Weary Travelers Rejoice! Deluxe sleep is here

Being a lover of fine sheets and bedding (I insist on at least 600 thread count, Egyptian cotton sateen sheets at home), and/or silk quilts/shams, I found these following articles to be of great interest. I haven’t traveled in a while, and I was tired of scratchy, stiff sheets, and flat, lumpy pillows. I always had to ask for at least two or three extra pillows just for me. I have about ten one my own bed, and several quilts/duvets. I also have a very luxurious pillow top mattress from Ethan Allen, courtesy of my ex-mother-in-law, which she gave me after the divorce, along with some bed toppers and puffy mattress pads. Apparently though, hotels have figured this out, and upgraded their wares, although not perhaps to my home standards, but maybe enough for comfort while away from home. Now, if only a lucky fairy would come and deposit some money or a free trip in my lap – preferably to Bora Bora…

First up: My favorite destination, and where I lived for two years from 2000-2002, Hawaii!

Hotels want to put you to sleep

The latest tactic in luring guests is to give them a luxurious new bed for a great night’s rest


By Allison Schaefers

The latest salvo in the hotel industry’s long-running bed wars is being heard in Hawaii, as Marriott International Inc.‘s chainwide swapout of 628,000 beds reaches the islands.

The company’s $190 million global overhaul is using 30 million yards of soft, plushy fabric, or enough to stretch more than two-thirds of the way around the world.

The industry’s bed wars began in 1999, with the introduction of the Heavenly Bed by Westin Hotels and Resorts, part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

The thick, plush mattresses were an instant hit with hotel guests, long used to sleeping on the kinds of wholesale beds that make a person glad to get home.

Then, the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed, the Hilton Serenity and Suite Dreams beds and a host of other dream beds came forward.

“A good night’s sleep has become the foundation of selling hotel rooms,” said Joe McInerney, president and chief executive officer of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

Marriott went undercover with their market research to find out what consumers wanted in a bed. The company used labs to help determine the formula to give consumers better sleep than most would find at home.

From the dreams of consumers, Marriott fashioned its Revive bed — a downy confection complete with 300-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, seven feathery pillows, a white duvet and a colorful bed scarf.

The Revive bed roll-out, which began in 2005 and will become complete this summer, is more about substance than fluff for the hotel chain which operates approximately 2,400 hotels worldwide under eight different brands.

Each will introduce an upgraded bed, although the extent of its luxury will vary with the brand.

Guests at the Waikiki Beach Marriott, where the Egyptian cotton and feather pillow dressed bed became available earlier this year, already have boosted customer satisfaction surveys by seven points, said Ed Fuller, president and managing director of international lodging for Marriott International.

“We set out to find out what our customers wanted and that’s what we have delivered,” Fuller said.

Hotel chains have been installing luxurious new beds over the past few years in an effort to lure guests. Above, new double beds in rooms at the Waikiki Beach Marriott in Waikiki.

The new Marriott bed is beyond fantasy, said Amy Terada, vice president of marketing for Pleasant Holidays LLC, Hawaii’s largest wholesaler.

“I slept in it last night,” Terada said. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful bed. It looks so inviting and comfortable that you just want to jump in and bury yourself.”

If there’s an active bed war, Terada said she’d proclaim Marriott’s new offering the winner.

“I’ve slept in the Heavenly bed and the Sweet Sleeper bed and I prefer Marriott’s new bed,” she said.

Despite wide variations in consumer preference, Starwood and Sheraton can handle the competition, said Keith Vieira, a senior vice president with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

The Westin Heavenly Bed and the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Beds, which will be in every Hawaii Starwood hotel room by next year, have been so successful with consumers that many have elected to take them home.

“We sell about 200 of these beds a week to guests,” Vieira said.

Business at Westin, Starwood and Sheraton is unlikely to change as a result of Marriott’s decision to join the bed wars.

“We aren’t worried about Marriott’s newest bed,” Vieira said. “It just validates that we had a good idea and you know any good idea will be copied.”

Due to the massive costs in bedding upgrades, Marriott’s Revive bed might just be the last of the cycle.

“We’ve seen the end of the changing of the beds for a considerable period because it isn’t cheap,” McInerney said, adding that he doesn’t expect any more major bed wars for the next four to five years.

When it comes to national brands, the bed wars might be over — but they’re just beginning for boutique and off-brand properties, said Mike Paulin, president of Aqua Hotels and Resorts. That chain is in the process of renovating and changing the bedding at four out of eight of their properties.

“The emphasis on bedding in Waikiki has changed dramatically over the last 20 years,” Paulin said. “People spend a third of their time sleeping and they want a cozy experience.”

Aqua has invested in top-of- the-line commercial bedding for all of its properties, Paulin said.

“That’s what our customers want, and we have to give it to them or be satisfied with losing some of our occupancy or settling for lower rates,” he said.


Although, gasp!, not everyone is apparently of a like mind:

Détente in the Hotel Bed Wars


Published: January 31, 2006

THE hotel “bed wars” are over. But are business travelers the winners?

Most frequent travelers would probably say they are, citing the remarkable evolution of hotel beds from the no-nonsense affairs of the late 1990’s — just mattresses, sheets and bedspreads — to the superpremium sleep “experiences” of today.

Harley R. Myler, an engineering professor at Lamar University in Beaumont, Tex., is not among them. When he checked into the Marriott University Park in Tucson for a recent academic conference, he decided the bed wars had gone too far.

“There were several pillows and bedspreads,” he said. “I didn’t know what they were for. I didn’t know what to do with them.”

He added, “I would much prefer that they offered free high-speed Internet.”

Marriott International, like virtually every other hotel chain, recently upgraded its bedding — one of the final salvos in the bed wars that began in 1999 with the introduction of the Heavenly Bed by Westin Hotels and Resorts, a unit of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. The Marriott beds feature 300-thread-count sheets, a feathered mattress topper, stylish pillow shams, a decorative bed scarf and extra pillows.

