“If you’re someone who has an interest in American history or a love for learning about presidents, this could be one of the items on your bucket list,” said Elizabeth Mullins, vice president and area general manager for the hotel.
The Ritz isn’t alone. For $2.7 million, the JW Marriott is offering you — and 300 of your friends — access to its rooftop terrace, a four-night stay and $800,000 in food and drinks.
The extravagance continues: The Fairmont’s $100,000 line-up includes a pair of 18-carat gold Rolexes and midnight buffets of caviar and champagne. And at the Park Hyatt, the hotel’s $57,000 package comes with a couples’ massage and fresh-baked apple pie.
“We wanted to come up with a package that best reflects America,” said Renee Sharrow, director of public relations for the Park Hyatt.
So far, nobody has called for the hotel’s inauguration specials. (In 2009, the hotel received a few queries but didn’t get any takers, Sharrow said.)
This year, though, she says she’s optimistic: “We really think it’s priced to sell.”
Inspiration born of desperation
Twenty-four years ago, for George H.W. Bush’s inauguration, Vivian Deuschl introduced a $15,000 package at the Ritz-Carlton on Massachusetts Avenue (now the Fairfax at Embassy Row).
“It was an idea that came out of a certain amount of desperation,” she said. “The hotel was bankrupt and it had gotten a tremendous amount of bad press. I was new on the job and I thought, ‘What could I possibly do to turn this around?’ ”
She came up with a package that included a chauffeured Rolls-Royce and dinner for 12.
“I didn’t seriously think anyone would buy it,” she said.
Soon Deuschl was doing interviews with the BBC and “The Today Show.” There were rumors that Donald Trump had bought the package. (He hadn’t; Henry Kravis, a billionaire businessman, had.)
“All of a sudden, everyone was talking about it,” she said. “People just thought it was such an outrageous idea. What an unreal place Washington was, this Disneyland on the Potomac.”
In 1993, for the next presidential inauguration, Deuschl doubled the price of the package. A couple from Mexico sprang for the $30,000 stay.
“Then every four years, this thing would take on a life of its own,” she said. “Everybody kind of has fun with it. Nobody takes it too seriously, but if you’re a hotel that needs a boost of attention, then this is your moment.”
Upping the ante
For Barack Obama’s first inauguration, the Ritz-Carlton Washington offered a $50,000 package that included a 24-hour chauffeur, ruby-encrusted pendant and tickets to an inaugural ball. By mid-December, it had been purchased by a couple who lived outside of the United States,
This year, the Ritz-Carlton is upping the ante with a price tag that’s twice as large, as well as behind-the-scenes tours of the John F. Kennedy Center and a private cupcake-decorating party at Georgetown Cupcakes.
“We decided to get more exclusive this year,” Mullins said, adding that the hotel has received six or seven serious queries, but has yet to sell the package. “We wanted to really hone in one those one-of-those kind experiences that you can only have once every four years.”