Five 'surprise and delight' hotel services

Stay at Melbourne's The Blackman and you can order business shirts from a menu.
Stay at Melbourne's The Blackman and you can order business shirts from a menu. 

A pillow menu beckons from the bedside table as you arrive in your hotel room. The in-room dining and on-site spa menus are easily located and offer succour after a day of meetings.

Now a new in-room service could be seriously helpful to the business traveller caught short. In what is believed to be a world first, a shirt menu has been introduced to a Melbourne hotel.

QT hotels in Sydney and Canberra offer a 'man package' that includes a trip to the on-site barber shop.
QT hotels in Sydney and Canberra offer a 'man package' that includes a trip to the on-site barber shop. 

Guests may select a luxury cotton business shirt from the comfort of their room. It is  packaged and delivered to their door within 24 hours. An unexpected call to the boardroom, a last-minute social event or an unfortunate ironing accident is no longer a sartorial stress.

The cost of the shirt (from $69, less than half of the retail price) is added to the hotel bill.

The shirt menu is a joint innovation of five-star boutique hotel The Blackman, on Melbourne's "boulevard of business", St Kilda Road, along with tailoring specialist Mr Shirts.

The Park Hyatt in Sydney and Melbourne offers bikes to guests keen to explore the city under their own steam.
The Park Hyatt in Sydney and Melbourne offers bikes to guests keen to explore the city under their own steam. 

Reebok workout clothes are provided to guests of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts upon request, while at Claridge's in London, a free Burberry trenchcoat hangs in every wardrobe. The Blackman, though, is believed to be the first to target time-poor business travellers with a shirt service.

It is certainly not alone in offering something a little out of the ordinary. While club lounges and fitness centres have become ubiquitous in five-star hotels, left-of-centre offerings are increasing used to lure corporate travellers seeking something extra.

Here are five other special touches the business traveller may like:

Breath of fresh air

Being able to open a window in your hotel room is unusual, but having a private garden to step out onto is almost unheard of. Six suites have this feature at the Como Melbourne, and they are in high demand.

"Everyone would love to be able to have fresh air in a hotel," says Cleo Seaman, the manager.

The fresh air at the Como comes with a Japanese garden - raked stones, bamboo, a water feature - and table and chairs.

Best of all is the privacy. "You feel like you could be anywhere, not staying at a hotel on a business trip," Seaman says.

Gender bias

The needs of male and female corporate travellers differ, and marketers of the top-end hotels are on to this.

There's a "feminine, French and elegant" ethic at the Sofitel Brisbane Central, according to executive Kristie Mancell. This is largely because, as at other Sofitel hotels, there's a tasteful abundance of flowers, fragrance and flickering candles, designed to appeal to the senses.

Copious floral displays are scattered throughout the lobby and executive lounge, a signature scent is wafted through the air conditioning and more than 100 candles are lit in a 20-minute ritual come 5pm. Appealingly romantic.

Conversely, it's good whisky and immaculate grooming to woo the businessman at the style-conscious QT Canberra and Sydney. Both hotels offer a "man package" that includes a private suit fitting at menswear retailer M.J. Bale, a shave at the spaQ barber shop and a massage at the spa with the accompaniment of (complimentary) 18-year-old Chivas Regal Scotch whisky. Very old-school male.

Take-in

There's no rumbling stomachs during team-building sessions for senior management at Dune, a luxury rental property in Port Douglas that can be rented with a live-in chef. Dave Shaw has 27 years' experience in the hospitality industry, with a special interest in Japanese cuisine.

Shaw takes guests' requests for food and drink to be stocked in the fridge, as well as the style of cooking desired during the stay.  "I'll then whip up whatever you feel like at any time throughout the day," he says.

Footloose

Tick downtime and exercise in one fell swoop at the Park Hyatt and add as much sightseeing as your legs can handle. The Sydney and Melbourne hotels bought bicycles in September for guests to freewheel through the city streets.

"Rather than a taxi or a private limousine, this gives guests the chance to unwind as they meander around town," says Edwina San, of Melbourne Park Hyatt.

"Many of our guests are interstate and international business travellers who otherwise do not get the opportunity to see much of the city. We provide water and a map and can pack a picnic lunch should they want to cross the river to the Botanic Gardens."

The seven-speed Promax bikes, offered with decent helmets, baskets and leather seats, are a far cry from the utilitarian blue "bike share" bikes that are the visitor's usual option in Melbourne.

Morning after

Maybe it's the Mad Men influence on business dinners. Perhaps it's the distance from home and proximity of the mini bar, but hangovers are another form of baggage for many business travellers.

The Langham in Sydney has in-room Berocca and Red Bull energy drinks. The Cullen in Melbourne offers Berocca and Swisse vitamins.

What innovations would you like to see hotels adopt to help business travellers work more effectively or feel more at home?

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