SUNDAY TIMES - How hotels will help bring out your inner fashionista
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Sunday Times Travel By Elizabeth Sleith, 2016-11-19 00:00:00.0

How hotels will help bring out your inner fashionista

Hotels are trying out all sorts of innovations for the stylish traveller, from fashion concierges to bikini consultants, writes Elizabeth Sleith

Everyone wants to look extra-good on holiday. Who among us doesn’t do some outfit hunting at the shops before we set off?

Now hotels around the world are lightening the load by adding in-house services especially for the image-conscious guest — a trend that The Global Travel Trends 2016 report, released this month by market research group Euromonitor, says is on the rise.

One such new concept is the fashion concierge. The Dream Downtown hotel in New York, for example, employs a stylist to fill a wardrobe of clothes for guests to purchase if they wish.

Other New York hotels have a sneaker concierge, who will find any rare footwear for guests to buy; and a bikini concierge tasked with advising on flattering styles.

At the Virgin Hotel Chicago guests can purchase clothes from Gap and have them delivered to their room via a concierge service.

Taking things one step further French retailer Pimkie installed “Mini Fashion Bars” at hotel rooms in Antwerp, Brussels, Milan and Paris last year.

Much like a mini-bar service, the fashion bar allows guests to buy clothes and accessories — specifically chosen to match the city’s weather and location — from the comfort of their hotel room.

FASHION RENTALS MAKE TRAVEL LUGGAGE-FREE

First came couch-surfing, Airbnb and lift-sharing. Now the sharing economy is unzipping on a new angle: wardrobe rentals that allow travellers to go bag-free — or at least to pack extra lightly.

The Euromonitor researchers point to a range of shoe and clothing rental services that have been launched in recent years by hoteliers and young start-ups.

One such example is unPack. The premise is simple: the customer fills out an online form that includes their clothing size, preferred brands and travel destination; unPack then sends a suitcase filled with clothes and toiletries to their hotel, ready for pick-up on arrival.

At the end of the stay, the customer simply leaves the suitcase at the front desk.

For business or leisure travellers flying from one climate to another — from summer to winter, for example — unPack has a suitcase with a down jacket, winter hat, scarves, gloves and umbrella, eliminating the need to pack winter gear.

Some hoteliers have also been venturing into retail rentals. Starwood’s Westin brand, for instance, rents out running clothes and running shoes to guests for about R72 ($5), allowing them to save space in their suitcase for other things.

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While these types of services are available to any hotel guest, the report says millennnials tend to be the most enthusiastic about using a clothing rental service.

A survey by Westfield Shopping in the UK and the US found that almost half of 25- to 34-year-olds would be interested in a monthly rental scheme for clothes.

The perks for travellers, of course, include avoiding long queues to check bags, and pick them up, and having to deal with the trouble of having stuff rifled through — or not arriving when you do.

Those who are keen on going bag-free but still want their own things when they get there to their destination, have the option of sending their own bags on ahead — and not with the airline.

A company called Luggage Free will ship your stuff to your destination for you, anywhere in the world.

Their pricing is rather prohibitive though: a search for shipping rates from South Africa to the UK revealed that to have your bags arrive within five business days you’d pay R458.42 per kilogram.

We say rent — or go back to that well-worn piece of travel advice: pack light.