As I always say, hotel experiences are all about expectations. What is acceptable at a Fairfield Inn for $79 may be completely unacceptable at a J.W. Marriott going for $250. So when I booked a room at the Holiday Inn Presidential in Little Rock for only 15,000 IHG points (which can be purchased for $105), I wasn’t expecting more than a clean room, free wifi, and the free airport shuttle mentioned on its website. And it met all of these expectations, which was all I really needed on this short stay.
Initially when I booked my Little Rock trip, I’d hoped to use a free Marriott night certificate I have that was expiring in January. For some reason, I made the stupid mistake of thinking that it was only good for Category 1 through 4 properties, none of which are in downtown Little Rock. I realized the day of my trip that the certificate covered category 5 properties, which would have had me in a centrally located Marriott, or very new, better located Courtyard or Residence Inn. D’oh. Somehow this is the second year in a row I’ve made a mistake not redeeming a free night I could have used for a better hotel on a mileage run and ending up at a Holiday Inn.
I ended up looking at IHG properties. There were a number of IHG properties available on Point Breaks, for only 5,000 points, but none were near downtown, and I didn’t intend to rent a car. So I booked the Holiday Inn Presidential for 15,000 points (I’ll get 1,500 back as a IHG Visa cardholder, for a net of 13,500 points). The hotel is not quite downtown, but in a residential area near the highway. But it’s a bit about a 10 minute walk to the River Market area, and not too far from the Clinton Presidential Library.
I called the hotel the day before I actually left to ask about airport pickup, and was told to call when I landed. After being placed on hold for about 7 minutes, an agent hung up on me, but I finally got through and was told I could expect a pickup in 12-15 minutes. Sure enough, a new model minivan with the Holiday Inn logo picked me up right on time, and the friendly driver got me to the hotel in under 10 minutes.
Check-in was straightforward. I was recognized as a Platinum member and was offered a bottle of water and some maps, and given some information about the hotel facilities. I had originally reserved a King Leisure room, but when AA canceled my flights, I had to cancel that reservation and rebook for the following day. Fortunately, there were award rooms still available, but my choices were down to a Double room or a “Standard” room to be assigned at Check-In. As an IHG Platinum, I thought maybe I’d get upgraded or a King room would be found for me, so I selected a Standard room. Sure enough, I was given the regular Double room, which was fine; I’m used to sharing a Queen size bed so I still had more room than usual. I don’t think there is a big difference between rooms at the property in any event, and I think I had the marginally better “view” of the city than the other side of the hotel.
The room was basic, but fresh and clean. The internet was adequate, the linens and toiletries appropriate for a Holiday Inn. The exercise room was expectedly small, but with a range of hand weights and several cardio machines.
In fact, there was only one thing I can really complain about; unfortunately, I saw it quickly when I arrived.
Right in the bathroom was this plaque
For those who can’t see, it says:
“Dear Guest, Due to the popularity of our Guest Room Amenities, our Housekeeping Department now offers these items for sale,” followed by a list of fourteen items (some of which were not even present in my room), and listing prices. It then says, “Should you decide to take these articles from your room, instead of purchasing them from the Executive Housekeeper, we will assume you approve a corresponding charge to your credit card.”
In hundreds of hotel stays, I’ve never seen something like this. Sure, I’ve seen notes saying certain items should not be removed or a fee will apply, and saying bathrobes are for use during your stay only, but are available for purchase. Never have I seen such a passive aggressive/snarky/hostile way of communicating with your guests. Rather than making me feel at home, it makes me feel like I am an intrusive guest interfering with the high priced items on the property, afraid of touching anything as I might break it. And those prices listed are ridiculous. $45 for the hotel room coffee pot? $10 for the sandpaper hand towels? My favorite was the $125 Floral Arrangement. I didn’t even notice a “floral arrangement” in the room, but finally found it in the corner:
In all, the placard strikes me as a tone-deaf response to a problem (if one really does exist). It’s particularly surprising, as the President/CEO of the franchise has his picture (posed along with a muscle car) all over the hotel, asking customers to rate the stay a 10 out of 10 and to talk to staff if they can’t. My inform facebook survey confirms that this placard is extremely strange and off-putting, and just very cheap and tacky. Any hotel should make their guests feel welcome, and this does not.
The hotel’s gimmick is that it has the second largest collection of Presidential memorabilia in Arkansas. This means the walls of the lobby are covered with prints and knick knacks, which kind of make it tacky. In addition, the conference rooms are named after all of the Presidents from Reagan through Obama, the restaurant is called “Camp David”, and the wifi password is Presidential-themed. But I’m more likely to come back to a property that makes me feel welcome than a property that invests in political knick-knacks.
Otherwise, the hotel was perfectly fine. The free shuttle to the airport, and around downtown, was very helpful, particularly since the hotel is a bit removed from the River Market area where many of the other hotels are located. I walked to the River Market pretty easily, but to the main downtown area was a bit far.
Since my flight wasn’t until late afternoon, I wanted to take advantage of my late checkout as an IHG Reward Platinum member. When I came back from dinner, I asked the clerk at the front desk about it, who said I had to speak to someone in the morning. So as soon I woke up in the morning, I called down to the front desk, and was told a 2pm checkout was fine.
Alas, when I returned to the hotel from my morning out and about in Little Rock, someone had cleaned my room already- which was weird because housekeeping should have known I was checking out, and noticed all my luggage in the room. I felt bad because I hadn’t showered yet, and needed to, so there was no way for me not to mess up the room again.
Overall, the Holiday Inn Presidential is fine, particularly if you have a car or won’t be venturing many places. It’s clean, has a friendly free shuttle, and decent-sized rooms. But I’d be more likely to stay in one of the River Market or downtown properties if I visited again. And I’ll bring my own floral arrangement.