How The Jesus and Mary Chain Influence My Hotel Choices

I wasn’t sure what to title this post when I started writing it, a member on Milepoint asked whether they should cash out their Hyatt Gold Passport points at the Park Hyatt Tokyo or the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris?

I wrote a brief reply that set me off on a 90 minute long journey through Youtube trailers, clips, and music of various kinds, only slightly connected to one another.

The PH Tokyo is one of my favorite hotels in the world. I’ll acknowledge it’s hardly tops in Tokyo. I disagree with those who make the fair point that the Grand Hyatt’s location makes it a superior property. It is a good property. But the Park Hyatt is special. Perhaps it’s emotional attachment, the same way that i will always love the Fairmont in San Francisco, such a classic hotel atop Nob Hill. Of course I’m not a huge Paris guy anyway…

Watch Lost in Translation and then tell me you don’t want to stay at the PH Tokyo.

There are some hotels that you just connect with on an emotional level, some places that you just want to be or go back to, and others that feel like home and I don’t have a unified theory as to why, there probably isn’t just a single reason.

Take the Fairmont San Francisco. It’s a nice hotel, a prestigious hotel that in some ways lives on its past grandeur. It’s grand but not even close to the nicest hotel in the city. And yet, to me at least, it’s special. It’s in many ways too big a hotel for my usual preferences, so why do I feel that it’s a special place? Maybe it’s because when I was still in high school Dylan talked about taking Kelly there on Beverly Hills 90210? Or because I first stayed there more than a dozen years ago and I still remember my great stay where I had the great fortune to meet the late Milton Friedman who lived down the street. The funny thing is that I’m actually afraid to go back, because I don’t want to ruin the special place that the Fairmont holds in my memory, since I know that my tastes and experiences have grown since then. In that way, the Fairmont is the exception.

The Park Hyatt Tokyo has such clean lines, it’s grand and somehow both friendly and impersonal. Very Japanese. Both The Points Guy and Matthew recently reviewed the property. Here’s my meal at Kozue, the hotel’s Japanese restaurant, though I really do need to fix some of my old archive photos. Is the hotel more special to me from the way that Lost in Translation affected me? Perhaps. I hate to acknowledge being so fickle as to be influenced by pop culture placements, commercial associations that attach me emotionally to a brand or product. And yet there’s a reason that the hotel worked for the movie, seeing some of yourself in the characters can make you feel as though you belong in the place those characters are set.

In much a different way, I’ve long been at home in several of my most frequently visited properties. You just know how they work, they’re utterly familiar, and you’re welcomed back (more or less). I’ve probably made more trips to South Florida than to anywhere else, largely due to family, and two of the hotels I’ve stayed at most frequently are the Westin Diplomat and the Renaissance Boca Raton.

The Diplomat is perhaps the very best property for Starwood Platinums of any in the world. To be sure, it’s not the best property in the world or even perhaps the best Starwood property in South Florida. But for Platinum recognition, they have something like 86 suites in the upgrade pool the most common of which has an ocean view and wraparound balcony, some have views as well of the intracoastal waterway. A Platinum upgrade is so much of a gimme here that the hotel has been known to send out emails to PLatinums during true peak demand periods like the week between Christmas and New Years letting them know that of course they are still going to be upgraded to a suite if it’s available but there’s a reasonable chance it won’t be, and since everyone so expects a suite here as an upgrade they ought to know in advance that they might need to take steps to confirm it rather than hope for it at checkin. Meanwhile, there’s such a lovely lounge space on the 33rd floor with both indoor and outdoor seating (two decks, one facing the ocean and the other the intracoastal) and breakfast is well-provisioned.

Unfortunately the lounge experience has eroded over time, they started handing out $0 checks to prompt staff tips and they’ve cut back on the evening hor dourves. They used to keep bringing out more as food was finished but they started rationing the food, when it’s gone it’s gone, and large families descend quickly like vultures when the food comes out, figuring they can save on dinner. Meanwhile, there used to be an amazing after dinner dessert presentation, they had the most delicious treats…

Meanwhile, the Renaissance is older, it’s gotten some renovations after hurricane damage but could still use investment. It has a nice pool area but the rooms are fairly generic. The hotel restaurant used to do a fabulous breakfast but now I find I don’t bother (and don’t mind not currently being a Marriot Gold one bit). The staff are exceptionally friendly, maybe not as remarkably as they were in the earlier part of the last decade but compared to most hotels they stand out. I’ve just been there so many times that like the Diplomat it feels a home away from home. I don’t worry about coming back here and ruining a memory because the place itself isn’t so fabulous or cherished to begin with, it’s just an old, reliable good friend. I know exactly what I’ll get.

And when a place becomes familiar it becomes an extension of you, and in a way an extension of your living room. It’s how I think I understand one of my close friends to mean when she talked about the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit in Bangkok. And though this post is really about hotels, it’s also how I feel whenever I hear “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Last month I had a meeting up in New York and met someone in advance to prep for it in the ‘library’ space of the Andaz 5th Avenue. I wasn’t a guest there, but both of us knew the hotel, I’ve stayed there many times and it was close by the meeting. I got there first, fired up their laptop which is available for guest use and took a water from the fridge. Andaz folks, if you’re reading this, I guess you can send me a bill if you’d like. Yet I felt it was perfectly ok, I’ve stayed here plenty and maybe just think of it as a bottled water I meant to take on one of those occasions?

