Image: Voodoo Love Dolls, Omni Royal Crescent, New Orleans
Courtesy of Omni Hotels
Though it’s a sprawling corporation, Omni has tweaked its mini-bars so that each hotel can customize the so-called Sensation Bars in its rooms to better reflect the local culture. Nowhere is it more cheekily in evidence than at the 97-room New Orleans site, where for $10 you can make your own Love Voodoo Kit.
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updated 5/15/2009 12:48:35 PM ET 2009-05-15T16:48:35

“When I travel, I want my creature comforts,” says Diane Ackerman, a private art dealer and collector who spends much of the year hopscotching around the world to attend art fairs, see clients, and make studio visits. “I like to treat myself, especially on short trips.” And one of the first things Ackerman checks in any hotel is its mini-bar.

“I’m not impressed if they have lots of crackers and junk,” says Ackerman. She even has her own mini-bar fantasy: a small fridge stocked with water, great red wine, unsalted almonds, and anything to combat jet lag–related eye bags. “I’d love to find a cucumber, so I could cut slices and put them on my eyes before I go to sleep.”

Luckily for Ackerman—and many travelers—hotels are maxing out on mini-bars to satisfy blue-chip guests ... and, of course, entice them to return.

“What a hotel stocks in the room can really show its personality,” says Juliet Kinsman, the editor in chief of boutique-hotel bible Mr. & Mrs. Smith. And, she says, the thrill of a hotel mini-bar can’t be underestimated—especially one that goes beyond conventional snacks and drinks. So while cucumbers might not be available yet, unusual items are increasingly showing up in mini-bars around the world.

For example, at the W Retreat & Spa in the Maldives, mini-bars include designer Heidi Klein bikinis. The Mondrian in Los Angeles curiously stocks an Alice in Wonderland hand mirror, designed by Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz.

And sometimes, the items are nothing short of elemental: in China, at the Banyan Tree Ringha—which sits 10,000 feet-plus above sea level—cans of oxygen are perhaps the hotel’s best high-altitude treat.

“Consumers are well aware how every second they’re charged for something in a hotel—premiums on a phone call, for example—and the mini-bar is a chance to make you feel there are lots of treats and surprises,” says Kinsman. “For the value of a couple of dollars, you have much bigger value in word of mouth.”

But along with artisanal clothes or colas, Kinsman has her own mini-bar must-have that she seeks out whenever she checks in: Resolve, a vitamin cocktail. “I’m always a sucker for hangover kits,” she laughs.

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

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