The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

Groups heading to gaming destinations have all sorts of choices about the kinds of lodging experiences they'd like guests to have. For guest room accommodations, for example, planners can choose from a myriad of tall, chilled, template-driven hotel experiences, each with Internet-equipped work desk, flat-screen TV, signature toiletries in the bathroon, and special pillow-top bed.

But that's sooo 2007! Wouldn't it be nice to opt for something special?

Enter Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, which celebrated its grand opening just last November. Yes, the resort is a design spectacular, which groups have come to expect of so many glittering themed towers in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and dramatic new Indian casino resorts around the country. But just as memorable, and serving to drench attendees in atmosphere when they totter back to their rooms after a day of meetings, are Planet Hollywood's guest rooms.

In keeping with the resort's well-known name, they evoke the glamour and style of the Silver (or Technicolor) Screen—it's Tinseltown to the max.

"The main thing Planet Hollywood wants to provide its attendees, whether corporate, association, or incentive, is for them to feel like stars," observes Darren Green, the resort's vice president of hotel marketing. "Yes, all our rooms have flat-screen TVs, are upgraded with very plush bedding, and with marble finishings in the baths. But overall, a room is a room is a room. Here, we've gone much further with the 'Wow' factor."

Of particular appeal are Planet Hollywood's Hollywood Hip rooms, newly remodeled accommodations each featuring its own Movieland theme. You can choose rooms modeled after such movies as "Pulp Fiction" or "Die Hard," "Blade" or "Universal Soldier," "Planet of The Apes" or "Star Trek," among many. There also are rooms that highlight filmdom legends, like Judy Garland.

What makes Planet Hollywood's Hollywood Hip rooms so special, besides their design aesthetic, is simple: The rooms are filled with actual movie memorabilia, clothing, and props from the very movies the rooms honor. There are real swords from "Conan the Barbarian," for example, space gear from "Apollo 13," and boxing gloves used in the "Rocky" movies, each encased in specially designed displays. The rooms are, in effect, mini-museums devoted to Hollywood history.

For the record, the rooms also are luxe: They feature oversized headboards covered in crushed velvet, leather or suede chairs, full-size desks with high-speed Internet and (since Starwood is now managing the resort) Sheraton's Sweet Sleeper beds, with pillow-top mattresses, feather down pillows, and high-thread-count sheets and duvets. The bathrooms offer plenty of marble, deep tubs, and separate shower stalls.

HAVING A BALL

Importantly, though, the look and feel—while luxurious by any standard—is not stuffy. Instead the rooms, and the entire hotel, are designed to be a very sophisticated hoot.

"It's really fun," says Debra Edwards, account manager with Carlson Marketing, in Minneapolis, who stayed in a Hollywood Hip room last February when her company visited Planet Hollywood (among several other resorts along the Strip) to celebrate its 70th anniversary. "It's top of the line, especially for VIPs."

Edwards notes that the property's ties to entertainment paid off for Carlson, in the use of its Theatre for The Performance Arts, which, at 7,000 seats is the largest proscenium theater in North America and has hosted the likes of the Miss America pageant. Carlson had the run of the Planet Hollywood house during its visit, with lodging for one of its business units as well as the invited talent (crooner icon Tony Bennett sang to the attendees). In addition to the theater, Carlson also used one of the hotel's mezzanine spaces for a reception, and the ballroom.

Edwards acknowledges that hotel guest rooms often are not the highest priority for planners. Among the many ingredients in the typical RFP are convenience, meeting rooms, value, and other considerations, with sleeping rooms not often coming into play. "But the Hollywood Hip rooms are top-of-the-line," Edwards adds. "If you put your group there, you could reserve 20 of them for your VIPs."

GREATER IMPORTANCE

While sleeping rooms can deliver that 'Wow' effect, planners know they can have greater or lesser impact depending on the program. For meeting-goers, there's not much time in the sleeping rooms, after all, although decompression after a day of one session after another could be greatly appreciated.

For incentives, the room looms larger.

"When doing an incentive, you really need to appeal to the attendee, because they've worked so hard for the payoff," says Laura Chudy, account manager with EGR International in New York City, an independent meeting and incentive house. "They definitely need a very luxurious room, and, in fact, they might be spending more time there."

Trends in guest-room design, however, are fleeting, and the same design may not play well for every attendee. Importantly, we are in the midst of a generational shift, and sleeping rooms that Baby Boomers dig may not be considered so sweet by Gen-Xers.

"While hotels are thinking about their core programs for groups, they also are thinking of their audience," notes Steven P. Lowe, director of sales at both Harrah's and Harvey's Lake Tahoe, which each take different tacks when it comes to sleeping room design. "Our Harrah's location has two bathrooms, with TVs and phones in each, and is quite sophisticated in their traditional earth tones, catering more to the Boomer attendee. And then you have our Harvey's location, with chocolate tones and trendier, edgier design aesthetics, appealing to a younger generation."

Originally published Aug. 1, 2008

For more ideas, tips, and tools for better meetings and events, get Successful Meetings' weekly e-newsletter delivered to your inbox.