Sky’s the Limit as Area Hotels Profit Off Presidential Inauguration
Washingtonians often have a smug feeling that their fair city is the center of the universe. And that perception is certainly going to be reinforced come Jan. 20, when an expected 4 million out-of-towners descend upon the nation’s capital to attempt to attend the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.
It’s no surprise that with so many people flocking in, the 29,000 hotel rooms in the city and the 95,000 rooms in the Washington metropolitan area are just about sold out. In fact, most rooms were snapped up within days after the election — and we aren’t just talking rooms inside the Beltway. Many hotels within a 50-mile radius of the city are fully booked for the period between Jan. 18 and 21. Even campgrounds are filling up.
Right now, for those frantically searching the D.C. area for lodgings, the few remaining options are staying with generous friends, finding a place to rent through Craigslist.com, getting a house or condo through a vacation rental management company, or buying the most expensive packages Washington hotels have to offer. But if the latter is your poison, take action fast. Despite their eye-popping prices, most of the deals offered by the city’s four- and five-star hotels sold out in a heartbeat. But as of press time, a few were still available.
The city’s most expensive hotel package has already gone to the highest bidder. The JW Marriott’s class=”import-text”>2009January.Parade.txt million “Build Your Own Ball” package involved the purchase of three nights’ rental of two presidential suites, two vice presidential suites, 300 guests rooms, 0,000 in food and beverage, and private access to the hotel’s 12th-floor terrace. That terrace, not so incidentally, overlooks Pennsylvania Avenue and the Inaugural Parade route.
However, the Omni Shoreham Hotel’s “44th Commander-In-Chief” package may still be available. Priced, naturally, at 0,000, the purchaser buys four nights for four in the two-bedroom Shoreham Presidential Suite. Guests will first be flown to D.C. via private jet. While in town, they’ll enjoy goodies like an in-suite dinner for four prepared by a personal chef; a personalized in-suite performance by political satirist and pianist Mark Russell; a personal concierge and chauffeur; entry to selected inaugural events; a ,000 shopping spree from the Lambros Jewelry Inauguration Collection; and a pre-inauguration makeover. They’ll also get a puppy to bring home. But you’re barking up the wrong tree if you think that’s all you get for 0,000.
To complete this presidential experience, the lucky foursome will set off to St. Petersburg, Russia, for a five-night, first-class adventure. After all, nothing says “U.S. Presidential Inauguration” more than a trip to Russia.
If 0,000 breaks the bank, a cheaper “58th Inauguration” package is available for only ,000. It includes a four-night stay in a one-bedroom presidential suite as well as two first-class airline tickets for the flight to D.C., entry to selected inaugural events, and a ,800 shopping spree from Lambros Jewelry. Russia not included.
For 0,000 less than the “44th Commander-In-Chief” package, the Hilton Washington has a four-night “Behind the Inaugural Bash” package for ,000. While staying in a two-bedroom suite, guests will get a behind-the-scenes peek at the planning and preparation that goes into creating an inaugural ball. Two guests will attend planning sessions with the hotel’s catering, culinary and banquet professionals and will review menu selections and the elaborate event preparations. They will also get to host a private, customized culinary dinner experience for eight. Finally, they will get to go to an actual ball.
Some hotels are choosing to be green while raking in the green. The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown is “Red, White, Blue and Green” this inaugural season. Here’s the deal: You pay ,000. You get a new sustainable luggage set from Gucci. You get first-class airfare to D.C., including of course Flight TerraPasses to offset carbon emissions. You will be driven from the airport to the hotel in a hybrid SUV. You get four nights in a presidential suite. And you’ll attend various inaugural events.
Then, you’ll be whisked away in first-class style to the Ritz-Carlton in the Cayman Islands. After all, nothing says “U.S. Presidential Inauguration” more than a trip to the Cayman Islands. In the tropics, you’ll experience eco-adventures under the auspices of the Ambassadors of the Environment Program in partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau. Then you’ll fly back to the States with a nice suntan and a healthy conscience, albeit a lighter pocketbook.
The Fairmont’s approach to a green inauguration package is a bit subtler. Its ,000 “Eco-Inaugural” deal is a four-night extravaganza including the use of a Lexus hybrid vehicle complete with driver, his and her organic spa treatments, an eco-friendly ball gown designed by Linda Loudermilk, and an organic dinner for 10.