Perhaps the last salvo in the bed wars was fired earlier this month, when Hilton Hotels announced a $1 billion effort that included the addition of its branded Serenity Bed to many of its properties, with its signature mattress pads, down pillows, linens, decorative bed pillows and bolsters. Hilton has offered its own branded bed since 2001.

Most hotel executives concede that the war is now over. That is to say, every hotel chain that believed it could benefit from upgrading its bedding has probably done so.

The question now is, Have their most frequent customers also benefited?

Mr. Myler does not think so. He sent a letter shortly after his stay in Tucson to that Marriott hotel’s general manager, Joe Armbrust, complaining about the surplus pillows. Mr. Armbrust agreed that the pillows “seem to be overkill,” but he said that customers had “expressed a desire to have the room similar to what they have at home.” In other words, the guests made Marriott do it.

But Mr. Myler maintains he never asked for the beds, and Westin, which started the bed wars, says its customers didn’t, either.

“We wanted to differentiate ourselves from the competition,” said Sue A. Brush, Westin’s senior vice president, who was the vice president of marketing when the Heavenly Bed was introduced. “It wasn’t anything that came through in the research.”

Roger G. Hill II, the chief executive of the Gettys Group, an interior design company specializing in the hospitality industry, agreed that customers had not clamored for new beds, nor had they asked for some of the more frivolous amenities that many properties now offer. “I’ve never seen a survey where guests said, ‘I want four pillows instead of two,’ ” he said, adding that some of the recent bedding packages were, in his opinion, “over the top.”

The argument that hotel guests, in general, and business travelers, in particular, demanded bigger and more luxurious beds is difficult to sustain. A much easier argument to make is that the hotel marketing departments were eager to join the bed wars, and that once they did, many of their customers approved of the changes.

By the time Marriott got around to remaking its beds last year, it had ample evidence that its customers would go along with the improvements. The company’s customer research confirmed that the new beds were better than the old. “We also had a chance to one-up Westin,” said Michael E. Jannini, executive vice president for brand management at Marriott. “And I think we did.”

The bed wars, it turns out, were a sound investment for the hotel industry. Not only have guests endorsed the changes by rewarding better-bedded hotels with their business, but last year, Westin sold $10 million in bedding accessories to its customers. Hilton opened a new online store, hiltontohome.com, where guests can buy things like linens or clock radios. Hilton would not reveal its sales figures, but Bill Brooks, its vice president for product development, said the site had done better than expected. He said he thought consumers were the winners in the bed wars.

Some lodging analysts say that is a commonly held belief in the hotel business. “Most travelers seem to be extremely positive about the improved quality of beds and bedding,” said Bjorn Hanson, an industry analyst with PricewaterhouseCoopers. In fact, the bedding revolution has led to changes in the way people sleep at home, with guests modernizing their bedrooms after sleeping in hotel beds.

Mr. Hansen knows that not all guests are pleased. “Some travelers do not like duvet-style bedding or very high or low beds.”

I am not one of those people. Five years ago, when Hilton introduced its new bed, I bought one (strictly for research purposes), which persuaded me that the bed wars were a positive development.

But like Mr. Myler, I am concerned about the excesses of the conflict — the unnecessary pillows and bedspreads. Business travelers may not be victims of a bed war, as he suggests, but they are also not the obvious winners. That designation belongs to the hotels with upgraded bedding, which are now finding that a room that offers a better night’s sleep can also command a higher rate.


Four Points by Sheraton Turns up the Heat in Hotel Bed Wars; Investing $13 million to Roll Out its Four Comfort Bed(SM) to 100-plus Properties in North America

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Oct. 14, 2004 — Let the feathers fly! Five years after Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:HOT) spurred a hotel bedding revolution with the introduction of the now iconic Westin Heavenly Bed, the hotel giant is betting on a bedding battle in the mid-scale arena. Four Points by Sheraton, Starwood’s moderately priced brand, is investing $13 million to roll out its new Four Comfort Bed(SM) to all of its 100-plus properties in North America by July, 2005. The Four Points by Sheraton Four Comfort Bed, already in hotels in New York, Denver and Portland, is the first new branded bed in its class.

Following in the footsteps of the Westin Heavenly Bed(R) and sister brand Sheraton’s popular Sweet Sleeper Bed(R), the Four Comfort Bed is a multi-layered, cozy cocoon designed to pamper guests. The four key comfort points of the Four Comfort Bed are: a deluxe 11.5″ Sealy Posturepedic(R) Plush Top Sleep System featuring a 9-inch high Shock Abzzorber(R) foundation; four large luxurious pillows including two feather/down and two Euro Square lounging pillows; a decorative and inviting cushioned duvet; and, crisp cotton blend sheets. The duvet features an attractive plaid design available in a rich palette of colors to match each hotel’s decor. Additional bed accoutrements include a bed skirt, mattress pad, plush blanket, and a decorative pillow featuring the brand’s signature compass logo.

Five years and three beds later….it’s the bed, stupid!

Though the hospitality industry is in the business of selling sleep, hotels were notorious for cutting corners on beds, committing a multitude of bedding sins from foam mattresses to cheap pillows to polyester bedspreads in shades of eggplant. Then in 1998, Starwood issued a wake up call to the industry when it launched the luxurious, all-white Westin Heavenly Bed. The bed was so popular, guests insisted on taking it home, and a retail business was born. Today, Westin has sold some 30,000 Heavenly pillows, sheets, duvets and beds. The success of the Heavenly Bed spawned the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed, introduced in 2003. Both brands have experienced significant improvements in Guest Satisfaction Scores and higher average daily rates since introducing the beds, and Sheraton and Westin continue to earn market share from their competitors.

“Our sister brands have enjoyed terrific success with their new beds, and Four Points by Sheraton plans to replicate this success in the moderately priced hotel segment,” said Hoyt Harper II, the brand’s senior vice president. “The Four Comfort Bed is a real competitive advantage in our class, and we think one that will inspire guests to check out of our competitors, and into Four Points by Sheraton.”

Four Points by Sheraton – On a Roll!

Four Points by Sheraton continues to aggressively expand with new hotel openings and conversions in choice urban, resort and suburban locations such as New York City, Hyannis and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Four Comfort Beds can be found in several of the brand’s newest properties including the 158-room Four Points by Sheraton Manhattan Chelsea, the 595-room Four Points by Sheraton Denver Southeast and the 150-room Four Points by Sheraton Meriden, CT. In late 2003, a new enhanced amenity program was introduced, featuring free high-speed Internet access in all guestrooms, complimentary bottled water, and upgraded bathroom products.

Four Points by Sheraton, with more than 136 properties in 17 countries, is owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. and is consistently rated as a top performer in the mid-priced category by Business Travel News’ “Annual U.S. Hotel Chain Survey.” Four Points by Sheraton hotels are located at airports, in mid-sized cities, leisure destinations, and business and commercial centers. Our hotels cater to business and leisure travelers as well as meeting planners seeking a quality, mid-priced and value-oriented product. In addition to the high-speed Internet access services, key features include an on-premise restaurant serving cooked-to-order breakfast, complimentary bottled water, room service with a 30-minute delivery guarantee, swimming pools, fitness facilities, business services and meeting space with catering facilities.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with more than 750 properties in more than 80 countries and 110,000 employees at its owned and managed properties.


Barry Sternlicht’s Bedding Revolution Continues;
Sheraton Hotel Owners Investing More Than $75 Million in New Beds –
The Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Sept. 23, 2003 — Sleeping on the job is usually a no-no, but executives at Sheraton Hotels & Resorts have slumbered on hundreds of mattresses, pillows and bed linens to develop the brand’s newest signature: the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed(sm). The hotel giant and its owners and franchisees are spending more than $75 million to put 110,000 new beds in 200 hotels in North America.

The Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed

Some may say that Barry Sternlicht is obsessed with helping people get a good night’s sleep. The Chairman and CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:HOT), Sheraton’s parent, has spent the last five years upgrading the beds in his hotel rooms. In 1998 when he launched W Hotels he modeled the brand’s bed after his own bed at home. In 1999, Sternlicht started a bedding revolution when he threw out all the old beds at Westin Hotels and introduced the now iconic Westin Heavenly Bed(R). Now he’s tackled Starwood’s most global and oldest brand, Sheraton, and developed a luxurious multi-layered custom designed bed that features an 11.5 inch thick, high coil count Sealy Posturepedic(R) Plush Top mattress, down and allergy sensitive pillows and crisp cotton sheets. In a nod to Sheraton’s classic aesthetic, the beds feature a selection of duvet patterns inspired by timeless tattersall checks, hound’s-tooth and pinstripe patterns in rich color tones.

“I have always been somewhat astounded by how little hotel companies invest in their beds considering that our primary product is a good night’s sleep,” said Sternlicht. “When we launched the Heavenly Bed in 1999, other hotel executives thought we were crazy. Four years later Westin’s guest satisfaction scores, market share and global growth are up significantly, and we’re selling our Heavenly Beds everyday to our guests. I am just thrilled to introduce a great new bed to our classic brand and improving the sleeping experience of more travelers.”

By the end of this year, more than 50,000 new beds will be installed in hotels throughout North America – accounting for 70% of Sheraton’s total room inventory here. By the end 2004, all Sheraton hotels will feature the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed, totaling more than 70,000 rooms in 200 hotels. New beds will also be installed in London and Latin America.

The Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed is the latest in a series of enhancements designed to elevate the brand to the top of the upscale hotel segment. Since 1998, more than more than $1 billion has been invested in upgrading the Sheraton brand, primarily in renovations. Sheraton’s design team, recruited from Ralph Lauren, Holly Hunt, and Williams-Sonoma has revamped Sheraton’s room design and created a portfolio of five lifestyle guestroom designs that are rolling out around the country.

“During my 30-year career at Sheraton I have never seen the brand in such excellent shape with so much momentum,” says Bob Cotter, Starwood’s Chief Operating Officer. “Just last year we introduced The Sheraton Service Promise, and this year Sheraton rolled out a new ad campaign, a great new room design and tougher brand standards throughout the United States. And now with the roll-out of thousands of Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Beds, there has never been a better time to spend the night with Sheraton and see for yourself.”

The Sheraton Service Promise, promises if you’re not satisfied, just tell us and we’ll take care of it. Here is how the Sheraton Service Promise works: if a guest should happen to have a problem during their stay, they need only tell a hotel associate and they’ll immediately take steps to correct the problem. Plus, the guest will automatically receive compensation for their problem – an extra step to ensure the guest is satisfied. Since the introduction of The Sheraton Service Promise, guest satisfaction scores have reached the highest in the brand’s history, guest complaints have declined and fewer problems are being reported.

“We made a promise to our guests to build upon our commitment to service and provide comfort and style with our new room design,” says Norman MacLeod, Executive Vice President for Sheraton Hotels & Resorts. “The Sheraton Sweet Sleeper is just yet another reason for travelers to take a new look at the new Sheraton.”

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: HOT) is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with more than 740 properties in more than 80 countries and 105,000 employees at its owned and managed properties.


Although now it looks like since the “bedding wars” are over, new :wars” are shaping up, this time in lobby services, and other extras:

Hotel Bed Wars Giving Way to the Breakfast War;
Doughnuts, Coffee a Thing of the Past

By Glenn Jeffers, Chicago TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Nov. 8, 2007 –Perhaps you noticed a change in how you slept during your last hotel stay. Maybe the mattress was bigger or the sheets softer and smoother.

If you did, then you became an unsuspecting participant in the “Bed Wars,” a years-long, multimillion-dollar race to upgrade bedding in the hotel industry that, at the very least, provided guests with a better night’s sleep.

