LAS VEGAS – For years, Las Vegas took the bigger-is-better route, building expansive glassy megaresorts with 4,000 rooms apiece and seemingly endless check-in counters.
But with just 188 rooms, the newest hotel-casino on the Strip takes a different tack. Managers of the Cromwell hope to impress guests not with an imposing tower, but with unexpected details such as in-room hair straighteners and backgammon boards and free, self-serve coffee stations in the elevator lobby of each floor.
“The problem is, Vegas likes to do things on a grand scale,” said Karie Hall, general manager of the boutique hotel that opened to the public Wednesday. “It’s far more likely that [Cromwell staff] will be able to recognize the guest and customize their experience.”
The stand-alone Cromwell, along with the 1-year-old Nobu Hotel and a smattering of other small hotels-within-hotels and off-Strip properties, reflect a customer base that’s increasingly interested in distinctive interior design and foodie culture. Gone are the days when hotel restaurants were afterthoughts and loss leaders, and when all that customers wanted out of their room was a place to crash after a gambling binge.
“They don’t want to just stay in a property. They want to experience a property,” said Frances Kiradjian, founder and chairwoman of the Boutique and Lifestyle Lodging Association. “These properties are like a destination unto themselves.”
Both the Cromwell and the 182-room Nobu are built around celebrity chefs. Food Network star Giada de Laurentiis chose the Cromwell as the site of her first restaurant, which overlooks an iconic Strip intersection and features a $30,000 prosciutto slicer and baristas who brew coffees out of custom-roasted Gran Reserva beans.
At Nobu, the first hotel venture for internationally acclaimed Japanese chef and restaurateur Nobu Matsuhisa, customers order room service from an exclusive menu. Breakfast in bed might include green tea waffles or soba pancakes with pecan miso butter.
“It’s about making sure you put together something you can only have here,” said Gigi Vega, Nobu’s general manager.
Boutiques in Las Vegas aim to address some of the inconveniences of large resorts, forgoing vast lobbies full of suitcase-toting tourists. At Hotel 32, a 50-room hotel-within-a-hotel that occupies the top floor of the Monte Carlo, customers are whisked to a private lobby where they sip cocktails while a personal suite assistant checks them in.
After a 2008 fire at the Monte Carlo damaged some penthouses, officials decided to reopen the floor with a design and amenities so different it necessitated its own name.
“The guests appreciate it that it feels exclusive. You have to be in the know to know about it,” said Monte Carlo General Manager Patrick Miller.
Many Las Vegas hotels offer separately branded accommodations for their most well-heeled guests. Several floors of the Mandalay Bay belong to the sumptuous Four Seasons, while MGM Grand offers a personal butler for guests at its exclusive SkyLofts.
But boutiques such as the Cromwell, Nobu and Hotel 32 offer personalized service at more accessible prices. A Cromwell room with one king will cost less than $200 on a weekday in June. Nobu offers a one-king room at about $150 on a weekday in June.
The rates are within reach of customers in their 20s who might visit Drai’s Nightclub and Beach Club, which opens Friday on the Cromwell’s roof.
Sharing the same prime corner as Caesars Palace, Bellagio and Bally’s, the Cromwell is expected to bring parent company Caesars Entertainment more return than it did in its previous incarnation as Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon, a folksy casino praised online for cheap beer, cheap steaks and cheap rooms.