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PUBLISHED WORK >Wacky Presidential Election Hotel Promotions

Travel+Leisure  October 2008

Wacky Presidential Election Hotel Promotions

Hotels are capitalizing on the U.S. presidential election in an unprecedented way, offering special packages and drinks for the occasion.

From October 2008

By Karen Catchpole

Guests at W Hotels have come to expect “Whatever/Whenever.” But this year’s presidential election finds the luxury chain partnering with get-out-the-vote organization Declare Yourself in order to push that motto one step further—allowing guests to register to vote right from bed.

It’s nothing new for hotels to create special packages around events, of course. But the intense interest in this year’s presidential campaign and election has resulted in packages not just in blue and red states, but also in countries around the world.

For example, this is the first time the Hotel Concorde La Fayette in Paris has run a promotion to coincide with any U.S. presidential election. Chef Laurent Belijar has always been interested in politics, said Concorde Hotels Director of Communications, Vanina Sommer, and this election’s focus on change has taken his interest to a new level. He’s created two burgers with the candidates in mind: the Hawaiian-themed O-Burger for the 50th state’s native son, and the Southwestern-flavored Elephant Burger for the senator from Arizona.

The unprecedented interest has also prompted the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island in Florida to offer its first ever election special—an election-night package that offers real presidential perks: a private jet, motorcade, even fireworks. (At $15,000, though, paying for it may require taxpayer dollars.)

It’s not just the big chains that are harnessing the election excitement. California’s Avalon Beverly Hills, for example, has unveiled candidate-inspired cocktails—the “Obamarita” (Patron silver, blue curacao, fresh lime juice, and prosecco) and the “McCainade” (Jim Beam, Amaretto, lemonade, iced tea, and grenadine). “I wanted to offer our politically charged diners a fun and playful way to support their favorite candidate,” said Executive Chef Scott Garrett.

Some hotels are taking a different tack, trying to spare guests the agony of one more candidate profile or tit-for-tat exchange. One place is the Five Gables Inn & Spa, just outside Washington, D.C. in St. Michaels, Maryland. “Talking to guests during the 2004 election,” said owner Bonnie Booth, “we came to the conclusion that everyone falls victim to election overload.” So the inn created the “Beltway Buster” package, which offers a room, massage, dinner, and daily delivery of The Washington Post…with all election coverage removed.

Why are hotels dreaming up such elaborate and varied election packages? Some are looking to boost bookings, plain and simple. “Election time and election years are actually typically slower as people are involved in the business of elections and tend to save money,” said Greg Velasquez, Director of Sales & Marketing at the US Grant Hotel in San Diego, which is highlighting its presidential heritage (the 100-year-old property is named after our 18th president) with a new, politically themed bar menu. “We thought playing off the campaign would be a fun and appealing way to keep patrons excited about the property.”

But getting heads in beds isn’t the only motivation behind this election season trend. “Hotels generally try to create packages to generate media attention,” said hotel consultant Rick Swig. “The election provides an opportunity for some buzz. It’s really about market visibility, promotion, and positioning.” Sounds a lot like politics.


Red and Blue Cocktails, Avalon Beverly Hills

Gondola Massage

The Spin: The Avalon Beverly Hills would rather tally cocktail orders than hanging chads, so their restaurant, blue on blue, offers guests dishes like the “Conservative Quesadilla” (beef, peppers and chili), the “GOP” (grilled onion and prosciutto on flatbread), “Caucus Kabobs” (grilled shrimp, pineapple, and scallions), and the “Green Party Platter” (garbanzo bean puree, pita bread, and olives). Wash it down with an Obamarita (Patron silver, blue curacao, fresh lime juice, and prosecco) or a McCainade (Jim Beam, Amaretto, lemonade, iced tea, and grenadine). The hotel will tally the number of each cocktail sold, with the woozy winner announced on election eve.

The Bill: $8 each, through Election Day.

Best Candidates: Anyone ready to toast the winner and the loser.

