Executive travel: Putting on the Ritz in Washington

Business hotel review: The Ritz-Carlton Washington DC is a first-class experience for the business traveller.

The Ritz-Carlton in Washington provides a discreet and understated level of luxury for the executive traveller. Joshua Roberts / Bloomberg News
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There are few hotels that elicit luxury and impeccability like the Ritz-Carlton. The name alone conjures up visions of glamour and sophistication, but these are not necessarily traits that business travellers will prioritise.

So it was with the scrutinous eye of a fastidious businessperson that I stepped through the brand’s Washington DC property in the upscale West End neighbourhood of the city.

With 300 rooms in total, 32 of which are suites, this hotel has welcomed the likes of Henry Kissinger, Tony Blair and Aung San Suu Kyi.

But whether you are an important diplomat or lowly journalist, every traveller requires good service, a convenient location and a comfortable bed, and the Ritz provide them without fault.

Business travellers in particular require speedy and no-fuss internet connectivity, a desk, prompt travel services and a handy meeting spot. Those from the Middle East also require hotels to meet certain cultural expectations, be it dietary requirements or a bidet in the lavatory.

Executives will then appreciate the discreet and helpful staff at the Ritz Washington.

The bed was glorious and the pillow, monogrammed with the guest’s initials was a nice touch, particularly for guests who like to go to bed feeling important.

The one-bed suites are spacious, with a separate lounge room and bedroom and a beautiful leather-topped desk to get those business memos worked on. The bathroom is exceptional in size and filled with Asprey amenities. There are two lavatories, both lacking a bidet though.

One major gripe was the absence of free internet in the rooms, although it is free in the lobby, which is a great place to hold meetings. The sockets in the room are compatible only with US plugs, so converters are a necessity.

The walls were disappointingly thin. I heard at length one guest’s conversation with his personal assistant. I wasn’t sure whether he was in the room next door or above me, but I knew when his flight was departing and where his next meeting was taking place.

The executive club was also a letdown. In true American fashion, there was no shortage of cookies and chocolates, but there was less variety when it came to the meals. The in-room dining menu was better and the service prompt and well presented.

For local transport links, the hotel is within walking distance of the “Foggy Bottom” metro station and taxis wait outside the hotel at all times of the day.

Overall the Ritz-Carlton provides a discreet and understated level of luxury for the executive traveller.

q&a details matter to VIP guests

Kate MacInnis, area director of diplomatic and international sales at Ritz-Carlton Washington DC discusses the hotel’s services.

How do you cater to guests from the Middle East?

We have everything available from Qurans to prayer mats. We have fruit displays customised to include dates; we have Arabic newspapers and a whole array of Arabic [TV] channels. We make them feel at home and we are sensitive to cultural news. We have chefs to cook the cuisines and staff who speak the language. We try to create a home away from home by anticipating everything. Myself and the diplomatic coordinator ask for all the preferences particularly if it is someone high-level and try to gather everything as far ahead as possible. We do our research, understand the culture and have the books on protocol.

How does this hotel differ from other Ritz-Carltons?

Every hotel tries to offer things that are indicative of their locations. All the candles that burn in the lobby here are sakura. That’s what Washington DC is famous for, we have a whole festival for the cherry blossom. Every day we serve in the lobby a [president’s favourite cookie, be it Lincoln’s lemon drop, Michelle Obama’s oatmeal. We have white chocolate Washington monuments.

Your location has enabled this hotel to welcome some influential guests, is there a guest book?

We have a guest book which we started 13 years ago and we’ve been collecting all the signatures of VIPs and dignitaries. It has some amazing signatures from Yasser Arafat, Hosni Mubarak to Margaret Thatcher.


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