Now Chicago-area hotels are trying to lure guests to a revamped service: They’re adding organic ingredients to menus and swapping out in-room coffee makers for espresso machines.

They’re building a better breakfast.

“This is the next step to the ‘Bed Wars,’ promoting breakfast as an amenity,” says Joe McInerney, president of the Washington-based American Hotel & Lodging Association. “It gives them something to promote. We gave you a good bed, now we’re going to give you a wholesome breakfast. The customer wins.”

Indeed, many big-name hotel chains in Chicago have upgraded their breakfast options in their restaurants and room service in the last year. The Hyatt Regency Chicago’s “Signature Breakfast” offers French press coffee, a flight of smoothies served in a 2-ounce shot glass and dishes such as poached egg casseroles and chipotle-infused corned beef hash.

In April, the Omni Chicago launched “The Art of Breakfast, swapping out its usual ingredients for cage-free eggs, organic shade-grown Starbucks coffee and all-natural pork that’s free of antibiotics and nitrates.

And around the same time, the Hilton Chicago unveiled the chain’s new “Hilton Breakfast,” a color-coded buffet and menu that labels more than 80 items according to five different categories: “low cholesterol,” “low fat,” “high fiber,” “low calorie” and (for the not-so-health conscious) “indulgence.”

“You can see it in the supermarket. People are starting to read [nutrition] labels, so they really want to know what they’re eating, even from a hotel restaurant,” `says Darren McArdle, director of food and beverage at the Chicago Hilton Towers. “I think we have a unique way of getting that message across, in a format that most people can understand.”

A little competition among the chains is good for the industry, says McInerney, giving hotels another aspect to market other than location. And more promotion means more reservations.

Starwood Hotels and its Westin chain fired the first salvo in the Bed Wars in 1999, with its new standard bed, called the “Heavenly Bed.” Several hotels also began developing their own beds and bedding lines, and last year Marriott and Hilton added their names to the list of hotels upgrading their bedding.

“This is an interesting industry,” McInerney says. “There are no trade secrets. You have a competitive edge for about two days before your competitor puts a different name on it and promotes it.”

But why has the competition spilled onto the breakfast plate? McInerney says that of the three meals one typically eats, guests are more likely to eat breakfast at the hotel.

“Breakfast is 90 percent of what guests eat,” he says. “On a three-day trip, we get them two or three days for breakfast, and then one out of three for dinner. They’re just too many other places to go. So breakfast is important.”

That’s why one local hotel, the Fairmont Chicago, has spent $200,000 to refit all 687 guest rooms with Nespresso Essenza C100 espresso/coffee machines. The machine, which also retails at the hotel for $229, is meant to give guests a memorable experience as they wake up. The Essenza’a sleek, wedge-like shape, mixed with the ease of making an espresso or brewing coffee with a button push, provides a heightened convenience the hotel hopes will be noticed.

“It’s a point of difference,” says Andre Zoloff, the hotel’s general manager. “They’ll remember, ‘When I stayed at the Fairmont Chicago, I had a great cup of coffee.’ And the next time they come to Chicago, maybe they’ll stay at the Fairmont.”

So far, it seems to be working. The hotel has sold about a half-dozen Essenzas in its gift shop since unveiling the program in August.

Another gauntlet thrown. Another war under way.

– — –

They have the technology …

Hotels have rebuilt breakfast. They’ve made it better. Faster. Stronger. OK, it’s not really bionic, but it is more nutritious, elaborate and upscale. Here are a few Chicago hotels that have upgraded their breakfast menus:

–Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker Drive; 312-565-1234

–Omni Chicago, 676 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-944-6664

–Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-922-4400


But, what about the housekeeping staff – here’s a take on what happened to them in the “bedding wars”:

Casualties of the Bedding Wars

by Victor Margolin

Hotels today compete for customers with an escalating array of comforts, offering everything from high-speed Internet to 24-hour in-room massage. Key to their identities as sanctuaries for weary travelers are the luxurious sleeping appointments they provide. Engaged in what have come to be known as “bedding wars,” hotel chains like Starwood, Westin, and Kimpton offer thick mattresses with inviting names such as Heavenly Bed, Sweet Sleeper, and Serenity Bed.

But the beds are hardly a sweet dream for the housekeepers who make them. The combined weight of mattress, box spring, and duvet for a king-size hotel bed is 225 pounds. For a queen the total weight is 183 pounds. As a result, housekeepers have been experiencing an increasing number of back and shoulder injuries. A recent survey conducted by Unite Here, a national union representing hotel housekeeping staff, revealed that among 622 workers in various American cities, 91 percent had back or shoulder injuries related to their jobs, 67 percent had visited a doctor because of the pain, and 66 percent took medication to relieve it.

As part of designing the customer’s experience of lotus-eating comfort, hotels provide luxuries such as chocolates on the turned down bed covers and even baskets of fruit as gifts of welcome. Or rather, their staffs do. Besides lifting heavy mattresses and changing three sheets and a half-dozen pillowcases per bed, housekeepers must also take time to stock rooms with all the bath amenities and minibar bottles guests have come to expect. They also have to wash the water glasses, coffee cups and coffee pot. And yet hotel managers have refused to extend the time needed to clean a room. Nor will they allow two housekeepers to work (and hoist mattresses) together, despite ergonomic studies showing that larger and heavier beds impose loads on the lumbar spine that are highly likely to result in back injuries. In August 2005, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich signed a law that would insure two 15-minute paid breaks for hotel housekeepers. The state’s Hotel and Lodging Association challenged the new law in Illinois state court but their appeal was rejected in July, 2006, and the new requirement was finally put into practice in August.

It’s ironic that although at least one chain offers a special slumber-inducing program that includes an eye mask, earplugs, lavender spray to promote relaxation, and a CD with soft music, no hotel manager appears to be losing sleep over the physical strain the bedding wars exert on employees. It’s also ironic that hotel companies plead poverty to forestall boosting the comfort of their working conditions yet have no trouble specifying costly amenities (whose expense they pass on to their guests).

