Moscow Hotels Declare 'Bed Wars'

Some hotels have unbeatable historic locations. Others are known for their exquisite interiors or have had an array of famous guests.

But all of this matters little to an average business traveler, whose primary concern is getting a good night's sleep before an important meeting -- or so the inventors of the "Sweet Sleeper" beds recently installed at the Sheraton Palace Hotel in Moscow would want us to believe.

As the number of guest accommodation providers continues its steep rise, Moscow's hotels are elevating their competition to a new level, ironing the linens, fluffing the feathers of their pillows and launching true "bed wars."

Moscow was one of the first European cities to get a taste of Sheraton's new beds, when they were installed in all of the hotel's rooms during last fall's refurbishment. In April, Sheraton began actively marketing them as part an ambitious plan to have the new beds in every single room across Europe and Asia.

"Good sleep is the single most important factor for a hotel guest," said Alla Prokhorova, the public relations manager at the Sheraton Palace Hotel. "What we were trying to achieve [was] to make our beds as good -- or even better -- than the one you have at home."

On the heels of Sheraton are the Marriott hotels. Marriott International announced a $190 million global plan to update its beds and linens. Meanwhile, its Moscow hotels -- the Grand, the Aurora, and the Tverskaya -- are set to have new beds installed by September, said Valentina Starova, head of public relations at Marriott's Moscow office. Hotel beds will get thicker mattresses -- 23 centimeters instead of the current 20- to 21-centimeter-thick ones -- as well as more pillows.

Hilton Hotels is also joining the race and is installing 250,000 new clock radios in its rooms worldwide so that "travelers won't have to lose sleep ever again over how to set the alarm clocks," the company said in April.

"Starwood was on the cutting edge of the bed. They were thinking outside of the box," joked Rob Stoddard, vice president at Monab Development, who between 1998 and 2002 worked as a director of operations at the Sheraton Suites hotel in San Diego.

"Marriott and Hilton laughed in 1999. ... They claimed then that nobody cared about the bed. Now, Hilton and Marriott are rolling out their own new linens," Stoddard said.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the owner of the Sheraton brand along with Westin and W, now plans to spend $12 million promoting its new attraction.

However, despite significant efforts put into designing and promoting the new beds, in the end there is still no guarantee that they will be to everybody's liking, said Stephane Meyrat, senior consultant at the Moscow-based Hotel Consulting & Development Group.

Another peril of installing plush beds is that "businessmen with tight schedules rarely want to be too comfortable in a hotel room," he said. "It is not really a new trend but can certainly appeal to those hotel guests who have grown tired of lousy bed mattresses in other hotels."