The hospitality industry always aims to please its patrons. Hotels will offer amenities, concierge services and deluxe accommodations just to ensure a happy customer. But in the VIP world, that special treatment is taken to a whole new level. Shane Green, Global Hospitality Consultant and Founder & President of SGE International, lets us in on the ways the rich and famous enjoy a hotel stay.
Before a high-profile guest even checks in at a luxury hotel, great research and attention is paid to personal details. During a recent trip to London, Taylor Swift Instagrammed a photo from her hotel of her T.S monogrammed pillowcases. And when Kim Kardashian visited Crown Metropol in Melbourne in 2012, the hotel outfitted her room with framed pictures of her new cat Mercy. This level of detail provided for high-profile guests is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to top-notch service. “What we learn in the hotel businesses is that a celebrity has a great way to basically promote you,” says Shane. ” So you learn those little things that make them feel like at home or makes them stand out to grab their attention and keep them coming back.” Shane reveals that when Oprah went down to Australia a few years ago they created and prepared one of the most elaborate chocolate pieces for her arrival because they knew she loved chocolate. But, pillowcases, picture frames and chocolate are pretty basic compared to some over-the-top requests Shane has received. “One time we had a Saudi royal family come in and we had to make over part of the room,” says Shane. “I’ll never forget our chief engineer had to find a gold toilet, and he had about 72 hours to do it. Talk about pressure!”
Once the preparation has been taken care of, the duration of the VIPs stay is filled with just as much attention starting with entry to the hotel. Beginning with fake check-in names, celebrities start their stay in a shroud of secrecy. Wanting to avoid photographers and fans, they opt for a secret entrance rather than drawing attention by walking through the front lobby. “We often bring celebrities in through the loading dock,” says Shane. “It’s not very glamorous, but it’s one of the most secure parts of the hotel and an easy way not to be seen as they make their ways up to the rooms.” Along with the high price tag of the room, personal butlers and chauffeurs are typical amenities offered, but allowing a personal chef to take over a portion of a kitchen is a special request reserved for those special guests. “Diet is an important part for a lot of celebrities,” says Shane. “We’ve had lots of celebrities over the years who would bring their own chefs in and kind of take over a small part of the kitchen because they’re either training for something or coming off a shoot or tour and trying to regulate back into normality.” But, as you’d expect with larger-than-life personalities comes requests for one-of-a-kind experiences. Shane’s most unique adventure he planned involved creating a private dinner in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef where a helicopter flew the diners out dropped them off in the middle of the ocean and came back to pick them up. Talk about a dinner with a view!
At the same time, Shane has seen some simple, yet specific requests over the years. “One of the things that I will always remember when I was involved with a hotel in New York a certain celebrity would come in and ask for a plate of mashed potatoes every night at 5pm,” says Shane. “It was just mashed potatoes and yet that endeared them to us so much because it was how they cooked them and the fact that it became part of their normal routine.” And while you may just play board games or a round of cards in the lobby or comfort of your room, VIPs will even take game night up a notch. “We’ve seen lots of celebrities utilize hotels to basically host small private parties, rather than doing it in public spaces and restaurants because hotels have a higher degree of security and privacy,” says Shane. “There’d be many times when you’d see celebrities and their friends check in, take over a ballroom for a night just to eat some food, play cards or games. Some of the most normal routine things that you’d do in your own living room, they would do in a hotel ballroom and it just seems completely normal.”
Of course, like any one, these celebrities or athletes stay at a hotel to kick back and relax in luxurious privacy. “When it comes to the celebrities, I think the most interesting thing when they come to a hotel or resort basically to hide,” says Shane. “So many times you get these celebrities that are coming off the road or off the tour of after a season and they will check in for a couple of weeks just to get sort of their balance back. We have a number of celebrities who would check in and put blackout curtains up and pretty much just sleep for days on end.” Once they’ve acclimated and are ready to enter the real world again, you can often find yourself pool or tableside with one of these VIPs wanting to ask for a photo. “My best piece of advice, don’t interrupt someone in the middle of their meals,” says Shane. “Wait until they are getting ready to leave because that’s the perfect opportunity when you’re not imposing on their personal time. Approach them the right way and I’m sure you’ll get that photo.”
While Shane reveals most of his celebrity guests were quite pleasant, there are always some diva antics that take place. “One of my favorite moments was when this young basketball player, a rookie as it were, would come into hotels and start ordering people around and ordering so much champagne,” says Shane. “I’ll never forget one of the greatest basketball players of all time pulled this rookie aside and told him to get over himself. And that’s what I often find; the more famous and the bigger the celebrity, the more normal they are and nicer they are when it comes to hotel and restaurant staff.”
And though Shane has been witness to many high-profile guests’ stays over his 20 years in hospitality, he stays mum on naming any of them. “One of the most important things is the element of privacy,” says Shane. “I think over the years the integrity of hotels and hotel users have been all about keeping names private and that is something I pride myself on.”
Shane is a hospitality expert with over two decades of consulting experience. His clients include some of the top celebrity go-to hotels including The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, W Hotels, The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, The Savoy Resort & Spa and many more. Shane is the founder of SGEi, an international leadership-consulting firm, whose clients include some of the most recognizable hotel and luxury brands in the world and he has repositioned and opened more than thirty hotels and resorts.