Nearby, the Park Hyatt Washington’s priciest package focuses more on actual Americana. The “American Talents” package costs ,000 and offers guests the Presidential Suite for four nights, complete with private butler service and daytime use of a hotel car. Each night, guests will receive all-American turndown goodies, so one night, you’ll get books featuring American arts and crafts and the next night, an apple pie resting on your pillow (please remove before sleeping).
In fact, American cuisine is a big part of this package. There’s an artisanal cheese and pork (somewhat apropos in Washington) tasting, along with a private chef’s table for up to 12 people. The five-course menu at the sleek Blue Duck Tavern will incorporate ingredients from regional farms and from Illinois, the home state of the incoming president. Adding a cultural touch to the visit, the package includes two VIP tickets to the Corcoran Gallery of Art and a private VIP backstage tour of the Kennedy Center, followed by a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra. Finally, after returning home, guests will receive a classic Windsor-style timber rocking chair, handmade in Vermont.
For those looking for something a little less pricey — as in ,000 versus ,000 — the Mayflower Hotel’s Ultimate Presidential Package includes three nights in the hotel’s Presidential or Mayflower Suite; his and hers signature inaugural jewelry; Dom Pérignon champagne with Baccarat Crystal toasting flutes from Tiffany & Co. (how’s that for product placement); an in-room massage for two; 24-hour butler service; and his and hers woolens from Burberry to keep warm, while still looking cool, during the inaugural ceremony.
Meanwhile, the newly opened Liaison Capitol Hill, an Affinia Hotel, is within footsteps of the U.S. Capitol, where the Presidential Inauguration takes place, and is offering a much more cost-effective celebration. Its four-night Ultimate Inauguration Package (not to be confused with the Mayflower’s package of the same name) costs ,729. It includes four hours with a personal shopper; two in-room spa treatments; breakfast in bed; as well as a swearing-in survival kit including a Burberry scarf and earmuffs for two, two pairs of binoculars, two umbrellas, gourmet hot chocolate and all-American culinary delights to enjoy while watching the festivities. If you’re not feeling pampered or special enough with Obama hogging all of the attention, the deal also throws in four hours with a private paparazzo.
Guests staying at the city’s six Kimpton boutique hotels can get their own taste of celebrity with the “Ba‘Rock’ Star Treatment” packages. First, you buy a room that costs upward of 00 a night, with a three- or four-night minimum stay requirement. Once that’s booked, you can be a “Ba‘Rock’ Star” for an additional 5 (or more). Package purchasers get professional makeup applications, haircuts, massage, and organic manicures and pedicures in the comfort of their rooms. Just say Om-bama.
There are still a few other options inside the city, from hotels like the Hilton Washington Embassy Row to bed and breakfasts — starting around the class=”import-text”>2009January.Parade.txt,000 per night range — but even places from Richmond, Va., to Baltimore, Md., are practically filled.
Some hotels, like the Hay-Adams, located across the White House, sold out months before the election without offering any special packages. The hotel’s spokesperson touted the fact that publicity-seeking deals weren’t necessary for the historic property “because our pristine location was incentive enough” to book early.
The Willard InterContinental Washington, also in a prime spot along the inaugural route on Pennsylvania Avenue, found itself in a similar situation. According to spokeswoman Barbara Bahny-David, “Typically, the hotel fills with the majority of rooms booked by repeat clients who stay here every four years for inauguration regardless of political affiliation.” The Willard had no over-the-top packages, but it did charge room rates starting at 9 a night with a four-night minimum. Suites overlooking the parade route had other minimum room and food and beverage purchase requirements, adding up to an estimated multi-day cost in the ,000 range.
The Four Seasons in Georgetown had no special packages either, although it offered up its new 4,000-square-foot Royal Suite for ,000 a night with a five-night minimum stay. The suite comes complete with private butler, private exercise room and a personal shopper (The Washington Diplomat reported on the offer back in October 2008). Interested? Like many others in Washington, the luxurious suite is already taken. The ,000 deal was actually booked before the election by a purchaser who will be inaugurating the new suite — and the new president — in high style.
About the Author
Laura Powell is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.