A love of gambling is one thing – being a high roller is another. For the real "big timers," those who gamble more than $1 million per trip, resorts roll out all the stops – private penthouse suites, insider-only casinos and dining, and service so dedicated, that so long as it's legal, the task will be accomplished.
Foxwoods bears the distinction of being North America's largest casino property. High rollers are comped stays in the hotel's 23 special penthouse suites, which range from 1,000 to 5,000 square feet and offer views of the Mashantucket reservation from 20+ stories up. High rollers are allowed access to private dining a dedicated casino above the hotels' AAA Four Diamond Paragon Restaurant.
Many of New England's elite, including sports figures and celebrities frequent Foxwoods and employ these services. Some utilize the private facilities as a way to evade professional sports regulations that prevent gambling, while others are drawn simply by the allure of convenience – at just under two hours from cities like Boston and New York, it's a much faster "fix" than Las Vegas.
And who would know better what goes on behind the velvet ropes than the men and women who see it all unfold? We got the scoop about what really goes on from Anthony Garry, Foxwoods' head butler and a 20+ year industry vet.
How did you get into the business?
In college, I worked part-time in Atlantic City, and that's what first exposed me to the industry. I was a Chemistry major in college, and originally wanted to be a Pediatrician. I'd like to think I am still in that business. I take care of people and their needs.
How does one train for a job like this?
I started out as a "regular" hotel butler. I was lucky enough to train under two talented individuals who had worked for Steve Wynn at Golden Nugget. I worked my way up the ranks to eventually take over the head butler role.
Paul James is the Global Brand Leader for St. Regis Hotels & Resorts and The Luxury Collection, Starwood's two world-renowned, luxury hospitality brands. Under this role James is responsible for providing the overall strategic and creative direction for St. Regis, the legendary hotel brand committed to excellence and bespoke service at the best addresses in the world, and The Luxury Collection, a glittering ensemble of one-of-a-kind destinations and indigenous experiences designed for the global explorer. Over the last year, James has been instrumental in creating a long term strategy of meaningful growth for both St. Regis and The Luxury Collection brands in the world's most enviable destinations. Since taking on his current role, St. Regis and The Luxury Collection have successfully debuted properties in new markets including Atlanta, Indonesia, Mexico, Moscow, Peru, and Scotland. Over the next five years, James will oversee their continued expansion with the opening of properties in Abu Dhabi, Bermuda, Buenos Aires, Cairo, China, Japan, Jordan, Peru, and more.
James has more than 20 years experience in hospitality, serving most recently as Starwood's Regional Director of Sales & Marketing, NW Europe. In that role, he was in charge of the sales and marketing teams of 35 hotels in nine countries across seven brands, with revenues in excess of $1 billion. This fall, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts will continue its extraordinary global expansion by opening four world-class properties in Puerto Rico, Osaka, Bangkok and Lhasa, solidifying its position and the leader in luxury hospitality and doubling its footprint in just two years. This global growth will expand the brand's footprint to include the Caribbean with The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort in Puerto Rico, and continuing its growth in Asia with The St. Regis Osaka, The St. Regis Lhasa Resort and The St. Regis Bangkok. Offering the St. Regis' iconic bespoke services and amenities, unrivalled luxury and refined elegance, the spectacular new properties join the brand's distinguished portfolio of quintessential addresses around the world. In the gallery are images of James' essential luxuries; continued below you'll find his explanations about what makes them a must.
Gallery: Paul James' 10 Essential Luxuries
Affectionately known as the "world's greatest job," tanning butler duties include strolling around the luxury hotel pool and rubbing attractive people (and presumably unattractive people, but let's not think about that) with complimentary Hampton Sun products from 12pm to 4pm.
The tanning butlers wear signature "Tanning Butler" t-shirts -- so don't believe that guy in a Speedo who's pretending to be a hotel employee -- and are armed with various SPFs, Evian spritzers and sunglasses cleaner in a custom-made holster.
"Good afternoon, I'm the Tanning Butler," they've been instructed to say. "Can I offer you some complimentary sunscreen? If you like, I can apply it to your back and shoulders that might burn easily, as well."
In my fantasy, that line is delivered with a very sexy accent. I hope the Ritz-Carlton's HR department is reading this.
"This modern twist on the English butler is beyond guests' expectations," says Michelle Payer, creator of The Tanning Butler. "It's a light-hearted service we created to cater to our guests as they sunbathe by providing an unexpected, luxury service they won't see anywhere else in the world."
An added perk of the profession? Celebrity rubbing. Jessica Simpson, Nick Lachey, Johnny Knoxville and Vivica A. Fox are just a few names the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach claims to have tanned.
If you're interested in staying at The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, Miami's newest oceanfront hotel -- "a complete restoration of an original 1953 Morris Lapidus-designed landmark hotel in the city's historic Art Deco district" -- visit the website to book.
Alternatively, click here for job openings.
