The W Austin is a Good Hotel With Not Very Good Guests

I’ve stayed a few times recently at the W Austin, booked on points before the recent shift in Starwood reward categories. The property went from category 5 (12,000 points most nights) to 6 (20,000 points most nights), and I figured it was worth getting in under the wire.

Now, I’ve reviewed several hotels in the Austin area: the Hyatt Place Downtown, Westin Austin at the Domain, and Hyatt Regency (also here and here).

But the W is in my favorite location — right smack downtown, but not by all the 6th street bars (so quieter) and with a view of the river.

It’s across the street in one direction from Lamberts Downtown Barbecue and a block in another direction from a great wine bar (Cru). There’s a Starbucks in the building (entrance around the corner), and across the street is one of the best minimarts I’ve ever seen.

It’s a good hotel, that draws some pretty spendy room rates — from $350 to well over $400 much of the time. It’s a reasonable value at category 5, but hard to justify at category 6.

All in all the staff is friendly and tries hard, although housekeeping doesn’t seem to try very hard. (Cleaning never seems very thorough, toileteries, tissues, and the like frequently go un-replaced.)

Housekeeping also just puts room service trays outside of doors when they clean, and those trays are frequently left there for hours at a time (a pet peeve of mine).

They can get overwhelmed, though, by guests. There are often swarms at the valet stand. The lobby is too small for the number of people about at times. And they try to control crowds by the pool by demanding guests have wrist-bands (your room key isn’t enough to get you in).

Now, this W only opened in 2010 but design-wise reminds me of one from much earlier in the decade. The W Hong Kong‘s elevator mats offered an electronic changing good morning, good afternoon, and good evening when I was there in 2009. Here they still physically change up the mats in front of the elevators.

The rooms are serviceable. There’s always a complimentary bottle of water, and two bottles that come with a charge (although turn-down service will bring more complimentary bottled waters, and chocolate).

    Not free.

As merely a Gold I’ve consistently gotten river views. I’m vexed by the windows, though — there are basically cut-out windows that are more like port holes when they should be floor-to-ceiling glass to capitalize on the view. And for some reason they have drapes that only open hallway across the window, you’re losing half of your view even with everything open as far as it goes.

A view of the river means, unfortunately, looking down over the rooftop (and all of the associated mechanical) of the building in front of the W.

It also means looking down on the W’s happening pool scene.

The bathroom is large and stylish, with a separate toilet room.

There’s a desk and chair, plenty of outlets and also cords in the room for use.

I also don’t understand though the placement of the separation between room and corridor, it creates a large amount of dead space.

After ordering in-room dining one evening, I got a call back. Ironically he said he was calling from the Whatever/Whenever line. What I wanted was a piece of chocolate cake, and he was calling to tell me I could not have whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it. (They ran out. But they did send up a couple of candy bars as an apology.) Another request that failed was a yoga mat.

I’ve never had much luck with “Whatever/Whenever” like when the W San Diego couldn’t send up coffee to my room.

My only real complaint is that other guests can be loud, it’s a party scene too and from the pool, and the place just gets too crowded by non-guests that staying here is anything but an oasis. But everyone at the hotel is friendly and the location is fantastic, and I’m not sure where else I’d want to stay more without shelling out far more (a stance I’ll have to re-evaluate once my string of speculative reservations made before the category shift is used up).

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. That combination of frumpy room and over stretched facilities does NOT appear to be in the $350 class, IMO. I’m thinking more like $200. And, moving up to a Class 6 property? Yea, right. Not for my dollars or points.

  2. In your photo of the pool, I thought the nearest girl’s leg was the 2nd-closest girl’s torso.

  3. I stayed @ the W Austin a year or so ago and the hotel bar was overrun with high-end escorts on Friday and Saturday nights. My friend and I made sure to get back to the hotel bar 30 minutes or so before last call to watch the feeding frenzy unravel. Even one of the security guards had a good laugh with us about the ridiculous scene.

  4. Gary, I average 150 nights in a SPG hotel a year, however, when I’m in Austin, I stay at the Omni Hotel downtown (one block off 6th St) I stay enough to make PLT with them, I have always been upgraded to the Club floor, the rooms are OK, but the Lounge Food, is what I like, the breakfast is a real breakfast, and the night “hors d’oeuvres” is really a dinner. The drinks are first rate, also I can get two items pressed and shoes shined for free. Plus one block from 6th street without having to hear the noise from it. One of the better values I think in Austin…

  5. @ Gary — Oh, and at InterCon AUS, they will try (don’t let them) to charge you for access to their mostly-empty Club. This a hugely misguided policy. They spent the money to make a very nice club that no one is given access to. They really need to make this a flagship of the hotel, but not so far….

  6. @Gary – “My only real complaint…”? So, were the myriad gripes before this one not “real”? Were they fake?

  7. It’s interesting how opinions vary. My experiences at the W Austin have been almost entirely superb — over the top, personalized service. Lavish comfortable, clean rooms in good repair. Nice wheelchair access in several classes of rooms (which is very rare in most hotels) and when the shower seat offered was not appropriate for a tub, the staff went and bought me the correct one almost instantly.

    I am a regular guest there so i see the overdressed twenty somethings in high heels and short skirts looking for love in the hipster bar on weekends — and it’s not my scene so I head out or to my room for drinks.

    I may be habituated or it may just be I like this hotel’s style. But W Austin is my first & only choice while in AusTex.

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