This is bad design, for design goes well beyond an object’s appearance and primary application to embrace all the social consequences of creating something new. Not only does design involve the user’s satisfaction but also the conditions of its production and maintenance. Thanks to Naomi Klein and other activists, consumers are now aware of the horrific working conditions in sweatshops abroad. This has caused the public to think differently about Nike shoes and Old Navy tank tops. Yet under our very noses, hotel workers in America are being exploited to enhance the comfort of hotel guests. Its time to establish federal guidelines for hotel housekeepers just as has been done for workers in other professions where hazardous tasks can result in physical injuries. It will be a fight to get the hotel industry to accept such guidelines. But human rights are at stake. By introducing new tasks for the housekeepers that demand greater physical exertion than in the past, the hotel chains are endangering their employees’ health. If they won’t recognize this on their own and do something about it, then others must step in to protect these workers. A heavy mattress may not be lethal but it can still cause serious harm.


Bedding Wars
By Jim Merritt

From A to ZZZZZ: Hotel Interactive’s Jim Merritt goes “undercover” to find the latest bedtime trends at hotels across the nation.

You might call it “The Battle of the Beds 2006.”

This year a number of leading lodging chains are rolling out softer, more luxurious and comfortably-named bed packages. And not only in the upscale markets. Some “mid-priced” brands are getting on the bed bandwagon too.

The battle cry could be: out with bedspreads and old-fashioned comforters, in with high thread-count sheets, and — dare we say it – “up with down.”

The trend apparently dates to 1999, when Westin introduced the “Heavenly Bed.” Westin properties still feature the Heavenly Bed custom-designed pillowtop mattress set by Simmons, a comforter and a crisp white duvet.

More – and softer – bedfellows are in the offing, though.

At Hilton Hotels, Suites & Resorts, the Hilton Suite Dreams bed features a plush-top mattress designed with Serta to provide both “support and luxury.” The new bed package is being introduced after Hilton Hotels Corporation surveyed 1,000 U.S. households and found that 50 percent of respondents reported only six hours or less of sleep per night while traveling — two hours less than the average needed to function at peak performance.

Also after consumer research, Marriott International, Inc. owners and franchisees have invested nearly $190 million in replacing 628,000 beds at approximately 2,400 hotels worldwide. JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts and Renaissance Hotels & Resorts were among the Marriott brands that replaced the traditional bedspread with down comforters nestled inside sheeted duvets.

Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts now offer beds with seven pillows, a plush duvet, and luxurious sheets as part of a “Sleep Advantage” program developed with the help of sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus.

USA Today recently noted that the “hotel bed wars” were spreading to lower priced properties too.

Holiday Inn Express is planning an upgrade of its standard bedding package with a $53 million investment to be rolled out to the more than 1,400 North American properties beginning in April, with full implementation expected by September. The Holiday Inn Express SimplySmart program replaces the bedspread with an attractive decorative top sheet, a medium-weight duvet blanket and soft 200 thread-count sheets.

At Hilton’s Hampton Inns, a “super-comfortable” new bedding package will be available in more than 1,300 hotels by June. The new Hampton “Cloud Nine” bed replaces the old-fashioned bedspread with a crisp, white duvet cover enveloping a white comforter. The bed also features three or four pillows and a choice in firmness (some filled with soft down, some with firmer foam)

But what about the conventional wisdom about a firm mattress being good for your back?

That wisdom was debunked in a study several years ago. The American Chiropractic Association reported that mattresses of medium firmness were better at improving lowback pain symptoms than firm mattresses.

The American Chiropractic Association’s Dr. Scott Bautch says, “As we, as a society, have become more full-figured, designs like pillowtop mattresses have become extremely popular… mattresses designed with support and then the addition of a soft top (pillow top) will benefit the majority of people.”

The bottom line, according to Dr. Bautch: ” For the majority of people – including hotel visitors – there needs to be basic support with a soft top.”

Jim Merritt is associate editor of Hotel Interactive.


It’s All About the Bed

Phoebe Eskenazi endured many sleepless nights before checking into the Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston for a weekend. The Alexandria, Va., teacher was recovering from a bout of asthmatic bronchitis and just couldn’t get any rest. But when she collapsed into an extra-cushiony Serta bed created just for the hotel chain, she fell into a deep slumber. “It was one of the most comfortable beds I’ve slept on,” she raves. Eskenazi and her husband were so smitten they took a Sonesta bed home – for $1,600, including shipping.

“It is all about the bed,” says Sonesta spokeswoman Deborah Roker. The hotel industry is starting to agree. After all, what good is a mint on your pillow if the pillow resembles a bag of cement? Westin was the first chain to upgrade its bedding, back in 1999. Since then, other upscale hotels have jumped on the bedwagon. Now midscale joints are joining in. Last month, Hampton Inn announced it was spending $80 million to replace mattresses, pillows, and such. Four Points by Sheraton will roll out a “Four Comfort” bed this summer.

Like Eskenazi, guests sometimes want to buy the hotel bed. “It’s found money,” says lodging analyst Robert Mandelbaum, though he guesses that the take represents no more than 1 percent of the industry’s income.

You can probably score a better deal if you do it yourself, but there’s a lot to be said for one-stop shopping, not to mention the fact that you’ll be the only person on your block with a bed fit for the Ritz. The for-sale package typically includes a mattress, box spring, frame, pillows, sheets, and comforter. Prices below, from high-end chains with high-end beds, are for king size; shipping (from the manufacturer) is extra.
Phoebe Eskenazi endured many sleepless nights before checking into the Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston for a weekend. The Alexandria, Va., teacher was recovering from a bout of asthmatic bronchitis and just couldn’t get any rest. But when she collapsed into an extra-cushiony Serta bed created just for the hotel chain, she fell into a deep slumber. “It was one of the most comfortable beds I’ve slept on,” she raves. Eskenazi and her husband were so smitten they took a Sonesta bed home – for $1,600, including shipping.

