Question: When is a bed more than a bed? Answer: When it makes a statement, says Jane Ram

Over the past decade hotels have put extensive research into developing a branded bed experience for their guests while providing a platform to stand out from competitors, says Laurie Westin, associate at hospitality design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates. “As hotel brands have strived for consistency among their hotels, they have implemented their bedding package requirements across international borders.”

Consistency is not always easily achieved. Peter Finamore, senior vice president hotel operations at MGM Macau, recalls his time with Rosewood Hotels & Resorts when the group managed three hotels in the Middle East.

“We used a well known US mattress manufacturer but within a year they had already developed peaks and valleys, quite unacceptable in five-star hotels. We sawed several mattresses apart in an effort to find what was wrong and sent the pieces to the US for analysis. Eventually the local manufacturers admitted that they had cut some corners largely because they could not obtain some US-made components in Jeddah where the mattresses were being made under licence.”

Sofitel’s MyBed TM specifications include a mattress with special inner coil technology, a feather topping over the mattress, a feather duvet of new duck feather and a pillow selection, says Fabrice Blondeau, vice president for quality, Sofitel Asia Pacific. “From the operational side, we ensure that beddings are available in each country and we make samples to ensure the MyBed standard is maintained.”

Hotels have been taking a more holistic and comprehensive approach to producing a quality night’s rest in recent years, says Westin. From the bed base to the pillows, the qualities of each item are selected for how they contribute to overall sleeping experience.

“The bed, which was once a standard metal frame, box springs and mattress, has evolved into to a technically integrated bed set consisting of a base, a bed foundation, and a specialised mattress.

Each layer of the bed is designed to provide the support required for the element layered above. Even the features of the mattress are selected in consideration of the bedding composition it supports; for example it may or may not have a pillow top or a particular firmness once combined with mattress toppers.”

“Aesthetically, these higher quality bed compositions are inviting and require very little decoration,” says Westin. “Simple embroidery detail on the pillow cases or a lovely throw at the foot of the bed can be all that is needed for a beautiful bed presentation. These more restrained and spa-like beds appeal to today’s informed consumer who recognises quality and who values the good night’s rest these carefully designed sleep experiences offer.”

Rising customer expectations

Bed and mattress manufacturers are well aware of rising expectations throughout Asian hotels, says Casey Teh, managing director, Simmons (SEA) Pte Ltd. “Mattresses must offer good support and a luxurious feel, and they come with a 10-year limited warranty, he says.

“A growing trend is for higher mattresses that give a high end look and feel and provide unparalleled comfort. Non-flip mattresses are now the norm in hospitality bedding as they reduce physical labour needed to maintain the mattress. Consumers are increasingly looking for speciality foams which provide higher levels of comfort and support in their mattresses.”

Latex generally has hypoallergenic and temperature regulating properties and provides good support. Memory foam gives pressure point relief and conforms to the human body shape. Gel-infused memory foam dissipates heat and prevents the ‘warm’ feeling on traditional memory foams. Eco-friendly materials are increasingly important and so are fabrics with better breathability, says Teh.

“Such fabrics help regulate the temperature during sleep and dissipate heat faster. An example would be the mattresses being used in Resorts World Sentosa having the CoolMax fabric that ensures a cool sleeping surface.”

Bed linen fabrics affect comfort levels. Sofitel specifies high quality Egyptian cotton. The Sanchaya, Bintan also uses Egyptian cotton, milled in Italy by Ploh, says Amélie Albertin, rooms division manager.

“This fabric keeps the feel of freshness against your skin. Mattresses are by Sealy and enhanced as a cocoon with Ploh featherbed giving ultimate sleep comfort. The featherbed is filled with 95% small white goose feathers for support and 5% goose down for resiliency.”

Brice Borin, Regent Phuket Cape Panwa’s general manager is proud of the hotel’s raw silk duvets that he describes as super soft to the touch, great for sensitive skin and perfect for tropical weather. An additional touch of luxury lies in the choice of Irish linen sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases.

“The unique feature of linen fabric is that it is smooth, soft and cool to touch. Since linen fabric has the ability to absorb and lose water rapidly, it is very suitable for the tropical climate of Phuket.”

The bedding market in the hospitality industry is now more segmented, with boutique hotels, group hotels and small group boutique hotels requiring different customised bedding, says Teh.

“We have seen an increase in orders through group deals. Our customers include The Shangri-La and Starwood Groups. Hotels are also crafting the most luxurious sleep experience for their discerning guest. For example, Starwood has adopted the Beautyrest Black mattress for its St Regis and Luxury Collection Hotels. Guests are more discerning these days with hotel beds and can differentiate between a good mattress and one that falls below expectation.”

Since 2004, Peninsula hotels around the world have been gradually switching to Simmons Beautyrest Peninsula Specification, says Paul Tchen, group general manager – operations, The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd. These mattresses have individually pocketed coils, pillow top finish on both sides and a mattress height of 28cm. The box spring base is Simmons Triton Foundation.

Since opening six years ago, MGM Macau has been using reversible pillow-top Serta mattresses made by Airland (China). These have proved very satisfactory, says Finamore. “In addition MGM Macau personalises beds by being able to respond to guest requests for different levels of mattress firmness as well as addressing pillow choices and concerns regarding allergies.”

Many hotels are offering choices of pillows and linens as they upgrade their beds, says Samantha Hyland, managing director of Siam Feather Products, head office of Downia Brand. Travellers increasingly expect a good bed by making use of mattress toppers along with king size pillows, she says.

“Hotels are filling niches as part of the offer of a luxurious bed. Siam Feather Products has created over 15 types of menu pillows such as warm buckwheat pillow, cervicalopedic pillow, goose down surround support pillow, companion pillow, tradition kapok pillow, and scented pillows. A mini sampler pillow set in a silk presentation box facilitates guest selection.”

Visiting basketball stars and sumo wrestlers pose special challenges for hotels at bedtime. At Mission Hills Haikou one suite has a bed that was made to the specifications of basketball star Yao Ming, while another was made for golf superstar Tiger Woods. Mattresses are made by Simmons Beautyrest (US) and standard suite beds measure 2.2m wide x 2.6m long by 30cm high.