Rhode Island as a tourist destination is as vibrant and popular as ever, perhaps more so this year. Our state is attracting culinary tourists, boating and sailing enthusiasts and other groups who share common interests, in addition to vacationers looking for a beach getaway. Many who belong to these groups are also discerning travelers seeking a premium level of accommodations.
These sophisticated tourists are staying at three hotels in the state which are unique among hotels around the world due in no small part to their membership in an exclusive hospitality trade association.
Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of 500 privately owned hotels and gourmet restaurants in 60 countries. Three of its member properties are located in Rhode Island. They are Ocean House and its new sibling Weekapaug Inn, both in Westerly; and Castle Hill Inn in Newport. These properties are in a group that counts among its members some of the best-known venues in the world from Daniel, Jean-Georges and Per Se in New York to The French Laundry in the Napa Valley.
Ocean House and Weekapaug Inn President and Managing Director Daniel A. Hostettler tells the story: “Being a Relais & Châteaux property was always a goal of ours from opening day back in 2010. Our owners, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Royce, travel extensively and have always stayed whenever possible at Relais & Châteaux properties.” Other New England venues in the association include the White Barn Inn in Maine, the Mayflower in Connecticut and the venerable Blantyre in Lenox, Mass., the so-called “Newport of the Berkshires.”
The member venues offer travelers a strong sense of place, as opposite a chain-hotel experience as is possible but with high standards for service and amenities which must be maintained for the hotel to keep its membership. The Relais & Châteaux properties worldwide have been open for decades, which makes the Ocean House story more interesting having just opened its doors in 2010.
Even more impressive is the inclusion in the group of the Weekapaug, which just came on line in October of 2012 and became a member last month. Hostettler said this is “fairly unheard of” and cites two factors which tipped the scales in the inn’s favor. “We offer the feel of a New England inn – Weekapaug Inn was built in 1899 and was just extensively restored – and have on staff a full-time naturalist to share with our guests the natural attractions of this property. Our strong showing of the Ocean House when we became members last year helped tremendously, as did our culinary experience.”