With the flexibility to experiment with novel promotions to boost occupancies, independents will offer guest experiences in 2018 that center on events and activities in their cities and that cater to different guest demographics.
REPORT FROM THE U.S. – For boutique hotels, 2018 is the year of unique sales-and-marketing promotions, according to sources.
The 215-room Kinzie Hotel in Chicago is looking to 2018 as a year to offer all kinds of sales and marketing promotions. These include a New Year’s Eve package with a “recovery kit,” other holiday promotions that will offer a liquor/specialty drink cart brought to guests’ rooms during their stays, packages during different area festivals and even going back to basics with a direct mail campaign targeting residents in six area apartment buildings who may want to house visiting friends or family at the property at a discounted rate.
“As an independent, we can more easily create and try out new and unique experiences for our guests centered around the city and holidays,” said Jill Farley, director of sales and marketing at Portfolio Hotels & Resorts, which manages the Kinzie. “We can offer something cool that guests can post on Facebook and tell everyone about.”
Marketing flexibility, personalized efforts
Independent properties like The Kinzie Hotel have fewer constraints than branded hotels when it comes to launching new promotions to attract additional guests, sources said. For next year, many of these hotels will be gearing their sales-and-marketing programs around holiday times, different niches of guests and special events in their cities that really showcase their individual markets. They also will partner with local retail companies to deliver value-added products and services for their guests.
Aside from marketing flexibility, next year also will be the year of personalization for individual travelers and groups, according to Erin Fitzharris, corporate director of Hersha Hospitality Management’s independent hotel portfolio. She oversees the 22 independent hotels that are part of the company’s 125-property inventory.
“If we know you are traveling with a family, we will have something for your kids before you arrive,” she said. “If you have a pet, we will have a (pet) amenity waiting for you.”
The 127-room Ellis Hotel in Atlanta will continue to target its promotional initiatives toward special segments of guests and will add new nuances to these programs in 2018. For instance, the hotel will debut 50-minute in-room massages in January, trying to even further appeal to health-conscious guests, said Tom LaVaccare, director of sales and marketing at the hotel.
The Ellis already offers a “Fresh Air Floor,” which is a private-access floor engineered to improve sleep quality, reduce allergens and minimize irritants. The property also has a wellness room, sold at a $40-per-night premium, which features $5,000 in special wellness products and furnishings. These include a magnetic bed to promote better sleep, special lighting that provides the benefits of sunlight without the harmful UV rays and a water purification system.
“As the only independent left in downtown Atlanta, we can be different,” LaVaccare said. “We don’t have to abide by brand rules.”
The Ellis also features a women’s only floor, and will be providing cosmetic bags with beauty products to guests as a special gift at check-in, he said. This floor, which has 10 rooms, brought in eight extra points in occupancy in 2017 alone, he said. The hotel will use email to inform its repeat guests to tell them about its special promotions.
Digital marketing, partnerships
The 393-room Stanford Court Hotel in San Francisco is also working on the digital marketing trend in 2018 and will be adding video to its promotional efforts, said Luz Chatman, director of sales and marketing at the Stanford Court Hotel. In addition, the hotel will partner with local companies to offer special packages. For instance, the hotel will sell a package that will have free sunglasses from a popular manufacturer of eye glasses. There also will be a weekend package that includes the use of a high-end electric bike for guests who want to see the city by bicycle.
“Our guests are looking for non-cookie cutter experiences that are authentic and very local in nature,” Chatman said.
The five independent properties that comprise the Inns of Monterey in California will also be partnering with local companies to create new guest experiences, said Sue Dreyer, director of e-commerce and marketing at the Inns. For instance, the hotels, which range in size from 32 rooms to 163 rooms, will be giving tickets away to the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as part of a photo contest promotion.
The 114-room Ames Boston Hotel will literally be partnering with the city itself, as part of its “Find Your Boston” packages. The five new packages to be offered in 2018 will have themes such as sports, the arts and eating, and will include tours of the area’s sports arenas show tickets and reservation to top, sought-after restaurants, said Efren Aponte, director of sales and marketing at Ames Boston.
“It will all be about experience marketing that showcases the city at the same time,” he said.
Marketing unique experiences
While independents can offer unique promotion, some of these properties are original even before they get to the sales and marketing table. For example, the 162-room Art Ovation Hotel, opening in Sarasota, Florida, in January, will feature an artists-in-residence program, rotating art collections, VIP packages with access to area events, gallery spaces and art curators. As a way to be active in the community, Art Ovation will also include artwork by local middle and high school students, said Asa Thomas, director of sales at the hotel.
The hotel plans to feature different kinds of weekend packages during its inaugural year. For instance, the “Exactly like nothing else” package will include breakfast, a photo shoot, a sailboat trip and a picnic lunch.
“We can offer a different kind of experience for guests that they can talk about afterwards,” Thomas said. “We have the ability to provide something out of the box.”