Hotels are more than just a place to eat and sleep between other activities.
Today’s guest wants to do a lot more — for instance, to swim or use the gym or perhaps to be entertained or even play games. Guests want to have fun — and hotels are increasingly able to help them do that.
At the Guoman Royal Horseguards, the Gladstone Library is a glorified fake with “replica books” lining the shelves for effect rather than use. But many hotels now include a library for guests’ use. Suites in The Stafford include a selection of books on the shelves, from classics to celebrity biographies; and the same hotel also runs regular ‘Pub Talks‘ to entertain guests and friends — an idea I’d love to see more hotels pick up on.
Meanwhile, Hazlitt’s has copies of books donated by the many authors who stay there; at the Kingsley by Thistle, there’s a residents’ library, with ‘lost classics’ from the early twentieth century; and the W London’s (W)riter’s Library includes around 100 books chosen by 10 writers. The Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street even offers a book of the month to its guests, with its own book club (and as we noted during our recent design tour of the hotel, has gone as far as inscribing the manuscripts of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dolloway onto its reception wall).
For those who prefer the movies to a good book, The Arch provides a library of Oscar winners throughout the ages for their guests – time to revisit some greats (and some not-so-greats; the best film so often seems to be the runner-up, and much though I loved The Artist I do think Tinker Tailor should have edged it out earlier this year).
Or you could go to one of those intimate in-hotel cinemas — Soho Hotel’s is my favourite because of the Cruella De Ville style chairs, which really do look as if they’ve been upholstered in 101 Dalmatians’ fur! All fake I hope.
Other hotels provide video games or Nintendo Wii workouts — though I’m afraid, this being England, these are usually presented as part of a London hotel family fun package with the message that this is kid’s stuff and if you’re over 30 you really shouldn’t be so childish. But even Claridge’s will provide a Wii or Gameboy Advance if asked, and Holiday Inn at Gatwick includes a Nintendo Wii in their breakout space for corporate meetings — guaranteed to break the ice!
The Sanderson and St Martin’s Lane hotels encourage you to get on your bike — literally, with six themed London cycle tours on their Dutch-style bikes. The complimentary bikes are available on a first-come, first-served basis (complete with helmet and bike lock) and the tours come on a little folding map. All a tad nicer than scrambling around looking for a Boris bike — like buses and London taxis, they’re never there when you want one!
Meanwhile many London hostels offer all kinds of fun — pub and tapas tours, for instance, as well as film screenings and in-house games. Nice for a single traveller — a ready-made bunch of friends waiting for you and one of the hostel staff to break the ice. And while the fun is mainly targeted at a younger clientele, I know a couple of pensioners who love staying in hostels precisely because of the great social programme.
And let’s not forget London’s best hotel bars. The May Fair Hotel’s stylish bar is known to attract celebrities from the fashion and entertainment worlds, while there’s a trendy nightclub vibe at W London’s Wyld Bar: they even have bouncers with guest lists outside the hotel on weekends!
I do like to have a bit of fun when I reach my destination, and that so often means heading out of the hotel to go shopping, off to the theatre, or out to a pub. But now I may have to reconsider my nights out — because the most fun might actually be had by enjoying a night in a well-chosen fun-tel!