When The Four Seasons Hotel opens in Georgetown August 1, it will not be the most expensive hotel in Washington. Not quite. Not since the Madison raised its minimum rate to $88 a night.
But the card on the back of the door in The Four Seasons' cheapest room will say $64 a night, single occupancy.
With 70 percent of its rooms "superior and deluxe" accomodations -- at $84 and $94 a night -- The Four Seasons is catering to Washington's growing luxury travel market.
The average room rate will run $85 to $90 a night, says general manager Wolf Hengst.
"Our competition is the Madison, the Watergate, the Fairfax," added public relations person Yvonne Middleton.
The Four Seasons is courting Washington's best heeled tourists with a sales campaign that began a year before the opening and a low-keyed luxury that's meant to be sbtle and sophisticated even by Georgetown standards.
Take the front desk. There isn't any. Just a pair of antique writing desks in the lobby where assistant managers will greet guests and show them to their rooms.
The formality of signing in will be necessary only the first time a guest stays in the hotel, Henst explained. After that "our infallible memory" -- a computer of course -- will take care of details,
The assistant managers will show guests to their rooms. No tipping for them. The bellman with the bags will use the side entrance to keep congestion out of the lobby. For more mundane services there will be a concierge desk off the lobby. Though its address is 2800 Pannsylvania Avenue, The Four Seasons marks the east end of M Street in Georgetown. Behind its just-completed clock tower is an interior courtyard lined with small shops beneath an office complex developed along 28th street in conjunction with the hotel.
The project is owned and built by The Louisis-Dreyfus Property Organization and JBG Associates, a Washington real estate investment group and Fours Seasons Hotels Ltd. of Canada.
The 210-room hotel cost about $102,000 per room to build, $22 million in all, and use the first new hotel built in America by Four Seasons.
Based in Toronto, Four Seasons runs 13 other hotels, including the Ritz-Carleton in Chicago, and the Clift in San Francisco. The company recently purchased the Olympic Hotel in Seattle and is buolding two hotels in Texas.
Designed by the Washington office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the hotel's exterior follows the red brick dictates of Georgetown community standards.
But inside designer Frank Nicholson was turned loose with two shades of light oak, apricot carpeting, and much marble. In the suites there are marble lounging tubs, some with a deliberately not too well shsuttered view of Rock Creek. The racier and ritzier guests can spread the shutters and gaze through the treetops from suites that start at $168 a night and stop just short of $400.
The luxury marketing strategy is necessary because of the hotel's size, Hengst explained. To compensate for the costly facilities, Four Seasons also is aiming for a much stonronger food business than most hotels.
"Food and beverage (income) should equal rooms," Hengst said. The hotel's principal restaurant is called Aux Beaux Champs. There also is a Plaza Cafe and drinks will be served in a lobby bar overlooking for the C&O Canal. Hengst said the hotel is targeted not at the usual tourist and business travelers but at executives and government officials, foreign and domestic.
For the first year he said he expects about 70 percent of the guest to be individuals abd about 30 percent to be small groups, such as corporate boards of directors. The hotel has no convention facilities but has meeting rooms up to 50 and a ballroom that can hold up to 800 people. CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, General Manager Wolf Hengst, right, poses in the lobby of new Four Seasons Hotel, left scheduled to open at 28th and M Streets, Georgetown August 1. Photos by James A. Parcell - The Washington Post