“It is all about the bed,” says Sonesta spokeswoman Deborah Roker. The hotel industry is starting to agree. After all, what good is a mint on your pillow if the pillow resembles a bag of cement? Westin was the first chain to upgrade its bedding, back in 1999. Since then, other upscale hotels have jumped on the bedwagon. Now midscale joints are joining in. Last month, Hampton Inn announced it was spending $80 million to replace mattresses, pillows, and such. Four Points by Sheraton will roll out a “Four Comfort” bed this summer.

Like Eskenazi, guests sometimes want to buy the hotel bed. “It’s found money,” says lodging analyst Robert Mandelbaum, though he guesses that the take represents no more than 1 percent of the industry’s income.

You can probably score a better deal if you do it yourself, but there’s a lot to be said for one-stop shopping, not to mention the fact that you’ll be the only person on your block with a bed fit for the Ritz. The for-sale package typically includes a mattress, box spring, frame, pillows, sheets, and comforter. Prices below, from high-end chains with high-end beds, are for king size; shipping (from the manufacturer) is extra.

Filed under The Travel Critic · February 15th, 2004


And from USA Today’s travel blog, here are some recent entries about upgraded amenities that might be of some interest:

USA Today’s Hotel Hotsheet: Check it out before you check in

By Kitty Bean Yancey

Which hotel chain has the best sheets?

Some travelers don’t care what kind of sheets they sleep on, as long as they’re clean. But hotel chains’ push for higher thread counts indicates that lots of us do care.

In addition to upgrading linens, chains are selling sheets online. Upscale Rosewood Hotels & Resorts just opened an online boutique, where you can buy several types of sheets, including 740-thread-count sets starting at $200. Chains including Westin (of Heavenly Bed fame), Holiday Inn Express, Kimpton and Ritz-Carlton also sell linens online.

I’m getting ready to test hotel linens that you can buy to see which ones float my dreamboat. I’ll be rating them for an upcoming USA TODAY article. To steer me in the right direction, I’d love to hear your thoughts on which chains have the best sheets and why. Let me know by commenting below.

Posted at 05:55 AM/ET, November 17, 2006

Multi-tasking TV screens


Here’s an emerging amenity on the hotel scene: TVs that let you split the screen, so you can surf the Web or answer e-mails while keeping an eye on your favorite program.

These multi-taskers are new in the just-remodeled rooms at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C., which are being unveiled this week. Rooms boast 32-inch high-definition TVs that can be hooked up to laptops and music players.

The 767 redone rooms and suites also feature upgraded bedding and ergonomic chairs — seen at more and more JWs. And something else is new at the D.C. JW. It has officially gone non-smoking, as have all North American Marriotts.

So, on this gadget-one-upmanship hotel landscape, which unusual ones have you seen and appreciated?

Posted at 06:10 AM/ET, October 18, 2006 in

Brass keys, vibrating beds and other hotel memories

Few travelers would take issue with the recent wave of hotel renovations, from upgraded mattresses and bedding to better bathrooms. But in today’s USA TODAY Money section, Barbara De Lollis takes a look at some of the memories that have been lost in the shuffle.

“As in life generally, something’s lost when something’s gained. Gone are the floral, synthetic bedspreads, the sanitizer bands around toilet seats, ashtrays and wake-up calls from real people.

“With that in mind, USA TODAY asked hoteliers, professors and travelers to recall amenities or services that have disappeared or are on the way out.” The demise of windows that open was one gripe. Mine would be getting lost in an electronic maze the first time I try to get my favorite channel on a hotel TV.

Posted at 10:53 AM/ET, October 03, 2006

More tubs are toast

A few months back I wrote about how Hilton Hotels was experimenting with tub-free rooms. The hotelier had decided that tubs were a thing of the past, and most folks simply wanted a quick shower. Now Marriott Hotels is experimenting with the shower-only room in its new Marriott and Renaissance properties, the Miami Herald reports. Smaller brands are dumping the tub, too: InterContinental Hotels’ Indigo brand is totally sans tubs at its three boutique properties.

Many of you wrote in with your tub vs. shower vote when I first wrote about this, and it turned out to be pretty much a draw. Have times changed? Let’s hear what you want; leave your two-cents in our comments below.

Posted at 01:57 PM/ET, April 10, 2006

And the Wi-Fi award goes to …

Who’s got the best Wi-Fi? And what makes a hotel’s service the best? Availability, reliability and connectivity, for starters. Then the king of all variables: price. For its (almost) annual feature, HotelChatter.com has compiled its list of best and worst of the Wi-Fi offering hotels. Best of the best goes once again to Kimpton Hotels because Wi-Fi in that chain’s properties is simple, free and fast. Hard to top that. On the flip side, Marriott Hotels gets the buzzer from HotelChatter due to its inconsistent offerings across brands and fairly high cost. Both Kimpton and Marriott held the same slots in the last survey, so it seems while more and more hotels are getting on the cordless bandwagon, most offerings are still just middle-of-the-information-superhighway. If you’ve had trouble or a super easy experience getting connected at a hotel, let us hear about it … share your comments below.

Posted at 01:31 PM/ET, April 03, 2006

It was only a matter of time …

I’m giving a sorely-in-need-of-a-massage thumbs up to the marketing folks at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, Calif. This super swanky resort is known for its two golf courses and well-visited pools, but now the hotel’s spa has unveiled the Blackberry Hand Massage “in an effort to encourage faster, more comfortable PDA usage,” according to a press release. The 30-minute treatment includes blackberry (the fruit, not the device) balm and an accupressure massage to release the tension so many pda-addicted folks carry in their hands. The treatment is $80, and in less than an hour, you can be zooming through those text messages like you were a teenager. And for what it’s worth, if you’ve never had a hand massage, they’re awesome, and most hotel spas offer them, even if they don’t have blackberry balm.

