At luxury hotels in Washington, making international guests feel at home sometimes involves the use of heavy machinery.
A few years ago, the Fairmont Hotel overhauled an entire bathroom to accommodate a British visitor's special-order hot tub. The Ritz-Carlton routinely installs bidets for Middle Eastern travelers. And at the Willard Hotel, there have been requests to put thrones in guest rooms.
"Every year or two, we'll have someone send in a mattress before they arrive," said Suzie Sims, director of diplomatic sales for the Ritz-Carlton. "Sometimes they'll send in furniture and ask us to recreate the personal spaces in their homes on the other side of the world." It's no secret that international visitors and diplomatic delegations are a large source of revenue for Washington's hospitality industry. Last year, foreign travelers accounted for 10 percent of the District's visitors, but 27 percent of tourism spending, according to the marketing organization Destination D.C.
The number of international travelers in the area has been rising steadily in recent years, up 31 percent since 2000 and totaling 1.8 million people in 2011, a bright spot in an otherwise sluggish domestic economy - and hotels are increasingly going to great lengths to make sure their clients feel right at home.
"Since Washington is so international, our clients come from all over the world and we want to make them feel comfortable," said Liliana Baldassari, a spokeswoman for the Four Seasons in Georgetown. "Any guest can ask for anything, and we'll have it for them."
Muslim guests at the hotel are likely to find prayer rugs, a compass and Koran in their bedrooms. For Japanese travelers, kimonos and tea pots take the place of standard bathrobes and coffee makers. And for other international visitors, there are personalized newspapers and satellite news stations from their home country waiting for them.