This Iconic Hotel Brand Has a Rare Amenity That Makes for a Perfect Souvenir

It's a global souvenir, but you can only get it at 108 hotels.

An assortment of hotel room key cards from various The Ritz-Carlton properties

Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton

The Ritz-Carlton name has been synonymous with luxury since its inception — when the first property opened in Boston in 1927 (when rooms cost a whopping $15). In 1983, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company was formed, and today, there are 108 Ritz-Carlton hotels, plus the brand’s first yacht.

Ever mindful of the modern requisite to keep things fresh and interesting, The Ritz-Carlton unveiled a new brand identity in 2015, with one arm of the rebrand being a unified key design. And no surprise, every detail of the key’s look was intentional. 

While the historic lion-and-crown logo has its place on the back of each keycard, the front bears the new design, with large-scale black font juxtaposed against a pale blue background. Donna McNamara, vice president and global brand leader for The Ritz-Carlton, says the blue nods to 1920s Boston, when European glass, imported by the well-to-do, turned blue due to oxidation that occurred as it crossed the Atlantic. Even a chandelier in The Ritz-Carlton, Boston, was blue, and the fixture was a guest favorite.

“The decision to prominently showcase the destination name on the keycards was also intentional,” McNamara tells Travel + Leisure. “Just as each of our properties reflects a sense of place, we wanted the keycards to represent the destination in an unexpected way. And we did have a hunch that our guests would enjoy the custom keycards as a unique keepsake.”

McNamara has gathered 50 keycards herself since the new design was unveiled, and general managers around the world regularly meet guests growing their collections. Kelly Steward, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, recently met a guest who has Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elite status and has nearly collected all 108 destination-specific keys.

“They’re the ultimate insider memento,” McNamara says, only given to registered property guests.

Sarah Motycka, a mother, banker, and avid traveler, is another Ritz-Carlton devotee and keycard collector. The first key she kept was from The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua — she was there in 2019 with her husband, celebrating a wedding anniversary. The black lettering on the blue backdrop caught her eye immediately, and she kept it in her wallet to remember the trip.

“People try to get souvenirs from places they visit, but most of the time the trinkets end up at the bottom of a drawer somewhere,” she tells T+L. “This key holds the memory without the clutter.”

As of today, Motycka’s collection includes 10 keycards, including The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, and The Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo. And she and her husband plan to keep Ritz-Carlton hopping, citing the brand’s “elegance without pretentiousness.” On tap for this year are stays at The Ritz-Carlton, Orlando, and sailing through the Caribbean on The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection's Evrima ship.

When she returns home, she’ll add her new keys to her set, which are displayed under a clear desk mat.

“I look at them all the time, and they brighten my day,”  Motycka says. “Since the location name is written so boldly and clearly on each one, with just one glance, the memories come flooding back.”

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