It’s actually why I’ve really wished some hotel chain would pick up on the now-defunct “Our World, Your Lounge” benefit that Radisson’s Goldpoints Plus used to offer, all elite members were explicitly welcome to come into the hotel’s lobby, use the hotel’s internet, and have a complimentary cup of coffee. You’re regulars which means you’re important, you’re family, every time you walk in the door whether or not you are actually staying at the hotel on a given day. It was such a powerful message. They eliminated the benefit, I wonder if this was a well thought out decision based on data or it just struck someone as odd and couldn’t demonstrably show a positive cash flow.

I don’t know what it’s worth to a hotel to have my heart. I know that they frequently make offers of points (so real cash) for me just to like them on Facebook. I like plenty of things on Facebook, and what any given liked property posts rarely even pops to the top of my feed and I certainly don’t regularly check into the Facebook pages of hotels I’ve liked. There are hotels that I actually feel, deep inside. And watching a few clips from Lost in Translation is enough, on its own, to cause me to start contemplating a trip to Tokyo. Where I will almost necessarily have to book the Park Hyatt.

Where are your special places, where you feel most at home? And am I just a sucker for simulated hospitality, or is there something real here?

(Just don’t stop the video before 1:07.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I understand where you’re coming from, and think the feeling of “home” you get at certain properties is definitely real, even if it’s not entirely rational.

    For me, it’s the Westin Bonaventure in LA…it’s not the best Starwood property I’ve been to, and probably not even the best in LA, but I’ve spent so much time there, know the people there, the surrounding restaurants, etc…that whenever I’m there I’m just completely comfortable.

  2. I don’t really have an answer to the question as I rarely use the same hotel twice, but as a movie fan I wanted to talk about how good a movie that is, and how wonderful the final scene is

  3. I love this post.

    My “home away from home” is actually affiliated with a hotel chain I rarely patronize-Priority Club.

    But I have very fond memories of past stays at the Willard in Washington and it remains my favorite hotel of all time.

    While I miss the Willard Room and Cafe 1441, there’s nothing like breakfast at Cafe Du Parc or a drink at the Round Robin. And the rich history of the hotel continues to amaze this U.S. History scholar.

  4. I have stayed at the Westin Diplomat a couple of times and find it is a great hotel, I have a free resort night to use and I may just go back there since they really do take care of Platinum’s based on what you say and others have pointed out. The Park Hyatt Paris is an amazing hotel, but having recently spent 4 night at the Park Hyatt Buenos Aires that has to be one of my favorite hotels now. I’m hoping to try the Park Hyatt Tokyo soon though!

  5. I enjoyed having drinks at the Park Hyatt even though I was not fortunate enough to stay there, so it and the Park Hyatt Vendome are on my list of must stay Hyatts in the future. BTW, have you ever listened to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club(BRMC)? Their music reminds me of the Jesus and Mary Chain, and they are well regarded by Noel Gallagher.

  6. The Park Hyatt Tokyo is certainly a favorite of many
    However the location is less than desirable for some folks as redundit as that statement is. Room design is a matter of taste and I give the nod to Grand Hyatt Tokyo which is more on par with Grand Hyatt Berlin.I admit to never having stayed at the Park Hyatt Tokyo other than my limousine driver stopping there while I took the property tour.
    I enjoy the great private Executive Lounge with nice offerings @ The Grand Hyatt Tokyo.None at Park Hyatt Tokyo.The other thing that the Grand Hyatt T has over the Park Hyatt T is a better baker IMHO.The Grand Hyatt Tokyo has one of the best award winning bakers in the world in or out of any Hyatt.I also like the Grand Hyatt Tokyo choice of in house restaurants.To those that do saty at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo Do Not Miss the bakery!
    My final kudos for the Grand Hyatt Tokyo is taking care of Diamonds in a world class way.A stunning suite upgrade on Gold Passport Points!It would be very hard to for me to stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo based on Grand Hyatt Tokyos overall exceptional recognition and overall experience.It is a very special Hyatt that truly has the Hyatt Touch making it one of the very best Hyatts in the world.As with any hotel its subjective based on personal preference/tastes.I hope to one night at Park Hyatt Tokyo
    but cancelled after falling for the Grand!

  7. I had one of my first significant business trips to San Francisco over 25 years ago and stayed at the San Francisco Fairmont. I was amazed at the property. It had 5 or 6 different dining venues, major name entertainment each night in the ballroom, a piano lounge, and a jazz lounge. In many ways you really did not have to leave the hotel. I joined the president club early on which came with upgrades in spite of not staying at Fairmonts that frequently. I remember on one visit they put me in this suite in the main building with a balcony that could have fit 20 people easily looking over the city and the bay.

    I now live in the bay area and have watched how the hotel has eroded its offerings over the years. I think there is now maybe 2 dining venues at the hotel. Hard to go back and yet its still fun to take out of town visitors through and point out the menus on the walls from decades ago.

    Still holds a special place in my heart too.

  8. Have to agree with don… he and I traded pointers earlier this spring in NY.

    Grand Hatt Tokyo IS my home away from home when in Tokyo. For me it’s all about the location, and GHT has everything one could want or need within steps of the front door. I’ve stayed there 10-15 times since it opened and over the years have made personal friendships with some of the staff that are still there. It’s fantastic to walk into the club lounge and be greeted by name, even though you havent been there in 6 months.

    As don mentioned, I have been the recepient of some fantastic room upgrades the best was viewing Tokyo Tower on New Years from the patio of my 21st floor room was over and above… their treatment of Diamonds is superb, and the ladies in the Grand Club Lounge go above and beyond!

    The Park Hyatt Tokyo is in a class by itself and I did stay there on FFN’s a LONG time ago. It is one of the top Hyatt’s in the world, though a little out of the way. I would go back, but my treatment at GHT has been so good, it’s hard to leave a good thing…

    Either property will give you the Hyatt Touch, but my preference is with Grand Hyatt Tokyo.

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