No more holiday blues
No more holiday blues
20 NOVEMBER 2018 8:10 AM

Here are some example hotel programs that can leverage wellness and food and beverage to liven up the guest experience during the holiday season.

The hotel industry traditionally slows in mid-November in anticipation of the holiday season.

Rather than slow down, we like to speed up the revenue stream by creating a friends-and-family rate structure and loads of activities that mimic resorts. Years ago, we started promoting the holiday season out of necessity as we were pacing well behind our November and December budgets. We aggressively pursued last-minute soccer team business by contacting all sports clubs within 100 miles for Thanksgiving weekend business and sent our local neighbors a great value rate that was well below our advance-purchase rate.

Our approach was to let them know that “their” friends and family were “our” friends as well, and the rate was good 16 November through 10 January, our anticipated soft period. When demand began to pick up, we created activities on-property and sprinkled in ideas for visitors using the local tourism calendar. We focused on three distinct areas: food, beverage and wellness. Today, this concept is even more successful as healthy foods and wellness programs are top-of-mind with many more travelers than 10 years ago. Here are some of the programs that were most successful and remain a hit.

Our chef put together a Thanksgiving Day brunch and nightly specials that differentiated us in terms of quality and value. While we broke even on the food each night, there was a buzz in the lobby of our small hotel coming from our bar. I love that buzz! Back in 2007, Westin offered a “SuperFoods” roomservice menu that included broccoli and oats in some dishes, and today, Holiday Inn has renewed their chocolate milk and cookies happy hour, appealing to families. The key is to appeal to a wide audience and promote the offerings.

Wellness kitchens are another trend. We should eat fresh fruits and vegetables, not processed foods, and consume healthier snacks during breaks. By and large, we do not pay attention to what we already should know. Let’s help travelers stay healthy! As you will see under beverage, there are many ways to combine food and beverage as well.

We created events such as a wine and chocolate tasting using a local chocolatier and a strong California winemaker and craft beer specials nightly. We created a bar atmosphere of both locals and hotel guests by aggressively promoting in-house and via our locals. The locals were excited to sign up to be on our mailing list as it gave them discounts on rooms, food and beverage, and made them seem like VIPs with their visitors. We continue to have beer and wine flights, appealing to those who want to taste something different, as well as beer and wine tastings, done strategically for both locals and elite-program guests.

The Ritz-Carlton in the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C., has “wellness rooms,” and many hotels are featuring “clean air, indoor and outdoor.” Air purification is measured by a wellness robot. It measures air quality and as one who has allergies to dust, smoke and other air quality irritants, I love clean air!

While the wellness craze is not quite as far along as food and beverage in popularity, you'd be amazed at how many runners would show up for a run or workout with the general manager. Each week, a schedule of GM runs or workouts was provided to guests--and this was at 6 a.m. Today, wellness includes meditation, stretching, unique workouts as well as the timeless running and a few of the concepts mentioned above.

Bottom line
Today, there are multiple ways we can communicate with our guests before, during and after their stay. We continue to communicate our activities year-round with guests willing to be on our mailing lists. Our properties are not resort hotels; they are not necessarily fancy and they range from 35 rooms to 300 rooms. The common ingredients are busy holiday periods and super-engaged GMs.

Here’s to a successful and enjoyable holiday season!

Robert A. Rauch, CHA is an internationally-recognized hotelier, Hotel Guru, CEO and founder of RAR Hospitality, a leading hospitality management and consulting firm based in San Diego. Rauch has over 35 years of hospitality-related management experience in all facets of the industry.

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