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Welcome to our regular feature, Pitch Your Hotel, where we let hoteliers, general managers and other hotel execs tell us on-camera what makes their hotels so different from all the rest. And believe us, the competition is fierce these days. So sit back, relax and listen to them explain why their hotels are worthy of your hard-earned dollars or rewards points.
After we spent the night in the AKA Central Park, we got a tour of the hotel from the K in AKA, Larry Korman, who launched AKA Hotels in 2006. AKA is a play on the expression "also known as" but it can also stand for "Another Korman Accommodation" as it's a division of Korman communities, a larger real estate company.
As the founder, Larry is obviously very passionate about his properties but we were pleased to see that he was also extremely excited about them too. It's rare that you meet a hotelier who wants to show you every little nook and cranny of his hotel and can talk with just as much excitement about the small fitness center locker rooms as he can about the killer view from the AKA Central Park's penthouse suite, which overlooks the Plaza Hotel and Fifth Avenue.
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AKA Hotels --there are five in New York, one in Philly and two in the DC-area-- are hotels for the extended stay/business traveler and the room sizes range from studio suites to two bedroom suites with either half or full kitchens. Even better, just because you get more room doesn't mean you have to pay more as room rates start at $295 a night.
So what do you get for all this space? Let us tell you now.
Check-In: We arrived close to midnight in the pouring rain. There was no bellman to open the door or assist with luggage since the hotel has somewhat limited services at night. But this was fine with us. We lugged that bag through two airports and to the taxi stand at JFK. We were perfectly capable of pulling it through the hotel lobby. The front desk then checked us in with no problems and we were on our way to the 12th floor.
AKA Hotel Times Square.
Just call the next AKA hotel you book a stay at the "Land of the Free, Home of the Guest Perk." There's nothing like a good freebie to get the masses riled up, especially in this age of pinching pennies, downsizing luxuries, and silently repeating the "Money doesn't grow on trees" mantra that your parents may have hammered into your head growing up.
Abiding by the principles of Recessionomics, AKA Hotels is throwing in more free perks along with those mini bottles of shampoo and body wash that some guests secretly squirrel away after checking in. In our opinion, there are some things that should inarguably come with the price of the room, like Wi-Fi access, which the AKA promises us 'net addicted types.
Also making the list of gratis benefits are free Club breakfast, including La Colombe coffee and tea service all day long, use of on-property fitness centers plus a complimentary consultation with trainer Amie Hoff (in the New York area), laundry service with free detergent and fabric softener, and the kicker, a one-year free membership to Zipcar. We're kind of "Wahoo!"-ing as we type this.
We joke about stalking celebs 'round here quite a bit but we promise we'd, like, never actually go stalk them. We're not nutjobs. Poor Jamie Foxx got quite a scare earlier this month when a stalker made his way into the actor's room at the luxury extended-stay AKA Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.
It all went down at the AKA Hotel in Philadelphia on March 22 -- sources say Jamie had to physically struggle to shove a 49-year-old perp out of his room, after the guy tricked Foxx into thinking he was Beyonce's producer.
We're told Jamie realized something was wrong as soon as he opened the door, but the suspect quickly tried to push his way inside. Fortunately, Jamie overpowered him and slammed the door in his face.
Ew. Who let that guy in, anyway? Hotel security, where were you on that one?
In other news, we have finally heard of someone who has stayed at an AKA Hotel. We'd contact him to see what he thought of the place, but, you know, maybe something sorta tainted the whole stay for him.
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AKA Central Park
AKA Hotels are extended-stay hotels so it actually makes sense that they have partnered up with the hot new car sharing service, Zipcar. Starting March 15, guests who check-in to AKA hotels in New York can take advantage of this special promotion:
In an exclusive partnership, a first for both companies, AKA is putting guests in the driver's seat with a complimentary one-year membership to Zipcar, the world's largest car sharing company (a $50 value). AKA is enabling guests to have a luxury nearly unheard of in populated cities such as New York, unlimited access to a car, for as little as an hour at a time.
Zipcar will also be offered at AKAs in Philadelphia and D.C.
Guests will have to apply online and membership is approved provided that you have a valid driver's license (no Britney Spears loopholes allowed here!) and a clean driving record. But after that they can pick up their digital keycard to their Zipcar at the AKA hotel's front desk.
Each hotel will also have on hand, a list of "Top Zip Trips" for that city, as well as shopping centers, beaches, ski resorts, etc. And GPS units will be available too which we find a necessity these days.
While the membership is free for one year, guests will still have to pay Zipcar rates which start at $7 and include fuel, insurance, and reserved parking spaces.
Weighing in with a very realistic approach to Valentine's Day is the AKA chain of extended-stay hotels. This V-Day deal is valid across their four Manhattan properties, which are located near Central Park, the United Nations, Times Square and at Sutton Place on East 56th.
The premise behind AKA's Valentine's Day package is that the special day falls on a Thursday this year, which is probably during the working week for many of their business guests. Their offer is for people who have booked a 5-day stay (probably the working week) and can then add two nights for free--which should be set aside for a romantic time with their other half. And to extend the realistic thinking, this deal doesn't have to be taken during Valentine's Day week--it is valid until March 31, 2008.
As with all V-Day packages, there are a few suggestions on extra activities that might be suitable for such a weekend. In-suite couple massages are available, and AKA concierges are apparently good at finding tickets for Broadway shows and tables at difficult-to-reserve restaurants. They also suggest that guest pairs could:
create some fireworks in the fully-equipped kitchen by whipping up their own aphrodisiac-laced, romantic candlelight dinner.
Cooking for yourselves on Valentine's Day? There's no better aphrodisiac than a meal cooked by somebody else.
The weary business traveler is an old cliché. Many of the 70 million Americans with a sleep problem travel for work. These carpetbaggers find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings atop scratchy linens. They lay awake agonizing over the 9 a.m. PowerPoint presentation instead of resting their brains in preparation for the challenges of the day ahead.
In response, AKA, a division of the Korman Communities chain of extended-stay hotels, has created the AKA Sleep School. The project is a partnership of New York University School of Medicine Sleep Disorders Center and the New York Sleep Institute. Guests can choose customized accommodations, participate in evening "sleep school" seminars, and receive in-room screenings with board-certified sleep specialists.
AKA's accommodations also focus on the subtle factors that contribute to sleep deprivation. After all, who hasn't lain awake fuming over some irritating buzzing noise emanating from the radiator? Says Larry Korman, co-president and director of general operations for AKA:
"While many in the hospitality industry focus on the bed, we learned from our partners at NYU and the New York Sleep Institute that all aspects of the room, from the lighting to mirrors to alarms clocks, must be taken into consideration," he continued. "Since AKA's extended-stay guests typically stay 30 days or more, our sleep-school students will have a healthy amount of time to put what they learn into practice."
They say practice makes perfect, and we like the sound of exercise that requires us to relax more often.
[Photo: Quick & Simple]