Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Inauguration builds demand

Demand for inauguration week hotel rooms has skyrocketed since the election, giving Washington-area hotels (and those as far away as Richmond, Va., and Baltimore, Md.) leverage normally seen during events like the Super Bowl.

Reports say many hotels have doubled or tripled rates. Some hotels are requiring customers to book a four-night minimum while others are collecting payment in advance.

There also are a few stories out there of hotels trying to capitalize on the inauguration excitement by changing the terms of reservations for guests who had booked prior to election night. In this Washington Post story, Emily Durso, president of the Hotel Association of Washington, said, “What you have is a lot of venues that don’t normally face this kind of demand. They're dealing with it for the first time. They were dumb enough to give out rooms over the inauguration dates months ago at a low price. Oops -- now they have to fix it.”

Hotels like the St. Regis Washington, D.C., (pictured above) are building on the excitement with their own events and packages. The St. Regis—located two blocks from the White House—partnered with Neiman Marcus to set up a retail boutique in the hotel’s lobby from Jan. 16-21. An “eye bar” from Yves Saint Laurent Beauté will offer makeup and eyelash application. A Manolo Blahnik shoeshine and bowtie-tying service will help guests prepare for formal functions.
The Hilton Washington offered a $44,000, 4-night package promising guests a behind-the-scenes look at its inaugural ball.

But my favorite story is of the non-profit Stafford Foundation, which bought a $1-million “build your own ball” package at the JW Marriott in Washington. The package includes 300 rooms, four suites and $200,000 worth of F&B at the hotel overlooking the inaugural parade route. The foundation will invite disadvantaged people, homeless people, Hurricane Katrina survivors and wounded soldiers to stay at the hotel and attend its ball.

Sounds like quite the party.

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