By Joel Hall
Since 1996, The Westin Atlanta Airport has stood as one of the airport area's premiere luxury hotels. This year, The Westin is seeking to outdo itself with a $22 million, top-to-bottom renovation.
The improvements, which began in January of this year, include: a total renovation of the hotel's main lobby; landscaping and entryway improvements; the addition of a 24-hour business center, with fax machines, copiers, and shipping services; a new "grab-and-go" restaurant; a renovated pool with an added Jacuzzi; and services which allow guests to check in their luggage, and check their departure times before they ever leave the hotel.
Ray Robichaud, director of sales and marketing for The Westin Atlanta Airport, said the renovations are scheduled to conclude by the first week of December. At that time, Robichaud believes the hotel will establish itself as one of the top airport hotels in the country.
"Hotels go through renovations on a regular basis, but it's very unusual to have it happen in one year," said Robichaud. "Everything that the guest will see will be redone."
In addition to common area improvements, all 500 rooms have been remodeled with new bathroom fixtures, new beds, WI-FI access, flat-screen televisions, which can double as computer monitors, and enlarged desks with input jacks for audio and computer accessories.
"Everything in the rooms were gutted except the bathroom floor," said Robichaud. "We wanted to do everything at once, so we could be the premiere luxury hotel at the airport."
While the hotel has tried to address the needs of busy, international business travelers in its renovation, Robichaud said the hotel's BAGS (Baggage Airline Guest Services) program is relieving stress for its leisure travelers. For a small fee, customers flying on certain major airlines can check their luggage between 90 minutes and 24 hours before take-off and receive their boarding pass before ever entering the airport.
Robichaud said only a handful of hotels in the country offer the BAGS program, as carrying the service requires congressional approval. In addition, all BAGS handlers must be TSA (Transportation Security Administration) certified.
"They've been doing that for a year and a half," said Robichaud. "When we started this program, we were one of only six hotels in the country that had this program. In the time we have been doing this, we have never had a compliant of lost luggage."
Robichaud said by the end of the renovation, the lobby will feature real-time departure screens so travelers can make the best use of their time while at the hotel.
"Today, travel is so stressful, so we believe anything we can do to make it less stressful for the guest will make them more loyal customers," Robichaud said.