Best of Bark: The Best Kept Secret in Business Travel

 

phillymonaco

Some business travelers are loyal Marriott men. They flash their shiny Platinum cards upon checking in, thrilled with their 500 bonus points and concierge lounge access. Others are faithful Hilton guests, and they have their choice of Hilton, Doubletree, or Embassy Suites in nearly every city in America (and Hilton Garden Inn when they don’t). Still others give their allegiance to the Starwood family of properties, and they Make a Green Choice to get their 500 bonus points per night for some of the best redemption rates in the industry.

 

While it’s true that I currently hold Platinum status with Marriott, and I was Diamond with Hilton for four years, there’s another hotel rewards membership card in my wallet that is far more exclusive and far more valuable. It says “Inner Circle,” and it gets me the best perks of any reward program in the industry at the best hotel group in America—Kimpton Hotels.

I was first introduced to Kimpton in July of 2012, when a colleague of mine, Shawn, booked a meeting at their property in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC, the spectacular Ink 48. I had been complaining that the meeting wasn’t booked at one of the many Hilton or Marriott properties in the city, but immediately upon arrival, I was hooked. My corner room was absolutely gigantic by NYC standards, with windows that overlooked Times Square. They had placed a bottle of red wine in my room as well as a Keurig machine so I could make my morning English Breakfast tea. After checking in, I went down to the complimentary Wine Hour (a standard offering at all Kimptons), where, in addition to red and white wine selections, there was a delicious fruit sangria available—all for free!

The boardroom we used for our meeting was immaculate, and the service provided by the hotel staff was second to none. They provided more than just the regular hotel standbys of powdered eggs and greasy bacon for breakfast—there were healthy options, including fruits, yogurts, and granola.

The final nail in the coffin for the Old Men of the hotel industry was when Kimpton offered to status match my Hilton Diamond status and give me their top tier of status, Inner Circle, all the way through the end of the following calendar year! Done and done.

Kimpton’s reward program offers things that are simply unheard of in the industry. Every time that they open a new property, they give IC members a free night at the property and a $50 dining credit at the restaurant on site (by the way, Kimpton restaurants are always, ALWAYS, among the best in the city. No “River City Grille” or “Garden Grill” crap). When I make the smart decision to eat at their restaurants, the chef prepares a special, off-menu, Inner Circle appetizer for me, free of charge. They give you two free nights when you stay at ten different Kimptons in one year. They give you another free night for every seven stays. They offer “Last Minute Deals” if you book within seven days of your stay—but here’s the kicker. Even if you book a year in advance, if you call back within a week of your stay and there’s a lower rate, they’ll switch it for you! Crazy!

There’s also the bottle of local red wine and the cheese and fruit tray they put in my room every time, but if that’s not your bag, they’ll get whatever you want. One of my friends likes Star Wars, so he has gotten Star Wars Legos and other toys in his room. Another friend of mine is into Asian culture, so he’s gotten sake, origami…whatever you like, they’ll strive to get for you. Room upgrades are almost guaranteed—I can’t remember the last time I didn’t get a two room suite with a view, a soaking tub, etc., which means I’m normally paying less than $199 a night for a room that has a rack rate of upwards of $500. Of course, they always let me check out late, and they even give me a $10-15 credit toward the mini bar OR the hotel restaurant.

Furthermore, each hotel has its own character. There’s no Courtyard or Hilton Garden Inn “I have no idea what city I’m in” vibe here—each hotel has a theme and a decor of its own. In order for a hotel to be named “Monaco,” for example, the building must be at least 100 years old. The Monacos in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Chicago might all be named “Monaco,” but they’re all completely different. I’m actually convinced that the Philadelphia Monaco, with its location directly across from Independence Hall, its world class rooftop lounge, and its unbelievable spa tub rooms, is the best hotel in the world.

Of course, any hotel can be made or broken by its staff, and I’m pleased to report that Kimpton staffs are the best in the industry. For example, when I had a single night stay at Vintage Plaza in Portland recently, the hotel staff offered me a free breakfast. Unfortunately, I had to get to the airport by 6:00 AM, so I couldn’t take advantage of it. Imagine my surprise when I came down to check out in the morning and they had arranged for a free black car to take me to the airport! Simply amazing. I could list a dozen such examples of service that truly has gone above and beyond the expectation, including the TWO times that I lost my cell phone (once in Portland, once in Philadelphia) and the hotel staff called the taxi companies, tracked down my phone, and delivered it to my room.

The ONLY downside to Kimpton that I can think of is that there simply aren’t enough of them. Nothing in Ohio, Michigan, or Indiana, for example. There used to be one in Atlanta, but it’s now a Renaissance. However, they are working on it—there are several new hotels opening for 2015, including Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Nashville, Winston-Salem, and another Chicago property. I just visited their newest location in Savannah, GA, The Brice. It is simply spectacular, and it really isn’t even done being renovated completely.

I have now been to twenty different Kimptons, but I have some serious catching up to do—my friend Shawn just visited his 50th! I seriously wish that this were the part of the blog where I could say something like “Kimpton Hotels sponsored this content, and provided the author with a free week at the Epic in Miami,” but this post is totally unsponsored and totally genuine.  I should probably be keeping this secret to myself, but, hey, you’re cool enough to be reading the Doghouse, so you deserve it.

With any luck, I’ll see you at the pool at the Surfcomber, or the rooftop lounge at Ink 48, on the beach in Vero Beach, or for breakfast on the roof of Hotel Wilshire. Go book a fantastic stay right now. Do it. Seriously.