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Getting Away From It All Without Going Far

November 29, 1986|PATRICK MOTT

Regularly, about every two months, Michael and Nancy Kump are struck with the desire to flee.

Escape the job, they think. Pack the bags. Lock up the house. Get out of familiar surroundings and go someplace where the champagne is always cold, the pillows are always fluffy and the phone never rings.

So, about six times a year, the Kumps leave their Los Angeles home for a vacation.

They go to Los Angeles.

"People look at us kind of funny when we tell them," Nancy said, "but it seems so normal to us. I'm a firm believer that you can run away from your problems, so once every couple of months we run away and stay at a hotel."

The Kumps and thousands of couples like them make up a particular sort of clientele that is being enthusiastically cultivated by many Southern California hotels. They are what might be called weekend urban vacationers, who, because of obligations at home or lack of time for an extended holiday, regularly check into nearby hotels for a weekend stay. There, they say, they can relax, enjoy a change of scenery, and let others do the cooking and cleaning.

For many hotels--particularly city hotels whose rooms are occupied on weekdays by traveling business people who usually do not stay on through the weekend--these short-time vacationers can represent a substantial increase in revenue. Consequently, many hotels woo the potential weekend guest with special package deals that can include decreased rates for rooms and a wide variety of amenities such as health spa privileges, breakfast in bed, discounts on admission to area attractions, limousine service and other forms of pampering.

"It's a marketing concept that's been around for a long time in the resort market, but the corporate market hotels have gotten into it more and more in the last 10 to 15 years," said Haley Powers, a convention sales manager for the Los Angeles Visitors and Convention Bureau.

What most of the hotels are selling, as part of those packages, is romance. It can take the form of champagne served with breakfast in bed, fresh roses on the nightstand, complimentary gifts, dinner reservations in a corner booth, sinfully rich menus or, simply, someone specially detailed to do the fetching, carrying, cleaning and otherwise keeping the outside world at bay.

For the Kumps, their latest haven of in-town indulgence was the Biltmore Hotel, where they stayed on a recent weekend on the hotel's "Gold Room" package. The $115-per-night rate included a suite with a living room area, continental breakfasts with the morning paper, use of the hotel's health club, downtown shuttle and limousine to Beverly Hills and the services of a butler stationed on each floor. The normal daily rate for the room alone is $175.

"We've stayed in a number of L.A. hotels because we've found that you can get a beautiful room for bargain prices," said Nancy Kump, a vice president at a Los Angeles public relations firm. "And it really does give you the feeling of getting out of town. Every place we've gone in the city has a different personality and we like the action of the city. We're city people, basically."

Michael Kump, an attorney, said that "it's often difficult, if not impossible for us to get out of town. Our jobs keep us here. Nancy's had to cancel two week-long vacations in the last two months. So this is one way we can do something for ourselves and get away together."

The 'Extras' Draw Guests

In some cases, it is not discount rates that draw weekenders, but the nature of the "extras" some hotels design into their packages. Through the use of special events or services, city hotels sometimes attempt to provide their guests with a resort-like atmosphere.

The Meridien Hotel in Newport Beach, for instance, has included in a series of one-time weekend packages such events as a Bastille Day celebration, a cycling tour of Newport Beach, tours to Mission San Juan Capistrano and trips to local shopping centers. The ongoing weekend package includes a discounted room rate, complimentary champagne and fruit and an 8 p.m. checkout time if the guests attend the Sunday lobster cookout at the hotel.

At the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, two weekend packages--called the Classic Weekend and the Romantic Interlude--include such amenities as daily bottles of chilled champagne with strawberries, fresh flowers in the room and breakfast in bed. Helen Chaplin, the hotel's spokesperson, said the prices of the rooms are not heavily discounted, however.

A hotelier's truism, according to Powers, holds that "there are only three things that will sell your property: location, location and location." However, hotels in locations considered less than glamorous also attempt to benefit through the use of weekend packages.

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