Image courtesy of Avalon Beverly Hills


Reduced Rates, Aruba Marriott Resort

Alpha Oxy-LED Light Spa Capsule

The Spin: A $50 million renovation, like a presidential campaign, comes with the promise of big change. With the Inaugural Package, guests can check out the Aruba Marriott’s most recent change—the new Tradewinds Club, a new boutique hotel within the resort that offers all kinds of extras. The package includes reduced rates, a fifth night free, and a $100 resort credit.

The Bill: $374 per night, through December 19.

Best Candidates: Luxury types who’d like to see a little of that change remain in their pockets.

Image courtesy of Steve Keith



Special Packages, W Hotels across the U.S.


The Spin: Haven’t registered yet? No worries. Declare Yourself, a national nonpartisan, nonprofit campaign dedicated to registering Americans to vote, has partnered with W Hotels to allow you to register right from your room. Select W Hotels are also offering “Declare Yourself RED” or “Declare Yourself BLUE” packages, which include accommodation, an eco-friendly Republican or Democrat tote, an Elephant or Donkey Vote T-Shirt, a book, and two special election cocktails—either the “Obama Pama” (made with PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur) or the “10 Cane McCain” (made with 10 Cane Rum). A portion of the package proceeds will be donated to Declare Yourself.

The Bill: Starting at $399, through November 11.

Best Candidates: Procrastinators.

Image courtesy of W Hotels


Presidential Tasting Menu, The Waldorf Towers, New York

saki bath

The Spin: The Presidential Suite at The Waldorf Towers (the boutique property adjacent to The Waldorf=Astoria) has been the visited by every U.S. President since Herbert Hoover—and most have dined there as well. This election season, Chef John Doherty has created a four-course Presidential Tasting Menu that showcases some of the presidential favorites he’s prepared during his 30 years in the Waldorf kitchen. Served on the same china normally reserved for visiting presidents, the Presidential Tasting Menu offers the favorites of Clinton (seared scallop with osetra caviar), Reagan (poached turbot with caviar-champagne sauce), Bush the elder (roast rack of lamb with saffron potatoes), and the current president (chocolate extravaganza).

The Bill: $480 with wine pairings and butler service. Available in suite for guests staying at The Waldorf Towers, The Waldorf=Astoria, or in the private Wine Library at the hotel’s Bull & Bear steakhouse.

Best Candidates: The power hungry.

Image courtesy of The Waldorf=Astoria Hotel



Anti-Election Package, Five Gables Inn & Spa, Maryland

Arctic Ice Room

The Spin: Had enough of the nonstop campaign coverage? Register for the “Beltway Buster” package, at Five Gables Inn & Spa in St. Michaels, Maryland. Named after the interstate that encircles Washington, D.C., the package includes midweek accommodation for two nights in a suite, one 60-minute Swedish massage per room, $100 toward dinner at neighboring restaurant 208 Talbot, and daily delivery of The Washington Post with all election coverage removed. Now if they’d only hide the remote…

The Bill: $595, through November 10.

Best Candidates: News addicts.

Image courtesy of Five Gables Inn & Spa




Special Burgers, Hotel Concorde La Fayette, Paris

Chocolate Facial

The Spin: The Hotel Concorde La Fayette in Paris has taken the hamburger—perhaps the best-known American food—and given it a presidential twist. The hotel’s La Fayette Bar is now serving the O-Burger, which pays tribute to Senator Barack Obama and his birth city of Honolulu, featuring curried beef topped with pineapple carpaccio and coriander-flavored shrimp. Or try the Elephant Burger, which evokes the mascot of John McCain’s party and his adopted home state of Arizona; it’s a tomato-flavored burger with grilled lamb served with Southwestern touches including guacamole, salsa, and nachos. Diners can even vote for their favorite burger.

The Bill: $30 each.

Best Candidates: People hungry for change en toute hâte.


