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Boutiques take unique approach to marketing
February 11 2013

Several design-focused hotels marketed their properties during down periods in January and February by leaning heavily on partnerships, localization and social media.

  • A recent promotion from NYC & Company offers two-for-one admission at design-oriented museums instead of hotel discounts.
  • A Hyatt Andaz spokeswoman says unique promotions and packages generate the most bookings.
  • Successful promotions include engagement on experiences indigenous to the region.
By Harvey Chipkin
HNN contributor

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Boutique and design-focused hotels are taking approaches to low-season promotions that differ from traditional demand generating initiatives because of a client base that diverges in what they are looking for in a hotel stay.

One high-profile example was the recent launch of the Design Collection from NYC & Company, the city’s tourism and marketing arm. The promotion creators decided not to offer discounts at the 19 participating boutique properties, but instead it offered two-for-one admissions at two design-oriented museums and a glass of wine at a cultural arts center.

“When visitors explore NYC, they experience an unparalleled quality of art, architecture and design across all five boroughs,” said George Fertitta, CEO of NYC & Company in a press release. “We are proud to work with some of the city’s most stylish hotels to provide added value to their guests so they may enjoy some of the most iconic design and style-themed institutions in the world.”

The hotels include both trendy lifestyle hotels such as  60 Thompson and Gansevoort Meatpacking as well as luxury, design-focused properties like Le Parker Meridien.

Executives at participating hotels in the Design Collection said their approach to generating demand is different.

Victoria Barr, director of sales and marketing at Le Parker Meridien, said participating hotels “set themselves apart from traditional businesses with their flair for design and innovation.”

“While never considered a boutique hotel with our 42 stories and 726 guestrooms and suites, we achieve exceptional occupancies year-round due to a strong corporate transient base consisting of a mix of banking, entertainment, high tech and retail clientele combined with group business from all corners of the globe,” she said. “Seasonalities of travel differ from foreign sources and we, therefore, focus our direct sales efforts on Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin, South American and European countries in order to improve low-season demand and augment our domestic business base.”

Hotel best practices
At Hyatt’s Andaz, which has two New York properties, spokeswoman Rachel Harrison said Andaz’s customers are motivated by public relations, marketing and reviews.

“We focus on getting the word out about all of the creative programming, such as our Tattoo Artist in Residence, as well as special educational dinners and experience,” Harrison said. “One year for Father’s Day we created a package that included a tour of the New York Stock Exchange. That promotion garnered exposure on the “Today” show, which resulted in a high percentage of rooms booked during a slower period.

“If a promotion, experience or package is unique, it definitely works to generate bookings and helps put you first in a consumer’s mind when they are choosing between two or three hotels.”

Boutique and lifestyle hotels outside New York offer similar sentiments. Kathleen Cullen, VP of revenue and distribution for Commune Hotels & Resorts, parent company of Thompson Hotels and Joie de Vivre Hotels, said most of Commune’s efforts are electronic these days.

“Boutique hotels may have more of a social media bent and the independence to develop last-minute booking offers,” she said.

Brian Gipson, director of sales and marketing for Carmel, California-based Carmel Valley Ranch, a Joie de Vivre Hotel, said his hotel focuses engagement on experiences indigenous to the region.

“Beekeeping, lavender harvesting, organic garden-to-table cooking classes and nature and fitness programming,” he suggested. “The personal connection to the property allows us to market to past guests and play on their emotional connection. And over slow periods, we then create new off-season opportunities to return and have them create new family traditions in a time of year where the pricing is at its best value.”

Gipson said the Carmel Valley Ranch’s efforts have proven extremely effective and recently led to the busiest December in the hotel’s 25-year history.

“We are firm believers in adding value and not dropping rates and playing the game that our resort is a commodity,” he said. “We believe the buying decision factor is not just on rate. We are as strategic as possible to prepare for the off season with PR, e-marketing, direct mail and we leverage our alliance partners of (American Express) Platinum Fine Hotels and Resorts, Virtuoso, Signature Travel and create additional values to these rich producing partners.

“Our experience has been to properly prepare, lay out the necessary actions and not knee jerk, which tends to lead to rates dropping which erodes our brand, ultimately the experience and our guest satisfaction.”

Bucking the trend
Stephane Mozziconacci, revenue director for The James Royal Palm in Miami, doesn’t believe that boutique hotels differ from traditional hotels in generating demand. He said the key for any hotel is to understand both domestic and international travel patterns.

“There is no gap between low or high demand periods in what we deliver to our guests,” he said.

Mozziconacci said that type of service translates to great online reviews, word-of-mouth marketing and social media mentions that are invaluable.

“Many hotels tend to focus on cutting costs curing low demand periods,” he said. “By focusing on money spent, hotels often make some of their first cuts in marketing. Alternatively, we choose to increase our marketing spend during slow periods and focus on the return rather than on the spend.

“We have consequently had great success by driving demand to our hotels through increased online advertising and web optimization,” he continued. “This strategy has allowed us to maintain our rate strategy and gain increased visibility to attract new consumers while simultaneously shifting share from our competitors.”

2/19/2013 2:49:00 PM
Great article on pricing strategy and ways to increase revenue at boutique hotels.
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