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How the Other Half-Percent Lives

We think of ourselves as fairly experienced travelers, and we’ve occasionally been upgraded to some pretty impressive suites over the course of our traveling careers. But as inauguration weekend drew nearer, it dawned on us that there’s a whole world of hospitality out there that we’ve never been exposed to — the world of the highest of the high-end travelers.

And who better to show us what’s behind that particular curtain than the Park Hyatt Washington, D.C., a place where the presidential suite, at any given time, just might actually be occupied by a president, a prime minister, a king or queen, or even a Dalai Lama? Thanks to Gabe Eveland, the hotel’s director of revenue management, and Darley Tom, the marketing and communications director, we can offer a bit of insight into the ways in which the hospitality experience is a little bit different for the true VIP traveler — on both sides of the reception desk.

Park Hyatt Washington - boutique hotel in Washington DC

Presidential Suite

So how are things in Washington, D.C. at the moment?

Busy! As you can imagine, the city is gearing up for inauguration, so there’s lots of activity, pre-planning — it’ll be obviously very crazy here next week, not just really with the crowds of people but more so with the security, and the road closures, and the logistics that will be in place throughout the city. It will be kind of a madhouse here. We say that you either get out of the city, or you don’t plan to leave, because you’re either trapped behind security perimeters or you get out before they lock down.

I will say, I think it’s probably different from any other inauguration that we’ve had, which is no surprise, but all in all the city’s still really excited, really ramping up, and there’s a lot of great things happening.

We tend to hear the words “presidential suite” and think of it as wishful thinking. But at a hotel like the Park Hyatt Washington, D.C., I imagine we can take it literally.

It is not uncommon for us to have heads of state, people with very high political affiliations. A presidential suite in D.C. really is just that — it is a top-tier suite, very commonly occupied by spiritual leaders, CEOs, entertainment, those really high-end, global, elite travelers.

Everyone thinks of us as the capital, but we really do get every different type of traveler. A full mix like any city — it’s just that people always think politics first.

Park Hyatt Washington - boutique hotel in Washington DC

Presidential Suite Living Room

When someone like that arrives, does the hotel sort of flip into “head-of-state mode”? Or is it something you’re prepared for on a daily basis?

No, we don’t need to switch to a different type of mode. Our team is really very well experienced in this, and is, at any point, and ready to handle anything that would come their way from a guest that would be occupying one of our top-tier suites. It’s definitely not a surprise occurrence or anything like that — we handle it all fairly frequently.

Park Hyatt Washington - boutique hotel in Washington DC

Blue Duck Tavern Chef’s Table

Guests like these often travel with entourages and staff, I assume.

Yes, it’s quite common. As you might imagine, a lot of the people that occupy a suite of that caliber come with their own security detail, they may have a personal assistant, or multiple assistants, or a full team of associates that are here on business as well. So that’s a very common request, to have not just the suite but multiple rooms that are in close proximity as well.

We have three Ambassador Suites, which we’re very fortunate to have. I think that also speaks to the amount of VIP traffic that comes in and out of D.C., even beyond the political and diplomatic clientele.

But the Presidential Suite is on the penthouse level of the hotel. It’s just over 2,000 square feet. It sits on the corner of the building, so it’s a very sunlit room, lots of windows, the best view in the hotel, and there are multiple balconies in that suite. The bathroom is quite spacious. It’s got this beautiful hand-carved red travertine tub and a custom rain shower. There’s a private butler’s pantry, which is great because it allows us to feature some of the cuisine from Blue Duck Tavern, which is our in-house restaurant that was just awarded a Michelin star. We can definitely do that in the Presidential Suite because there’s a beautiful French oak farmhouse dining-room table for six and a nice wet bar. It’s very, very residential.

For something like the inauguration, how far out are you able to plan?

That’s a good question. There is a little bit of demand that comes in pre-election-results, mostly bipartisan people that are going to be in D.C. regardless of who the candidate is. But the main demand for inauguration does not come in until election results are announced. So the heaviest portion of demand for inauguration really comes in between November and January, once a candidate has been selected.

Park Hyatt Washington - boutique hotel in Washington DC

Park Hyatt Washington, D.C. Pool

Are there challenges coming from all the machinery that make it difficult to connect with VIP guests?

Not really. Obviously I think you’ll find VIP guests tend to isolate themselves from public view in the hotel, but I would say we have as close a relationship, and in many cases a much closer one, because we have one person who’s typically dedicated to handling that booking from start to finish — from the time the reservation request comes in, to the arrival experience, to the departure experience.

We have one individual specifically who is very, very well-versed in the entertainment market and is used to handling very VIP guests, whether it be a head of state, a top-end celebrity. This person is very well-trained in how they handle different calibers of VIP guests and what their needs and expectations might be.

Park Hyatt Washington - boutique hotel in Washington DC

Presidential Suite

Without compromising anyone’s privacy or security, can you think of any particularly memorable stays?

There are so many. I can give you a few ideas of requests that we’ve fulfilled. We had one where we installed full blackout shades for a suite that had to be custom-designed to fit the windows and the guest’s preferences. That was pretty unique. We also had a guest request furniture from their own home be delivered to the suite. Another guest preferred the scent of Downy detergent, so we had everything in the suite laundered with Downy. One VIP wanted us to pick up food from ten different local restaurants so they could have a little tasting experience in their suite. Of course we were more than happy to accommodate all of these requests.

Many thanks to the Park Hyatt Washington, D.C. for indulging our interview request during the busiest imaginable time of year. If you’re booking a stay of your own, please note that the Ambassador Suites are available online — and if you need the full presidential experience, contact our travel specialists directly and we’ll work it out.

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