Hotels Room keys, car keys: Hotels indulge with exotic cars Concours d'Elegance by the hour By Danny King / February 24, 2016 Share 1 Enterprise now has 30 locations for its Exotic Car Collection, which rents out high-end vehicles. -- Jack Ezon doesn't need to be convinced that affluent travelers have become increasingly passionate about making exotic cars part of their trips. Ezon, the president of New York-based Ovation Vacations, was awakened at 4 a.m. one day last summer by one of his agents who had been getting an earful from a client who'd arrived in Mallorca and had booked a high-performance car."I'd ordered a yellow Porsche" for the client to rent, Ezon recalled. "And he got a red one. He was screaming at us!"Luxury and exotic vehicles have caught the fancy of society's upper crust since the first Packards and Rolls-Royces were produced in 1899 and 1906, respectively. But the concept of tying in an exotic vehicle with a vacation appears to have gained popularity as affluent travelers intensify their quest for new and exotic experiences.Suppliers ranging from travel agents to hotel operators to rental car companies have stepped up their efforts the past few years, especially in recent months, to pair well-heeled travelers with luxury and high-performance vehicles, either through rentals, driving excursions or car-themed suites.Those efforts are being led by some of the largest players in the hotel and rental car sectors. Within the last six months, Enterprise Holdings, the largest U.S. car-rental company, added seven locations that offer vehicles from its Exotic Car Collection. According to Brice Adamson, a senior vice president at Enterprise, those additions brought the company's total Exotic Car Collection locations to 30. The division offers more than 70 models of luxury vehicles, such as the Bentley Continental GT and the Ferrari California.The Waldorf Astoria Driving Experience lets guests get behind the wheel of a variety of luxury vehicles. Hilton Worldwide's Waldorf Astoria collection of luxury hotels debuted its Waldorf Astoria Driving Experiences in the summer of 2014 at five U.S. hotels, including the Arizona Biltmore, California's La Quinta Resort & Club and Florida's Boca Raton Resort & Club. The excursions give Waldorf Astoria's guests the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a Ferrari 458 Italia Spider, McLaren MP4-12C or the Porsche 911 Turbo and follow Belgian racing champion Didier Theys over vast stretches of road. The program's popularity spurred Waldorf Astoria to add it to seven more properties periodically, including its hotels in Rome and Dubai, according to Stuart Foster, Waldorf Astoria's vice president of marketing. Colorado luxury resort Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa took that concept one step further. In addition to offering performance-car excursions in models such as the Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe, Mercedes-Benz SL550 Roadster and Corvette ZR1 Coupe, the resort has offered Pro-Baja racing truck excursions for the past four years via a partnership with Driven Rentals. Gateway Canyons, which offers the excursions between May and November, sells about 40 a month.The concept isn't limited to excursions or rentals. This year, Starwood Hotels & Resort's St. Regis luxury brand will debut its third Bentley Suite at the recently opened St. Regis Dubai, complete with embossed leather walls and amenities inspired by the Bentley Mulsanne (manufacturer's suggested retail price: $303,700). Starwood and Bentley, which partnered to add a Bentley Suite at the St. Regis Istanbul last April, first collaborated on the concept in 2012, when Starwood opened its 1,700-square-foot Bentley Suite on the 15th floor of the St. Regis New York. Guests are treated to custom wood veneers and a metallic silver mirror inspired by Bentley interiors, as well as artwork depicting the luxury-car company's history. To top it off, the suite's guests receive complimentary shuttle service within a 10-block radius of the hotel via Bentleys -- a silver Flying Spur by day, a black Mulsanne at night. Both cars include touches such as a bottle cooler and crystal champagne flutes."Understanding the strong design story Bentley had to tell, both brands felt a suite featuring the hallmark Bentley style and signature touches would be an ideal fit," St. Regis New York General Manager Hermann Elger said. He also noted that the St. Regis New York had previously partnered with Dior and Tiffany on two other custom suites at the hotel, asserting that the Bentley Suite offers a "more masculine" counterpoint to the designs of the other two companies.Meanwhile, Capella Hotel Group is preparing to launch an even closer partnership with one of the world's foremost high-performance vehicle producers. Capella, headed by former Ritz-Carlton chief Horst Schulze, will start operations in the Atlanta area next year when it opens a 214-room hotel under Capella's Solis brand next to Porsche's new North American headquarters. With the 9-month-old Porsche Experience Center expected to attract 30,000 visitors in its first full year, the hotel will help arrange trips for guests looking to visit the campus, use its test track or even buy new cars. The property will include a rooftop bar overlooking the automaker's test track.Given its location just east of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport's new international terminal, Capella Hotel Group Chief Operating Officer Kit Pappas expects the hotel to draw leisure visitors in addition to business travelers."It's a great environment for corporations to hold team-building activities, and from a leisure standpoint it opens a whole different market in what would not normally be considered a leisure destination," Pappas said. "The success they've had with the Porsche Driving Experience and the proximity to the international terminal makes it a great location. This was just a perfect place to be."While automotive research company Edmunds.com pegs the U.S. luxury-car market at about $100 billion, tracking the annual revenue that luxury and high-performance vehicles generate within the $27 billion U.S. car-rental industry is difficult. Chris Brown, executive