Australian boutique hotels are taking personal touches to another level

Would it weird you out to get to your hotel room and realise that, so intent was their focus on personalising your stay, management had printed out and framed a pic of your puppies taken from your Instagram feed? Or would it be just the magic touch you need when feeling far from home and missing your fur babies?  

For London-based hairdressing salon owner Adam Reed, touching down in Sydney and checking in to Chippendale's boutique Old Clare Hotel following a tip off from a client, the latter was true.

"'It was one of the best things that has ever happened to me at a hotel," Reed insists. "It was such an incredibly personal and thoughtful thing to do, I have yet to stop talking about it."

Devilish details

Luxury hotel and restaurant group Unlisted Collection engaged Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects to transform the heritage-listed Clare Hotel pub and the Carlton & United Breweries Administration Building into one 62-room city getaway. In the heart of the rapidly gentrifying suburb, the Old Clare also incorporates two restaurants, chef Clayton Wells' Automata and Michelin-starred Jason Atherton's Kensington Street Social, and a rooftop pool.

But the devil is in the personal detail. Reed, who travels extensively for work and pleasure and visits Sydney twice a year, was blown away by the framed dog photo and by the addition of his preferred toiletries and favourite vice, a salted caramel donut. "I'm smitten," he says. "The Old Clare is without a doubt one of the best hotels that I have ever stayed in."

Authenticity in intimacy

Melbourne-based entrepreneur and former The Age Good Food Guide Sommelier of the Year (2008) Dan Sims agrees. The owner of wine-focused events company Bottle Shop Concepts, he and his team regularly travel to Sydney and he appreciates the Old Clare's detail-driven approach. "Sometimes when you stay at a major hotel chain, you feel like the way you are greeted is fairly standard, whereas at the Old Clare it's very genuine, you feel like they are pleased to see you again. It's not just because it's in the training manual that they have to say it."

Picking up on his Instagram posts that, despite his sophisticated taste in wines, Sims loves hometown beer Melbourne Bitter, on his first stay the minibar was stocked with stubbies as well as his favourite cocktail, a Negroni. Now his architect partner checks in when she's in town too.

More than just a guest

Sims appreciates their cheeky sense of humour, including gifting him a limited edition t-shirt bearing the term #fuckorganicwines on a subsequent stay. "That was very funny, because I love organic wine and we should all be drinking it. They just knew what I was all about."

He's not worried about the social media snooping either. "I feel like it's done in good spirit and these are all publicly available posts."

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Timo Bures, general manager of the Old Clare, says a little research goes a long way. "The personalisation of the gift is to show that we do care for them as individuals, for their likes and that we will take time to make their stay great. It's as much an attempt to remove the inevitable feeling of being 'away' as it is simply a nice surprise."

Background checks

Social media is an invaluable tool, as is hitting up corporate guests' exec assistants for tips, Bures adds. "There are amazing people here, offering genuine service before, during and after you've stayed with us. We're not under the illusion that we can simply hand out gifts alone and people will return, we want to offer more than that and I believe we do."

Guests staying at Melbourne's iconic laneway-located, 34-room boutique Adelphi Hotel, with its signature Om Nom Kitchen & Dessert Bar, rooftop pool deck and Ezzard restaurant, encounter a similar approach.

A room to call one's own

Greeted at the front desk, reception staff sit down with them for a complimentary drink. The personal touches continue once they get up to their apartment-like rooms, with hand-written greetings cards and executive pastry chef Jo Ward makes handmade chocolates tailored to special occasions, including horseshoes for Spring Racing Carnival and the Melbourne Cup. Then there are the mirrors.

"All our guests will arrive to a personalised welcome message written on their room mirror in a lipstick style pen," says Katie Batsias, director of sales and marketing at the Adelphi. "They have just loved this over the years. I think it really cuts through any formality and makes them feel like this room is truly theirs whilst they're staying with us."

The messages are footnoted with #adelphi_selphi, encouraging guests to snap themselves in the mirror and share on social media. Batsias says the quirky little touches all add up. "Any gesture from a hotel to a guest is lovely, but hand-making things, personalising things, offering little extras that are perfect for a particular guest just adds so much more to your hotel stay."

Stayed at a hotel that provided a personalised experience? Share your story in the comments section below.

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