Hotels

Beyond room service: Order up a fighter

Jan. 25, 2013 at 11:22 AM ET

Muay Thai lesson at the Peninsula Bangkok
Courtesy Dana McMahan
Muay Thai lesson at the Peninsula Bangkok.

Hotel guests need not head out with an unknown entity for adventure when they book a room. Properties around the globe are tempting travelers with one-of-a-kind experiences on the grounds or directly through the hotel.

Whether you fancy a Muay Thai lesson with a fighter in Bangkok or an exclusive cooking class in Costa Rica, if you choose well, your hotel can arrange a day you'll remember long after check-out.

“Hotels are just now recognizing that they have resources that other travel-related industries have been tapping for years,” said Ted Mandigo, director of hotel consulting firm TR Mandigo & Company. The company has tracked the travel habits of U.S. consumers for more than 20 years. “Hotels have been passive providers, nicely fitting into the travel industry, but not aggressively promoting their resources,” he said.

Now that properties see the light, they're getting on the bandwagon with an array of offerings.

For wannabe fighters, or anyone drawn to the idea of punching and kicking a champion Muay Thai fighter, guests at the Peninsula Bangkok can go a few rounds with a real live kickboxer at an outdoor makeshift ring overlooking the Chao Phraya, commemorated with photo, certificate and boxing shorts.

At The Wauwinet in Nantucket, Mass., guests can try their hand at hauling in lobster traps aboard The Wauwinet Lady. The hotel chef will later prepare a lobster feast with their catch. Those who would prefer to limit their catch to waves can learn from the resident professional surfer at Anantara Dhigu Resort & Spa in the Maldives, with beginner lessons that include everything a surfer newbie may need.

Not that into the hang ten scene? Those aspiring to dance with the stars can learn the tango without leaving the hotel at Tango Lodge Palermo Soho in Buenos Aires. The six-days-a-week classes always include an English speaker.

These activities tap into the need to experience something "new and different" that Peter C. Yesawich, vice chairman of MMGY Global (a marketing communications company specializing in the travel, leisure and entertainment industries) says has “become increasingly important for consumers when selecting hotel or resort accommodations … particularly true for younger (millennial) travelers. It's access to experiences that would otherwise be 'inaccessible' that appear to be growing in their allure."

Andrea Duvall, an avid traveler from Louisville, Ky., took advantage of just such an exclusive-to-hotel-guests option: a cooking class at Los Altos de Eros, a small hotel in Costa Rica.

“It’s a remote hotel on top of a hotel,” she said. “The class was an easy option rather than arranging transfers to offsite activities, and a great way to learn to prepare local food yourself.”

Duvall saidshe and her husbandseek out uniquely local experiences and this fit the bill.

“The experience we had felt very intimate,” she said. “We were literally in the kitchen of the property … it felt like an authentic experience versus a big cooking school off-site.”

While offering experiences are “savvy selling points for hotels trying to distinguish themselves,” some can be “terrific perks,” according to Pauline Frommer, nationally-syndicated host of "The Travel Show" with Clear Channel Media. She offers a word of caution: "Sometimes hotel tours and additional activities are not the best value because they've been simply thrown together in an attempt to get more money."

“Independently-arranged activities can be more interesting because they'll draw the kind of thinking traveler who researches his options in advance ... and the variety of travelers will be greater,” Frommer said. “Remember, a lot of the travel experience consists of interacting with other travelers, so getting out of your hotel can be a good idea.”

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