Encouraging guests to upgrade to a suite-tier inventory is a very lucrative goal for any hotel or resort property. However, there’s one level that also merits your attention – the presidential suite (as it is so often called in the United States).
To help gain some insights as to how a hotel can successfully manage these unique products, I journeyed down to the Boston Harbor Hotel where I was eager to meet with Stephen Johnston, the property’s general manager, to discuss the new John Adams Presidential Suite.
First visiting this exquisite Bostonian property when I was working for Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide some two decades ago, I am proud to say that it hasn’t skipped a beat. It remains a flawless example of an urban hotel that exceeds for any guest, whether he or she be traveling for leisure, business or as part of a group. So let’s get underway!
In a nutshell, what are the facts and figures on your new presidential suite?
The John Adams Presidential Suite comprises some 3,800 square feet of indoor space plus a further 1,000 square feet of outdoor terrace space on the ninth floor of our property. The suite incorporates a living room, dining room, kitchen, media room and two bedrooms, with the option of adding a further two adjoining bedrooms. Amenities include a private elevator. The décor features a 20-foot glass-domed ceiling as a focal point with a suspended chandelier. And, as would be expected with our harbourfront location, we can provide mooring for yachts up to a 200-foot length.
You can’t just manufacture space like this, how did you find the room?
There was a public space and part-time meeting room on the ninth floor, with this space immediately adjoining another large suite. We transferred the public area to a more accessible location on a lower floor. Thus, the presidential suite is actually an expansion of a prior suite.
But why didn’t you have a presidential suite before this?
We did, and it is very attractive, but we have always known that we needed a product that was larger and more opulent than anything else that was available in New England. There is a competition amongst hotels for the best suite in the city. Presidential suites have to be both aspirational as well as practical. They need to have both wow factors as well as functionality. Our goal was a presidential suite that was not only the best Boston has to offer, but also a suite that would be comfortable for someone to stay in residence for several weeks at a time. In other words, it had to feel like a home-away-from-home. I think we’ve achieved this goal.
The renovation process: how long and how much?
The idea of a new presidential suite was bounced around for many years, but planning got underway in earnest about two years ago following the public space rezoning. The actual construction started in December 2017 and was completed in July 2018. In all, the project budget was about $5 million, which included peripheral room modifications and the addition of two keys carved out of the previous tenth floor airspace.
In addition to the physical amenities, what are the unique service offerings?
When booking the presidential suite, we have a discerning protocol that includes an extensive list of personalization elements such as beverage or alcohol requests and even the scent of the cosmetic package. The suite also gives guests the chance for an incredible in-room dining experience with the complete menu of our restaurants available as well as a butler service.
What restrictions do you have for the suite’s utilization?
At this stage, we are just developing the detailed specifications. The suite has a very residential feel, so our focus is on travelers seeking ultra-luxurious accommodation. Given the costs involved in maintenance as well as opening and closing, we are not considering the suite for non-residential use at this time. Since there is no specific check-in or check-out time, the suite is blocked one day before and after each stay, which makes single day occupancies less desirable.
What do you expect the capital payout to be?
That’s hard to say. We are not discounting the selling price of the suite, and our occupancy forecast is on the conservative side. However, we are forecasting that our net income will pay out capital in the next several years. But equally important, the creation of the John Adams Presidential Suite reinforces to our customers that we don’t rest on our laurels but are seeking continual improvement.