When most people think of the Lanesborough, they think of a 19th century regency-style building, personal butlers (your own “Jeeves” to unpack and press your clothes) and some of London’s most expensive suites.
If you’re in the know about London hotels, you may also know it for serving possibly the best Bloody Mary in London. You may though be surprised to learn that it’s also one of London’s most tech-savvy hotels.
If you visit its elegant lobby or discreet bar, you’d never really expect it. It feels more like an English country manor house.
But consider this. A few weeks ago, the hotel announced that it will provide complimentary SONY Vaio laptops in all guestrooms.
Impressively, they’re offering this amenity free to all guests.
Wireless internet and email access are also free throughout the hotel – a privilege that many hotels would charge handsomely for.
They also provide a mobile phone for use inside the hotel and a state-of-the-art tv system with free movies on demand (“pay to view” in most hotels) as well as an in-room music library – you guessed it, free of charge.
That’s before mentioning the free long-distance landline calls to the USA and European Union (yes, you read that right, a hotel actually offering free rather than extortionately-priced calls!).
Technology is an arms race requiring continuous investment and the Lanesborough does not seem to be resting on its laurels.
When I last stepped into one of the hotel’s rooms (not a suite), I was impressed by the discreet electronics and handy bedside control panel.
And yet despite a recent 4 year renovation, the hotel is now embarking on a further upgrade in 2010, investing a striking £80,000 per room.
While you could probably get similar technology at other ultra-deluxe hotels, what impresses me most is that it’s free of charge.
It shows immense respect to your guests when they’ve paid a 5-star room rate, that you don’t constantly bother them with lots of little extras.
This is certainly supported by recent guest reviews of the hotel on TripAdvisor, which suggest that this approach is highly-appreciated.
Despite the emphasis on complimentary services, the hotel is often no more expensive than its ultra-deluxe competitors (indeed, if you use our meta-search engine you’ll often find it cheaper).
As its long-serving Managing Director Mr Gelardi (leading the hotel since it opened in 1991) told me when I met him:
“I invite anybody to read our list of complimentary services and see if they can find better value for money in another ultra-deluxe London hotel”.
While the Dorchester, One Aldwych, Claridge’s and the Langham all have their merits, the Lanesborough arguably offers the best “value” – if you believe “value” is also relevant at the super-luxury end of the market.
Other ultra-deluxe hotels also provide certain “freebies”, but I’ve not seen this philosophy as deeply-embedded as it is at the Lanesborough.
Meanwhile, if the Lanesborough’s room rate is beyond your budget but you like the idea of free amenities, I can also point you in the direction of Base2stay near Earl’s Court (Kensington).
I recently met Base2stay’s CEO (featured in our recent blog post on London’s best “luxury budget” hotels), Robert Nadler, who is passionate about the idea of “price transparency”.
As he told me himself: “the price you pay at check-out is what you thought you’d pay at check-in”. This is a key raison d’etre behind Base2stay.
To this end they encourage you to stay within budget, meticulously displaying the price of extras and keeping essentials like wifi free of charge.
There’s even a mini-kitchen in your room with a fridge and microwave to allow you to drag some shopping in from the local supermarket!
So although the Lanesborough and Base2stay are very different hotels in distinct market segments, both clearly understand the futility of trying to “nickel and dime” your customers.
This also illustrates how important it is to look beyond the headline room rate when choosing your London hotel.
Photo credits: The Lanesborough (St.Regis Hotels & Resorts) and Base2stay.