How to Accommodate VIPs and Win the Stay

CHICAGO—How do you handle a VIP? According to the team at JW Marriott Chicago, it’s with great care and an ample dash of luxury.

“If you’ve stayed at a JW Marriott before (in any city) you’ll notice we wear a pin with a Griffin on it. The Griffin is part lion and part eagle—strength and vision, guardian and protector. It is the symbol for our associates, an icon for J. Willard Marriott,” said Justin Schmollinger, director of sales & marketing, JW Marriott Chicago.

What makes this hotel stand out from its competitors? Schmollinger believes it is the team’s ability to deliver a more approachable luxury. “The JW brand has world-class hotels that do not use excess to create elegance,” he said. “Expertly orchestrating an environment that is free of distraction, pretense and show, we help guests maintain balance, allowing them to pursue their ultimate luxury: the freedom to focus on what matters most to them. I think that is what sets us apart.”

At JW Marriott Chicago, every guest is a VIP. However, certain protocols may be in focus for high-level visitors, such as celebrities, dignitaries and world leaders during the stay.

“It is part of JW Marriott’s brand standards that we treat all guests with equal amount of attention and service. With that said, when we have a VIP guest staying on property, our internal communication is increased so as to prepare for any security issues, etc.,” he said. “However, from a guest’s perspective, we do not have a separate handbook for these individuals, as all our guests are important.”

Going beyond the standard amenities is vital for this hotel’s level of service, with the hotel team ready to meet and exceed the needs of a particular guest. Marriott International’s new loyalty program, Bonvoy, enables the staff to personalize each stay based on guest preferences.

“The more stays you have, the more value the program has,” he said. “All guest preferences are available for hotels to ensure stays are absolutely perfect. Past challenges are also noted so the next hotel can ensure whatever challenge occurred does not happen again.”

There’s also a “Marriott Bonvoy Experience Curator” position on property whose responsibility is to ensure Elite Members’ expectations are met during every stay. In addition, the hotel provides a separate entrance for guests that want to have privacy and anonymity.

“Our VIPs can work with our on-site personal trainers, including our JW Fit Squad leader Jason Raynor, who is a Nike Master Trainer—there’s only 50 of them in the world. Also, something that we provide to executives or those traveling on business that need a place to work is our Executive Lounge or breakout rooms,” Schmollinger said. “Internal communication between departments is key to the success of a VIP’s stay, or any guest for that matter.”

Among the amenities that are popular with VIP guests include services at the 20,000-sq.-ft. Spa at JW Chicago; the 24K Gold Luxe Package, which offers two-and-a-half hours or four hours of indulgence and relaxation; cryotherapy with the brand’s partner Cryo Effect; personal boxing lessons; and fitness breakout sessions for meetings groups.

So, what is the hotel’s secret to winning the stay with VIPs? According to Schmollinger, it’s the brand’s service culture that separates JW from other brands.

“Every interaction with the guests is authentic, intuitive and warm,” he said. “Every employee caries with them commitment cards, which are as much a part of their uniforms as the name tag and the Griffin pin. The commitment cards remind us of our culture and service harmonies to be present, to be open and lead with ‘yes’, to be thoughtful and to be swift. True luxury is created by people who love what they do, and our employees love to deliver the unexpected to our guests.”