Hotel rooms which boast free wifi, water and yoga mats, minibars stocked with shop-priced items and bathrooms with the right lighting for putting on make-up are just some of the amenities being promised by Sir Richard Branson as he throws open the doors of his first Virgin hotel.
The billionaire businessman danced through the streets of Chicago as he officially opened the first of what he hopes will be a long list of similar establishments around the world.
The entrepreneur said he was inspired by his airline when he looked at the hotel industry and what he could add to it.
“Thirty years ago people asked what we could bring to the airline business that didn’t already exist and we created Virgin Atlantic. Over the past 30 years people feel we have created an airline that is different to the bigger competitors and an airline that people enjoy flying on. We want to do exactly the same with hotels.
“We have a lot of people who fly on Virgin who would like the seamless experience when they arrive in Chicago or New York or San Francisco or wherever, that they can go to a Virgin hotel and when they get to the hotel they will get the Virgin experience.
“It will be a group of people running a wonderful place where they can have fun and where all the little details have been sorted out, where they are comfortable and cosy and can have an enjoyable experience.”
He said his extensive travelling with his wife Joan made him see all the areas where hotels could be improved.
“It’s all those little things that add up to an exceptional business over an average business and I’ve travelled with my wife to many hotels over the last 40 to 50 years and there have been plenty of things that have frustrated us.
“We tried to make sure we put all those things right. Female business travellers haven’t been thought about in the past.
“If you want to do your make up in most hotels the lighting is dreadful and there is not enough space to put your make up and not a big enough closet to hang your clothes and you’re charged through the nose for stupid little things like wifi and a bottle of water.
“We tried to think of all the things that people hate about hotels and put those right and then create an ambience that is very Virgin and very fun.”
Sir Richard added he was guided by his wife Joan and daughter Holly when it came to making the rooms useful for women.
“It was my wife and daughter and all the girls and ladies that work for Virgin. I’m not going to try to pretend I know what women want, I’m sure I don’t, but I am a good listener. You have to be if you’re a husband or a father.”
He already has plans for hotels all over America and hopes to open a property in London when the price is right but he also has his eye on the cruise industry.
“We love to go into things where we feel we can go into it better than other people and cruises is one area we will be going into. The experience we get from hotels will help us a lot there.”