Trends & Insights

Spotlight on: the world’s largest hotels

Guests get to see the shimmer and sparkle of a ‘megahotel’, but blood, sweat and tears often go into running such a huge operation. Click. explores the scale of the challenge and the innovative thinking being applied

In some parts of the hospitality industry, big is beautiful – and the bigger the better. No other city in the world has embraced this notion quite like Las Vegas. Of five of the world’s largest hotels, three are in Vegas. Even if you take the world’s 10 biggest, six of them are still in America’s gambling capital.

Strength in numbers is evidently a concept that’s been taken to heart in Las Vegas. That seems to be why CityCenter turns up at number four in the list of the world’s largest hotels: it’s actually made up of three separate entities. The Mandarin Oriental, with its 392 suites and 225 residences, brings elegant luxury to the complex – made even more refined by the lack of a casino. Its non-gaming neighbour, Vdara, has a similar aura of calm despite its 1,495 rooms.

Image
Las Vegas by Ken Yam on Unsplash
Photo: Ken Yam on Unsplash

 

But it’s the flagship Aria Resort & Casino that takes the CityCenter complex into 'megahotel' territory, with its 4,004 rooms. They’ve certainly embraced the latest technology, and it’s not just the in-room tablets that take your room service order and spa requests as well as controlling lighting, curtains and music. All rooms have devices that automatically alert maintenance when light bulbs and remote control batteries run out and they’re replaced at once. No mean feat when you’ve got in excess of 40,000 light bulbs to deal with.

Challenges

When you look at the world’s second-largest hotel, the numbers just get bigger. The double act of the Venetian and Palazzo has 7,117 rooms between the two, with about 9,000 staff on hand to look after the 800,000-odd guests who come through the gilded doors of both hotels each year. The Venetian edges ahead of its neighbour with 4,049 rooms, but the two go together as far as Max Tappeiner, the Vice-President of Hotel Operations, is concerned.

With classic understatement, Tappeiner says: “Running a fully integrated resort smoothly can have many challenges, one of them being the distance and time it takes to get from one area to another. For this reason, we operate out of many areas spread out through the hotel.”

Much of it simply boils down to geography. When the kitchen spreads out over two acres and the laundry goes through 30 tons of linen, it makes sense to have these in the best strategically placed areas for staff.

Keeping the flow of guests is just as vital. “We offer express check-in for our loyal repeat guests,” says Tappeiner. “We also have express check-out options - kiosk, text, email, phone and a lobby ambassador. Based on business demands with conventions and large groups, we arrange things such as garage parking and elevator movement to make it as convenient and efficient as possible. The challenge is to keep the lines short while maintaining a strong focus on excellent service.”

Innovative thinking

The Venetian discovered just how quickly things move in the hotel industry when, in 2015, it lost its distinction of being of the world’s largest hotel. That went to the three-star First World Hotel in Malaysia, which now has a swift cable car to take guests to the top of the Genting Highlands at 6,000ft above sea level. This sprawling complex also includes the 20th Century Fox World theme park, six other hotels and the enormous SkyAvenue shopping mall. Rainbow-coloured First World Hotel has a jaw-dropping 7,351 rooms spread across three towers, and Guinness World Records declared it the world’s biggest hotel by the number of rooms.

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First World Hotel, photo by Benson Kua, Flickr
First World Hotel, photo: Benson Kua, Flickr

 

The hotel knows a thing or two about speed. Check-in takes all of two minutes via self-service kiosks. Checking out is an even quicker procedure – eight seconds are all it takes for the hotel to register that you’ve left.

All those guests mean a mind-boggling amount of laundry to get through – the hotel reckons about 75,000 pieces a day. It came up with a clever tunnel washer system – the first of its kind in Southeast Asia – that allows its 68 machines to wash continuous batches.

First World Hotel might not have too long to rest on its laurels, however. Some time over the next two to three years, its world’s biggest hotel crown is set to be handed over to the Abraj Kudai in Mecca. This will have a staggering 10,000 rooms filling a ring of 12 towers. The Saudi Arabian gargantuan complex will include 70 restaurants and no fewer than five helipads. It will bring a whole new dimension to the concept of megahotels.

 

You might also like to read Insider view on the complexity of megahotel F&B 

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Takeaway
  • World’s largest hotel, First World Hotel in Malayasia, has 7,351 rooms
  • First World Hotel washes about 75,000 pieces of laundry a day
  • The second-largest hotel, the Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas, has 7,117 rooms between the two hotels
  • At least 9,000 people are employed at the Venetian and the Palazzo
  • The Abraj Kudai in Saudi Arabia will shatter all world records when the 10,000-room hotel opens in Mecca