What does $40,000 buy these days?
If you’re an average American, it’s nearly your household income for a year.
If you’re a Las Vegas big spender, it’s one night at the Palms’ Hugh Hefner Sky Villa, a two-story, 10,000-square-foot hideaway with a $700,000 cantilevered Jacuzzi that juts into the night air, a rotating bed beneath a mirrored ceiling and around-the-clock butler service.
The Playboy-themed digs, which opened last fall at the Palms Casino Resort is the most expensive of 101 hotel suites featured in a just-released annual survey by Elite Traveler, a 6-year-old magazine distributed aboard private jets and mega-yachts to readers with average household incomes over $5 million.
Priced from $1,500 per night and up, the 101 suites come with various perks, such as a private indoor lap pool, personal chef and use of a six-figure Maserati Quattroporte sedan, said Doug Gollan, editor in chief of the New York-based magazine.
For the supersuites’ guests, of course, price is no object.
"An amazingly huge concentration of wealth" is driving demand for everything from fancy rooms to private jets, Gollan said.
Editors tapped 14 well-traveled celebrities, including Wimbledon champion Roger Federer and performers Kim Cattrall, Harry Connick Jr. and Cuba Gooding Jr., to help review the mostly new or renovated suites, which were judged on luxury, location, privacy and one-of-a-kind design.
Most of the U.S. hotels in the July/August Elite Traveler roster are in the West or Hawaii, reflecting the plethora of "great resort areas" there, Gollan said. Southern California hotels on the list include the Hotel Bel-Air, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and the Beverly Wilshire.
"We have looked at all of them firsthand," Gollan said of himself and colleagues. "Being poor editors, we can’t afford to stay in them. But many of the celebrities have."
It’s getting harder to afford these digs if you’re a mere mortal.
In last year’s survey, the top-priced rooms cost a mere $25,000 per night. That bought (and still buys) the penthouse at the Setai Hotel in Miami, with butler service and a private pool, and the Palms’ Hardwood Suite, outfitted with half a basketball court, locker room and 95-inch-long (NBA-sized) bed.
Over the six years the magazine has searched out luxury suites for its "Pure Decadence" issue, Gollan has seen them get bigger and more expensive, following the mega-mansion trend.
When they travel, the rich "want the comforts of their 30,000-square-foot home in Bel-Air or wherever," he said.
In fact, many guests who book the 16 Fantasy Suites at the Palms, which include villas, suites and poolside bungalows, are from the Los Angeles area.
"Hollywood executives are especially drawn to those accommodations," said Palms spokesman Chris Walters, as are movie and TV stars, captains of big business and foreign royalty. Corporations use the suites for events, though most are booked for private stays.
Although Walters declined to name the royalty who have laid their heads on the suites’ beds, he was more willing to dispense pillow talk about celebrities.
The Hardwood Suite, he said, has hosted Dennis Rodman, George Clooney and Lindsay Lohan. And yes, Hugh Hefner has slept in his namesake villa.
The aging sultan of swank checked in for the suite’s opening in October. And in March, accompanied by three girlfriends, he came back to celebrate his 81st birthday there, Walters said.
Not quite the Playboy Mansion. But close.