Posted at 01:48 PM/ET, March 09, 2006

Hilton Chicago O’Hare does it again

Back in October I told you about how the Hilton Chicago O’Hare turned 17 rooms into allergen-free zones. Today, the hotel began offering a service that allows its guests to check in for their flights using kiosks in the hotel lobby, USA TODAY reports. Hilton plans to unveil the kiosks in 34 more hotels in the next two weeks, but it would seem the O’Hare location is a bit of a test pilot for cool new amenities.

The story notes Holiday Inn, Marriott and Hyatt are also rolling out flight check-in systems, or expanding on existing ones.

Posted at 02:05 PM/ET, March 01, 2006

Spa reward points, good. Spa failure notices, bad

The spa industry is in a little bit of hot water, it seems. Business is down across the market, possibly because the number of U.S. spas climbed from 5,689 in 2000 to 12,100 in 2004, according to numbers quoted in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required). As with the airline industry, overcapacity has created a challenging business environment, so the latest trend is to go after the repeat customer while they’re nice and relaxed. Spas across the country are offering deep discounts for guests who book their next stay before leaving, but what got my attention most is some of the other spa marketing tactics.

The Nob Hill Spa at the Huntington Hotel in San Francisco offers reward points to hotel and spa guests to be used on subsequent visits. Canyon Ranch Spas in Arizona and Massachusetts give room upgrades for repeat bookers, a 15% discount for both patrons if a repeat visitor brings along a first-time visitor and a customized website so you can maintain your healthy new lifestyle at home.

Reward points and discounts are great, and according to the WSJ, seem to be paying off, but I’m going to take issue with one “perk” mentioned in the story. The Golden Door Spa and Resort in Escondido, Calif., has guests write themselves a letter about their goals for the next six months. After you leave, the hotel mails you that letter, then follows up with a personal letter from the manager if you haven’t booked another stay within a year. I understand motivation comes in all forms, and this may be right up someone’s alley, but last thing I want is to be reminded of how I haven’t kept those 10 pounds off or quit eating Oreos.

Posted at 02:11 PM/ET, February 28, 2006

What’s in it for me?

“Hotel points — and airline miles — are the opium of the traveling masses.” I couldn’t agree more with this quote from a Chicago Tribune story on hotel reward programs. But it’s what we get from our frequent stays that really matters to us, even more than the reward points total on that monthly statement. It’s that personal attention, those little details, like which room we like or what newspaper we read that make us want to return. But who’s giving the perks you want? Take a look at the Trib‘s story for a breakdown of what hotels hand out to their loyalty program customers.

Posted at 12:09 PM/ET, February 22, 2006

Concierge in your computer

Courtesy Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn’s new virtual concierge: The homepage. To see this and other sample pages larger, click here.

InterContinental Hotels has unveiled a virtual concierge, eHost, in 14 of its Holiday Inn hotels. Before you go thinking “robot with connections to great concert tickets,” the virtual concierge is the HI homepage that comes up when you log in (with your own computer) to the hotel’s free high-speed Internet. I’ve seen a lot of hotel homepages, and I have to say, this one might be worth keeping up while you’re at the hotel. I was sent a link to the test page (which technology won’t allow me to share, sadly) and surfed around on it, and the offerings are pretty cool.

From local shopping, restaurants, weather, events (courtesy of Yahoo! local) to games, hotel events and online room service menus and ordering capability, the site is a decent compendium of things you might need to know when you’re in a strange town. One really nice feature for international visitors is the option to choose the language and currency the page displays. eHost can be found at select Holiday Inns, including Orlando and Cleveland airport locations, with the entire chain rollout due later this year.

None of the features, save the hotel events, amenities and room service menus are items you couldn’t find by surfing the Web on your own. That said, Holiday Inn has created a pleasant, user-friendly way to put a traveler’s needs in easy reach. And here’s to my favorite thing of all: free high-speed Internet!

Posted at 02:37 PM/ET, February 21, 2006

The lobby: More than a place to check in

Now that the bedding wars are over, the lobby wars have begun. USA TODAY reports that the hotel industry is slated to spend $5 billion on improvements in 2006 in the hope that “spiffier, livelier lobbies will give a competitive edge.”

Among the improvements are communal Wi-Fi lounges from Sheraton, Marriott’s alcoves to help create “public privacy” and a $300,000 furniture shopping spree from boutique chain Kimpton at San Diego’s Hotel Solamar. Of course there’s a reason beyond aesthetics for this investment: “By drawing guests out of their rooms, hotels hope to generate more food and beverage sales.”

Posted at 04:13 PM/ET, February 15, 2006

Disney hotels go smoke-free

Visitors to “the happiest place on Earth” will breathe easier on their next trip. Disney’s three California hotels, the Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and the Grand Californian will be 100% non-smoking as of March 1. The Grand Californian had already been a non-smoking property since its opening in 2001, but the other two hotels are just now clearing the air. According to an e-mail from Disney headquarters, the reason for the change is simple supply and demand: The properties have just 35 requests for smoking rooms from now until 2010. The decline in demand had led Disney to reduce its number of smoking rooms over the years. Guests will still be alllowed to light up outside the hotel in designated areas.

Westin Hotels went smoke-free at its 77 properties in the USA, Canada and the Caribbean at the beginning of this year, and the trend just keeps on growing, as USA TODAY recently reported.

Posted at 10:01 AM/ET, February 07, 2006

Let’s celebrate B-Day!

The bed wars are over. When the whooping and hollering dies down, and you’re done with the iconic kissing between sailors and nurses, you’ll be happy to hear the ending was peaceful. Simply put, there was no one left on the battlefield. It would appear that all hotels that took part in the skirmish have upgraded their bedding, so there is nothing left to fight about. The New York Times (registration required) reports that while customers are mixed on how great the uber-fluffy, over-pillowed beds are, there is no confusion over how the ugrades made hotels the clear victors. From increased room revenues because a) happy customers come back to their favorite beds, and b) they can charge more for the upgraded rooms to the lucrative sales of branded bedding, hotels have made out like sheet-covered bandits.