Image courtesy of Hotel Concorde La Fayette



Crazy Cocktails, US Grant Hotel, San Diego

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The Spin: The Grant Grill at this hotel—which was named for Ulysses S. Grant and has hosted almost every chief from FDR to JFK—has elected to offer new cocktails and re-christened bar menu favorites. Drinks include the “Obamatini” (pineapple-infused Absolut with a pineapple garnish), the “Joe Fashioned” (Maker’s Mark, simple syrup, bitters, and soda water), the “Palin Stinger” (Snow Queen Vodka with white crème de menthe), and the “McCain Mash” (Johnny Walker Black Label with a splash of Amaretto Di Saronno). And don’t miss the “Swing Vote Slider Combo”: Kobe beef sliders topped and a side of hand-cut truffled steak fries with white cheddar sauce.

The Bill: $10.

Best Candidates: Anyone willing to dine across the aisle.


Image courtesy of The US Grant Hotel



Free Massage and Champagne, Royal Hideaway Playacar, Mexico

Manake Tapping Treatment

The Spin: You don’t have to be the leader of the free world to have Situation Room–size stress. The Royal Hideaway Playacar, on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, wants to help presidents of any organization relax and unwind with the Presidential Treatment package. Book a three-night (or more) stay and present proof of presidency (a business card or letterhead with your title and organization name will do) and you’ll get a complimentary bottle of Dom Perignon and a 30-minute massage in the Royal Hideaway Spa.

The Bill: $300 per person, per night, all-inclusive, through Election Day.

Best Candidates: Card-carrying presidents.


Image courtesy of The Royal Hideaway Playacar



Free Champagne, Westin New York

Rose Quartz Facial

The Spin: Bar 10 at the Westin New York at Times Square is pouring a complimentary glass of champagne for all female VPs, in honor of the woman who may become one herself, Sarah Palin. Any woman who flashes a business card boasting a “Vice President” title gets a glass of bubbly (yes, VP of the local PTA counts).

The Bill: Free, through November 4.

Best Candidates: Women who know what the Bush Doctrine is.


Image courtesy of The Westin New York at Times Square



Special Spa Treatments, Mandarin Oriental, Washington D.C.

Full-Body Fish Nibbling

The Spin: Politics is a brutal sport that can put years on your face and take years off your ticker—and that’s just from watching an election. Recharge and rejuvenate at The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington D.C., which is offering accommodations and three-hour “The Body Politic” treatments in both “Liberal” and “Conservative” packages. “Liberal Bliss” includes head-to-toe treatments incorporating essential oils, hot stones, and aromatherapy along with an infusion facial, while the “Conservative Journey” focuses on traditional deep-tissue massage techniques plus a regenerating facial.

The Bill: $525, through Inauguration Day.

Best Candidates: After nearly two years of aggressive campaigning? All of us.

Image courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group



Presidential Library Visit, Fairmont Copley Plaza, Boston

Manake Tapping Treatment

The Spin: The Kennedy Library is hosting a new exhibit called The Making of a President, which features treasures from the Kennedy archives. Learn what motivated Kennedy’s bid to become the 35th president with the Fairmont Copley Plaza’s package of the same name; you’ll receive accommodations and two tickets. Make an executive decision and book the hotel’s John F. Kennedy Library and Museum Suite, which was developed in conjunction with curators and archivists at the JFK Library and is a mini JFK museum.

The Bill: $339–$799 per night, through January 31, 2009.

Best Candidates: Those who ask what their hotels can do for them.


Image courtesy of Fairmont Copley Plaza



One-of-a-Kind Package, The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida

Manake Tapping Treatment

TThe Spin: Can’t remember how many houses you own? Then you can probably afford to be the one lucky guest who gets to watch election-night returns in high style at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. Get a chartered helicopter ride from the Jacksonville airport to the island’s airfield, an official motorcade to the resort, private security detail, accommodations in the resort’s 2,535-square-foot oceanfront Presidential Suite, a private balcony dinner for two, champagne and cigars, fireworks at midnight, 18 holes of golf, an anti-stress massage, and a commemorative presidential flag display case.

The Bill: A whopping $15,000, available only on November 4.

Best Candidates: Any potential candidates for 2012.


Image courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island




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