From the February 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

If you've seen one hotel room, you haven't seen 'em all. Unless, of course, you've checked out the concierge floors under construction at the newest business- travel hotels.

These special club levels, which feature everything from dual-line speakerphones and in-room faxes to printers and upgraded toiletries, are finding a lot of fans among frequent travelers. Hoteliers report that the deluxe rooms invariably sell out first, so in response, they're upping the number of executive-level offerings.

The Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, for example, recently spent more than $3 million to overhaul its existing club level and create a new concierge floor, where guests will find a lounge with complimentary newspapers and a breakfast bar.

If the new concierge levels sound great to you, get ready to pay. A recent survey of 3,000 properties by PKF Consulting found that hotels charge a 60.3 percent premium for the privilege of staying on their executive floors. That means you'll shell out an additional $56.81 per night over and above the standard room rate.

Some properties, however, are resisting the club-level practice. At the 15 Loews hotels in North America, you'll find a special "Did You Forget" closet stocked with many extras including a tie, a computer and even diapers--all of which are provided free of charge. Says Debra Kelman of Loews: "We wanted to anticipate all of our guests' needs."


Christopher Elliott is a writer in Los Angeles and a columnist for "ABC News Online."

Smooth Sailing

Business meetings ship out to sea.

Cruises aren't just for honeymooners anymore. As bigger boats hit the seas, more company meetings are setting sail.

Although the trend is still emerging, several lines confirm that business meetings are one of their most promising new markets. Orlando, Florida, cruise consultant Laura Bennett says while most get-togethers remain affinity groups like the Elk's Club, she's noticed an increase in smaller companies taking cruises en masse.

"Meeting on a ship can be more desirable," Bennett says. "It's great for team- and morale-building."

Cruise line officials list other benefits, too. Rich Steck of Royal Caribbean International says new ships are equipped with meeting and convention facilities offering the audiovisual equipment found in the best hotels.

Another plus: You can turn cruises into working vacations by allowing spouses and children to tag along. But don't worry, many ships offer kid's programs designed to keep Junior happy while his parents work--or play.

Road Notes

  • Effective March 28, Lufthansa German Airlines will serve Philadelphia-Frankfurt and Detroit-Frankfurt with daily nonstop flights. For more information, call (800) 645-3880.
  • The Republic of Tea is offering a 15-percent-off "road warrior special" this month on its Traveler's Tea line. The Traveler's "Day of Tea" gift set, for example, includes tins of British Breakfast, Blackberry Sage and Chamomile Lemon, the latter of which is believed to fight the effects of jet lag. The special costs $10. For more information, call (800) 298-4832.
  • Marriott Rewards members now receive 5,000 bonus points for switching from their residential long-distance carrier to AT&T, as well as 5 points per dollar spent on qualifying long-distance, personal calling card and local toll calls when they use AT&T. Call (800) 249-0800 for details.

Contact Sources

Bennett & Co., (407) 425-6040, prfirmfl@aol.com

Loews Hotels, (800) 23-LOEWS, http://www.loewshotels.com

Royal Caribbean International, 1050 Caribbean Wy., Miami, FL 33132, http://www.rccl.com

Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, (416) 361-1000, http://www.toronto.com/sheratoncentre