Posted at 01:34 PM/ET, February 01, 2006

Holiday Inn taps another trend

Courtesy Holiday Inn

The iHome iH5, ready to rock your tunes.

Holiday Inn Select hotels is looking to further entice Gen-Xers by appealing to the iPod crowd. Wait. That’s just about everyone, isn’t it? Anyway, the brand is putting the iHome iH5, an all-in-one docking station, charger and clock radio, into its guest rooms.

No more screeching buzz of the alarm or missing a phone call because you have your earbuds in; pop your iPod into the dock and it’s your music, your way. Other hotels that have docking stations have thus far been boutique or higher-end chains, so this is a good development for those who frequent mid-range hotels.

Posted at 10:07 AM/ET, January 11, 2006

Tops in tech touches

If high-tech is your thing, check out the U.K.’s Daily Mail story on the top techno hotels around the globe. Some hotels, like the soon-to-open Yotel in London, will offer gadgets in a small space; Yotel is a semi-capsule hotel that will have a “tech wall” in each room offering a flat screen TV and downloadable movies and music. Other hotels on the list, like Nine Zero Hotel in Boston, get techy on a grander scale; the hotel’s Cloud Nine Suite lets guests use eye scans instead of keys and offers a plasma screen TV with movies and games on-demand. Of course, the grander scale equals grander cost: Yotel plans on a debut room rate of about $123 a night, while the Cloud Nine will set you back about $4,000 each night.

Not on the Daily Mail‘s list but a definite contender should be Atlanta’s TWELVE Hotel which opens next month. This hotel looks to have a pretty cool array of high-tech goodies, including an in-room keyboard and flat-panel monitor that will allow guests to order room service, get their car from valet parking and make housekeeping requests, as well as serve as an Internet portal. The rooms will have free high-speed and Wi-Fi access and the hotel has hotspots around the pool and more. VOIP telephone systems and two flat-panel TVs will be offered in the suites. Introductory rates are set at $160 to $215 a night, but the hotel promises discounts for its opening.

Posted at 05:25 PM/ET, January 10, 2006

Woohoo! Starwood hooks up with Yahoo!

Starting this week, four Sheraton hotels will get a little Wi-Fi boost from Yahoo!, the Internet search portal. Starwood is testing Yahoo! Link@Sheraton Web access at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, the Sheraton Boston, Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers and the Sheraton Stamford in Connecticut. All four hotels will offer Wi-Fi and wired Internet access, and the San Diego and Boston locations will also have Internet lounges in the hotels’ lobbies. The lounges will offer Internet-connected workstations with both Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections.

Many Sheraton properties already had Wi-Fi, so what’s the deal? The partnership is likely an attempt to drive traffic and customers to Yahoo!. Its ever-growing competitor Google recently opened an Internet lounge in London’s Heathrow airport, and technology site Red Herring notes there are rumors the behemoth search engine would like to expand the service.

Posted at 04:15 PM/ET, January 10, 2006


Hotels hope visitors check out livelier, upgraded lobby

By Roger Yu, USA TODAY

Hotel lobbies aren’t just places to check in any more.

Flush with money from the travel boom, the U.S. hotel industry will spend $5 billion on improvements in 2006, says consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers. Hotels are channeling much of it into lobbies, making them inviting places to meet, linger and mingle.

They’re betting that spiffier, livelier lobbies will give a competitive edge. And by drawing guests out of their rooms, hotels hope to generate more food and beverage sales:

Marriott. Its new lobby plan calls for a lounge with intimate tables and wait service. For guests who want to work but don’t want to be cooped up in their rooms, the plan — partly inspired by Starbucks and airlines’ airport clubs — lays out an area of alcoves. Marriott will start with newly constructed and renovated hotels, and eventually incorporate the model throughout the chain. “It’s about public privacy,” says executive Mike Jannini.

Embassy Suites. The Hilton-owned chain, known for open-air atriums, said last month it will start installing “a European-style” cafe in its hotels. To enlarge the usable space, it will eliminate the front desk and replace it with a set of self-check-in kiosks and podiums manned by staffers.

Sheraton. In partnership with Web portal Yahoo, Sheraton said in January that it will test a Wi-Fi-enabled communal lobby lounge at some of its hotels, including The Sheraton San Diego. It features desktop computers, a plasma TV, food and comfortable chairs.

Boutiques. The high-end Kimpton chain spent more than $300,000 on lobby furniture when it opened Hotel Solamar San Diego last July.

Langham Hotel Boston, owned by Hong Kong-based Langham Hotels, will enlarge the lobby and move the bar and restaurant down from the second floor. The goal is to make the hotel, once home to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, more contemporary and lively, manager Serge Denis says.

W Hotels kicked off the lobby competition in the late 1990s with its first hotel, which is in New York. Its lobbies, known for buzzing parties, sleek décor and mood lighting, got inspiration from European hotels and cafes, says executive Ross Klein.

Anne Seymour, a Washington, D.C.-based crime victims’ advocate, says she is finding it increasingly convenient to have meetings in hotel lobbies. Says Seymour: “They are larger, cleaner and (have) huge fluffy couches, free magazines and newspapers. Geez, who needs to even get a room anymore?”

Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. http://www.usatoday.com/travel/hotels/2006-02-13-lobbies-usat_x.htm

Well, I hope this encourages some of you weary travelers to check out some of the upgraded bedding, and sleep a better, softer sleep. Next up in the travel file will be Boutique Hotels: The BEST choice for travel.


2 responses to “Weary Travelers Rejoice! Deluxe sleep is here

  1. Funny…Marriott has a great bed.

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