Filed under: Luxury Travel & Hotels
Occupancy is the real story of the luxury hotel recovery, though, with heads in beds expected to surge to as high as 59 percent, a strong gain over last year's 55 percent occupancy rate. In Europe, it could even reach 65 percent this year, with room rate recovery coming next year (at a 5 percent increase).
Bruce Siegel, director of sales and marketing at he Ritz-Carlton Naples Resorts in Florida said to Bloomberg News, "On the leisure side, we certainly are enjoying a rate premium year over year." Further, he continued, "Many guests from the U.S. Northeast with clear signs of exhaustion are arriving at our door." Overall room rates, including corporate bookings, are little changed, he said.
So, what are people looking for when they book rooms at the likes of the Ritz or the Four Seasons, often at $500 a night or more? Ocean views are a must, and guests will be paying more for rooms at the St. Regis, where butler service comes as part of the tab.
But just as there will always be people to pay for fine whisky and beachside estates, there will always be people in need of good, qualified help. These days with the advances in communication, finding good help is no longer just a question of word of mouth. I recently chatted with David M. Bertnick, the president of IAPSP, a non-profit, trade association for the aggregate private service community, about the changing face of private service. The IAPSP is holding the 2009 IAPSP Inaugural Conference for Private Service next month, October 9-11 in Dallas Texas. Mr. Bertnick has served as a household manager, estate manager and personal assistant and has trained many others in the art of private service.
1. What exactly does your organization, the International Association for Private Service Professionals, do?
Established in 2006, the IAPSP is a non-profit, member-based, trade association for private service. It provides a platform for developing professionalism and leadership skills in the delivery of estate service. The IAPSP works to increase confidence, competency and skill by engaging its members in leadership opportunities, providing peer-to-peer networking, and sharing service knowledge within its ranks. Much of this work is done over the telephone and via the internet; however, our local chapters in Los Angeles and San Francisco meet monthly to learn from experts who provide products or services to the Luxury Market. Once a year, we produce a conference and invite the community to join us for the weekend event.
2. As you and I discussed earlier, the private service industry has changed a lot since Robert Frank wrote about it as the industry everyone was trying to get into back in 2007 as part of the research for his book "Richistan." How would you characterize the industry now?
One thing that hasn't seemed to change is the desire to break into our industry. Unfortunately, in the past, many have seen Private Service as a "fall-back" career, expecting that if worse came to worse they could "always be a domestic." This time, it hasn't worked out that way for individuals who are inexperienced or untrained in the art of private service. It seems a large portion of the wealth class has experienced the benefits of professional-level service in their homes and now has higher expectations. Even though many of them have scaled back the size of their estates - and the support staff required to operate them - they have kept the bar high in terms of who they will accept as service staff. A focus on quality, experience and expertise is now being applied to the search for estate staff as with any other type of expenditure.
Filed under: Luxury Travel & Hotels
Concierge service is rewarding, but common; let's face it, Best Western has concierges. Butler service, on the other hand -- the round-the-clock ask-and-it's-done white-glove kind, that's still something special. The Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Holistic Retreat & Spa in Los Cabos, Baja California has just added butlers to its list of amenities, and they're free... well, whenever you book an ocean view suite.
Your attendant clocks in the moment you arrive and tends to the minutiae of any resort stay like dinner reservations, spa appointment, and dry cleaning. Yet the role of steward entails more than that: he will unpack your luggage, run your bubble bath, coordinate in-suite dining, plan an entire day trip and make sure your bed is turned down and your shoes are shined when you return. If there are enough of you for a cocktail party, he can arrange that as well. And anything else in between, so we're told.
Although Pueblo Bonito says "no request is too large or too small," there is one thing you can't ask your butler to do: take care of your children -- the Los Cabos property has been designed exclusively for adults. With your own butler, though, it will give you chance to be kids. Arthur would be proud...
Gallery: Pueblo Bonito Pacifica
While a recession was being discussed all those months ago, it hadn't quite eaten into the upper tier. People saw having help as an investment, a way to maximize their own time available for recreation, family time and work. As their own income and wealth has started to fall the time equal money equation has tipped in favor of money. Nannies and domestic help are finding their salaries cut or are being let go. Nanny sharing is on the rise as people find ways to get by with less help but not lose a person who in many cases is practically a member of the family. Some people have decided to gradually cut back in an effort to mitigate the damage to the housekeeper or nanny's income. People are doing their own housework and even outdoor chores, dispensing in some cases with the lawn service companies which are so ubiquitous in California. Even dog walkers are finding it harder to make a living. And those butlers, whose jobs were more administrative than hands-on may find themselves running the same large households with less and less staff.
In some cases it becomes a question of what people are interested in giving up, the help or other creature comforts. The WSJ article quotes a woman who decided to lay off the nanny rather than give up her Botox treatments. Whereas in the NYT article a woman cut back on her gym membership and lunches out before she decided to make the decision of giving up her housekeeper.
Filed under: Luxury Travel & Hotels