Check-in, with luggage and whims

No request is too frivolous or challenging as hotels redouble efforts to please guests, writes Nick Galvin.

In a bid to stand out in a crowded market, hotels are offering unusual services to cater to their guests' every whim.

Lake House in Daylesford, Victoria, recently transported guests by helicopter from Melbourne to the country retreat to indulge in a cooking class, wine tasting, degustation lunch and a studio tour before spiriting them back to the capital.

Guests at the Hilton in Surfers Paradise can call on a personal beach valet to carry their gear to the sand, set up chairs and umbrellas and bring sunscreen, snacks and cold drinks.

The Medusa in Darlinghurst can arrange a dog nanny for guests who can't bear to think of leaving Fido alone in a hotel room. "The pet nanny will sit in the room like a babysitter and they'll take the dog for a walk and make sure it is comfortable and loved," says Medusa's owner, Terry Kaljo. "They can even have a bedtime story read to them and be cuddled."

At the Gold Coast's Palazzo Versace, guests can fulfil their Roman Holiday fantasies by zipping around the area on a hotel-supplied Vespa scooter - in Versace livery, naturally.

Australian hotels still have a long way to catch up with some of the services offered by their American counterparts.

At the Ritz-Carlton in South Beach Miami, guests can call on the services of a "tanning butler", who patrols the pool area during "prime sun-tanning hours", sunscreen at the ready.

At the Loews Coronado Bay Resort in San Diego there's a surf instructor - for guests' dogs. Dogs are also well catered for at New York's luxury Pierre Hotel, with a dedicated room-service menu and access to services including dog acupuncturists.


Perhaps the ultimate guest service provider is Denise Webb, the "fairy godmother" at Georgia's Barnsley Gardens Resort. Her job is simply to make guests' wishes come true. Evidently, many of those wishes are of a romantic nature - she organises an average of two engagements a week.

"We also feature things called love spells," Webb has told US television. "That may be rose petals, candles, champagne. We can get you into trouble or we can get you out."

Gareth Maiden is a partner in the Luxe Group, which provides specialist concierge services to boutique hotels in Australia. One of the more unusual requests he has received was from a guest who wanted private surf lessons with a professional surfer. But most seek run-of-the-mill services such as hard-to-get tickets for a show or concert, or seats in a popular restaurant.

"With high-wealth individuals, these are often last-minute requests," Maiden says.

"But we build relationships with our suppliers so we can generally get hold of a ticket or two or that elusive table."

For Terry Kaljo, it's about giving guests whatever they want to help make their stay memorable.

"Some requests are more sensational than others," she says. "But most can be fulfilled.

If we could put a pink elephant up in a room we would."