editor of the trade publication Auto Rental News, said it is just as difficult to gauge how much revenue is generated by U.S. or European auto excursions.Regardless, suppliers appeared to have stepped up their efforts to offer access to exotic vehicles as the effects of the recession and the stigma of conspicuous consumption have faded and higher-end travelers seek new and immersive experiences. "As the economy got back to normal, the car-rental companies realized they needed to diversify their offerings into the high-end luxury segments," Brown said. "Within the U.S., the primary supply of exotic rental cars are in California, New York, Florida and to a lesser extent Seattle and Texas. And the excursion market is a high-margin operation."Enterprise launched its Exotic Car Collection in 2006 with a single Los Angeles location to compete against more established but smaller exotic-car rental companies such as California's Midway Car Rental and New Jersey-based Gotham Dream Cars. The Hertz Dream Car line of vehicles rents exotic autos for $200 to $400 a day. Hertz Global Holdings followed Enterprise's lead by launching its Hertz Dream Cars line of vehicles in mid-2013 at coastal locales such as Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Miami and New York as well as in Las Vegas and Austin, Texas. Avis Budget offers a line of higher-end vehicles under its Avis Signature Series. All three companies say their exotic vehicles almost exclusively have automatic transmissions."Our high-end vehicles are consistently rented, and we've seen an increased interest in the collection," Enterprise's Adamson said, adding that the Exotic Car Collection's rental days rose 30% last year. "Our locations offer renters a white-glove experience, which includes personalized reservations as well as delivery and collection of vehicle rentals for customers in nearby areas."Hertz spokeswoman Beth Davis estimates that the pricier Dream Cars collection on average rents for about a third as many days as the typical Hertz vehicle.Still, Ezon, whose agency caters primarily to the Generation X and millennial demographics from the New York and Los Angeles areas, said the wider offering of car rentals and excursions has spurred demand while giving his firm more amenities to sell. Companies such as Italy's Red Travel have given Ovation a broader range of activities by putting together customer-driven road rallies that offer travelers a chance to drive various Ferrari models while communicating with each other through headsets. Some of those excursions include stops for gourmet picnics in the countryside, while other European excursions feature vintage vehicles.Ezon said annual bookings have jumped 27% in the past five years for rentals of luxury vehicles, with most taking place in Europe.Either way, such suites, rentals and excursions aren't cheap. On the low end, Hertz Dream Cars charges $200 to $400 a day for a Porsche, Mercedes-Benz or Jaguar, while Enterprise's Exotic Car Collection's vehicles can range from $700 a day for the Maserati Ghibli to $2,400 a day for a Lamborghini Huracan.Hertz's division offers insurance packages, while Enterprise's requires that drivers provide enough of their own insurance to cover the vehicle's replacement cost.Ezon says his luxury-vehicle customers spend about $800 a day on rentals. But he added that he stays away from exotic-car collections of the larger car-rental companies, asserting that the smaller specialists such as Gotham, Midway and Switzerland-based Elite Rent-a-Car are better at meeting his clients' requests for particular models. His excursion bookings average about $2,000 per day per couple. Additionally, some of his clients book trips to Germany to buy BMWs or Porsches and drive them around on the Autobahn before shipping the vehicles back to the U.S.In the U.S., Gateway Canyon charges $1,800 a day or $750 for four hours for its Bentley Continental GT, and $3,250 for a full-day excursion to Pro-Baja. The price includes classroom instruction but not lodging.Waldorf Astoria sold about 140 driving experiences worldwide at a price of $999 a person (or driver-passenger pair) for three days of three driving sessions (each session accommodates as many as four drivers), and that doesn't include the cost of a minimum one-night stay at the hotel.Starwood Hotels & Resorts opened its first Bentley Suite, inspired by the luxury vehicle’s design, at the St. Regis New York in 2012. As for the Bentley Suite at the St. Regis New York, rates start at $10,500 a night, while at the St. Regis Istanbul's Bentley Suite it starts at about $5,300 a night.While such auto excursions represent the height of indulgence, at least one U.S. hotel operator is touting its partnership with a luxury automaker as a move toward environmental sustainability. Destination Hotels, whose properties include Southern California's Terranea Resort and New York's Tarrytown House Estate on the Hudson, has added charging stations for Tesla Motors' luxury electric vehicles at each of its more than 40 resorts during the past year, and some hotels have as many as six charging outlets. The company is planning to expand that amenity to Commune Hotels & Resorts, which merged with Destination Hotels last month. The amenity is free to all Tesla owners, whether they're staying at the hotel or visiting for the day.Marie Torres, the vice president of marketing and branding at Destination Hotels, said of Tesla, "Its demographic is perfectly aligned with who stays with us. Our guests are as environmentally conscious as we are."Still, with the price of a Tesla Model S or Model X topping $100,000 in some configurations, Destination Hotels' association with the exotic car industry, as with the other suppliers, is geared to serve those travelers on the upper end of the income spectrum, green-minded or not. And like a driver taking a Porsche or a Ferrari at high speed into a hairpin turn, the high prices associated with the amenities ensure that there's little room for error, as Ezon can attest."Thank God, it's a first-world problem," Ezon said in reference to his screaming client and ill-hued Porsche. "But you still have to provide the service. You can't mess around at this level."