Capital hotel promotes attention to service

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LONDON -- Forty-eight rooms. Ninety-six staff members. That doesn't tell you everything you need to know about the Capital -- a five-star, family-run hotel here that has renewed its efforts to increase awareness among U.S. agents.

But it does tell you a lot.

The staff includes 23 in the kitchen and another 23 for housekeeping and maintenance. No maid cleans more than eight rooms a day, so rooms receive a good once-over.

The staff also includes 17 for the restaurant and bar, seven for room service and a dozen for concierge and porterage.

The Capital hotel in London has 48 rooms and 96 staff members.The hotel offers a free shopping service in which a bellboy accompanies a guest during a shopping trip and carries any purchases back to the hotel.

The Capital touts its service to agents, too. Its 10% commission check is processed by the hotel's night manager the evening the client departs and is mailed the next day.

The Capital has been in business since 1971. It used to be well-known to agents in the U.S., according to general manager Olivia Hetherington.

That awareness, however, has faltered in recent times, in part because the hotel has only been on the CRSs for less than two years, she said.

To reverse the trend, the hotel last fall began a push to put the Capital back into the minds of U.S. agents with visits to New York and Boston.

Since the hotel launched the effort, U.S. visitors now account for about 40% of the hotel's guests.

"I suppose it's a revival of the Capital" in the U.S. market, Hetherington said.

Agents marketing the property should keep in mind the nature of the hotel.

The Capital is not big. It doesn't have a gym -- although the hotel provides a jogging route map, loaner bicycles and, for about $14 a day, offers guests the use of a nearby fitness center with a pool.

The hotel also doesn't contain a roomful of computers for clients to use or a bunch of stores in a massive atrium.

What it does have are cozy, elegant rooms with handmade mattresses, oversized pillows, marble bathrooms and handpicked furniture and paintings.

The Capital also boasts a restaurant, awarded two Michelin stars, that serves French-inspired cuisine and offers a large wine selection. It also runs another food and wine venue for informal dining.

The Capital has some additional bonuses, such as a policy that allows some pets, mainly small dogs.

And it has an experienced concierge, Clive Smith, who apparently has connections -- he somehow found me a ticket for a theater show that had been sold out for weeks.

Hotel rooms have a desk and a second phone line for portable computers, but the placement of the outlet and phone connection isn't always ideal. It's best in the deluxe rooms.

Nonetheless, the hotel offers enough facilities -- including two 24-person-capacity meeting rooms and an optional in-room fax machine -- to satisfy business clients, who account for about 50% of its guests.

Many U.S. visitors seem to prefer the eight junior suites, which feature a separate living room, one full bath and one half-bath, hotel officials said.

There also are deluxe rooms -- some guests specifically request 272, the biggest deluxe -- located in a separate part of the hotel largely free of foot traffic.

Families could book two deluxe rooms across from each other, essentially having a floor to themselves.

Rack rates range from about $280 for a single room to about $550 for a junior suite, not including 17.5% VAT.

For reservations, call (800) 628-8929 or book through the major CRSs under code SB. The Web site address is www.capitalhotel.co.uk.

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