I sometimes get upgraded at Marriott and Hilton for access to the executive floor for breakfast. The benefit to me is a complimentary breakfast and meeting place with business colleagues."

Other travelers, such as Jamie Bernstein, a hospital consultant, had access to executive floors at some hotels but spent more time in regular guestrooms. "I traveled 80 percent of the time and typically didn't ‘bond' with my room. I just wanted things to work, such as short lines to check in, a key that worked and a wake-up call that happened."

On the industry side, many hotels see the value of maintaining and primping executive floors. Bjorn Hanson, clinical professor at the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management, says, "The U.S. lodging industry is pursuing ways to increase rates and providing a way for those guests willing to pay more for exclusivity. Upgraded furnishings, services and such features as higher floors is one solution." He also points out, "If these special rooms are not occupied by guests paying the higher rates, the rooms are still in the inventory and can be available at regular rates, and it can be effective in creating guest loyalty by offering free upgrades to some guests."

Sheraton Hotels & Resorts made enhanced club floors a priority, and it paid off. In 2011, Sheraton invested $120 million to improve its club lounges worldwide, according to Hoyt Harper, global brand leader, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts. "Today's travelers understand the option to upgrade whether it is extra legroom on the airline or a fee for an airline lounge at the airport; we applied the same approach to our Club product." He adds, "We recognized a tremendous revenue opportunity that many of our competitors were overlooking or discontinuing and bet big on the investment paying off. The results are beating our expectations."

Sheraton Club offers Club Lounge access to nearly 26,000 guestrooms worldwide. Since the investment, the number of people buying up to Club level worldwide doubled, says Harper. Club guests tend to be younger, more highly educated and tend to be professionals. Some 46 percent of Club guests are leisure travelers, 41 percent are business and 11 percent are a business-leisure mix.

Club floor managers and other personnel on executive floors vie to make their hotel within a hotel the most special in the city or region through personal attention, attractive lounges and food offerings. At the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, the Regency Club floors, which encompass about 150 of the hotel's 804 guestrooms, are on the top two of 17 guest floors in a waterfront building near Pier One. "Our guests like a private space, either to socialize or work, and they see the club lounge as an extension of their guestroom. They get food and the beverages, but they are really purchasing an experience beyond the guestroom," says Stacey Edinger, the hotel's director of sales and marketing. "I think that's what the guests see as the value of purchasing an upgrade."

The Fairmont Gold floors are designed as a boutique hotel within a hotel. Each Gold floor offers amenities that reflect the destination, whether it's a Thai fighting fish in a goldfish bowl in the room at Vancouver's Fairmont Pacific Rim, a welcome card with ingredients to create the island's famous Dark & Stormy cocktail at The Fairmont Hamilton Princess in Bermuda, or a white-chocolate replica of the city's historical monuments at The Fairmont Washington, D.C. The club lounges also reflect the local ambience. The Fairmont Chateau Whistler features an Alpine-style lounge with a wood-burning fireplace. The lounge at The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii includes an outdoor space with lanai tables and quiet areas for reading. Fairmont Gold guests also have access to iPads with pre-loaded national and local newspapers.

"We try to provide more exclusive and more personalized service," says Liam Ramsone, Gold manager, The Fairmont Banff Springs, popular with international visitors from the United States and as far away as Australia and India. "It's all about the details," he says. Guests check in at the private lounge, where they receive a warm hand towel on arrival, get a personal tour of the amenities and then discover welcome letters with bear-shaped cookies in their rooms. Wake-up calls come with coffee at the door of the guestroom. In the lounge, which is staffed from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., they get a breakfast buffet (with treats like vanilla waffles or spiked Grand Marnier French toast), snacks throughout the day, and light appetizers and an honor bar in the evening. Families enjoy free use of Play Stations and Wii in the guestrooms.

The quality of executive floors and their club lounges varies dramatically. If the amenities are important to you, ask about what's offered before deciding whether to spend the extra money, which can range from approximately $75 extra (at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco) to $160 extra a night (at The Fairmont Banff Springs) or more. Some hotels only have a basic breakfast buffet and coffee throughout the day, while others deliver outstanding perks. The JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai, for example, features an entire floor dedicated as a lounge open 24/7, with Internet stations, bookable meeting space and high tea with sandwiches and scones. Guests on the club floor at the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa in Edinburgh, Scotland, have access to the award-winning Escape at One — a series of heat and water experiences including the Thermal Suite and rooftop Hydropool.

The executive floors that offer the ambience and personalized service of a boutique hotel, even though they are tucked into large properties, give frequent travelers a place to unwind from a hectic work day or relax after exploring on vacation. This is why executive floors with good club lounges remain so popular.

Executive Lounge Sheraton Toronto

Executive Lounge Sheraton Toronto

Hilton Hotels & Resorts conducted improvements in many of its properties in past decade. "It's a key focus," said Dave Horton, global head of the Hilton brand, the lounges used design, technology, food and beverages "to create an environment where our guests can connect with others, relax or be productive while traveling."

Started from 2011, J.W. Marriott Hotels have rebuilt executive lounges for many of its properties adding some features like "vanishing bars," custom furniture by day that opens in the evening for cocktails, said Mitzi Gaskins, vice president and global brand manager. Other lounges get larger, with private meeting rooms within them, as in Asia, where they are often popular gathering places. Dining and beverage offerings focus on local and organic foods. And all have a concierge, she said.

At Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, their executive lounges include things like lights that dim to change the mood to help travelers relax, libraries with e-readers, and sound rooms with high-end equipment to listen to music. Many lounges offer iPads, personalized arrivals and service, based on guests’ interests.

Mr. Benjamin, president of Benjamin West, a company that supplies interior furnishings to major hotel brands and independent hotels internationally, said business travelers worked traditionally in their rooms, but now more favor communal areas. Lounges typically offer individual seating “for people who want to cocoon themselves,” he said, as well as large communal tables. Lounges are ideal for travelers who do not want to be secluded in their rooms, but who seek more privacy than possible in the lobby, he said.

"We found that our guests like having the lounge open on the weekend and into the night as well," said Mr. Harper. Sheraton makes design a priority in its lounges. "We're creating spaces that are flexible, so business travelers can move between different zones for different activities," Erin Hoover, vice president for global brand design for Sheraton and Westin said. "It's very similar to how you set up your home."

The design is consistent, but layouts, colors and art are differ regionally. The Sheraton TriBeCa in New York City, for instance, has an outdoor terrace with a 180-degree view of downtown Manhattan and a small, intimate dining area. "It feels like I'm at my friend's kitchen," Ms. Hoover said. In Edinburgh, textiles, fabrics, wood and books create a cozy "almost library-like" feel to the media wall, she said.

Henry H. Harteveldt, travel industry analyst for Forrester Research, said he had seen "some lounges with all the ambiance of a dentist's waiting room." He added, "Design is very, very important, and it is much more integrated into daily life nowadays." But, he said, lounges ideally combine "the aesthetic with the practical."

Travel experts said it is a way for brands to stay competitive by differentiating themselves from others.

Joseph A. McInerney, chief executive of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, said lounges evolved from designated executive floors, which often had their own elevators or keys, “to make regular business travelers feel special.” The industry followed the airlines, which provided different amenities depending on class of service.

“When you have a long day, it’s nice not to have to go downstairs,” said Rick LeBlanc, an executive from the Toronto area. Mr. LeBlanc, who is a frequent guest at many of Sheraton’s executive club lounges, said he had already noticed the greater food diversity, improved décor and service at some. “They know my name. They know what I like to drink,” he said. “There’s just an energy that resonates with global travelers. It’s a major uplift.”

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