|by Andrea Minarcek||Hotels, Travel and Fitness||71|
This year, as we put together our annual story on the best new boutique hotels in the world—all with rooms for $150 or less a night—we noticed a surprising trend: Many chain hotels have started adopting boutique-type amenities. Here are the four most noteworthy new developments of the year:
Fairfield Inn & Suites is going local—make that hyper-local. The 670-strong chain has begun customizing its properties to better reflect its zip codes. The Fairfield in Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown, for instance, reopened in March featuring red-lantern-inspired light fixtures and a 7' x 22' graphic dragon mural in the lobby. Elsewhere, you’ll find a 400-pound glass-jellyfish chandelier in Santa Cruz and even a swanky rooftop bar in New York’s Times Square.
The world’s largest hotel chain, the Holiday Inn Brand, has spent $1 billion in the last few years reinventing its 400,000 rooms around the world. Now the brand is concentrating on its lobbies. In June, Holiday Inn introduced the prototype of a 24-hour gathering space they’re calling the Hub, which combines the communal spirit of a B&B; with perks such as a sports bar (complete with big screens and signature cocktails), Wii consoles, and a made-to-order chef station.
Can a personal trainer whip an entire hotel chain into shape? Sheraton Hotels & Resorts is banking on it. This year, the company invested $120 million in fitness centers at its 400-plus hotels worldwide. Each will offer signature workout classes from NFL trainer Mark Verstegen. Guests can also get a free “workout in a bag” delivered to their room, with resistance bands, mats, and foam rollers—much better than an order of room-service nachos.
You may never have to shell out for a lame pay-per-view flick again at La Quinta Inns & Suites. This September, the chain rolled out its new “plug-and-play” feature in 50,000 rooms, as part of an extensive revamp of the in-room entertainment model. Guests can pack a cord (HDMI, tri-color composite cables, or Apple dongles), plug in their smartphone or other personal device, and view their movies and TV picks on new 32-inch flat-panel TVs.
MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: