Hotels use exclusive extras to build image, bookings
 
Hotels use exclusive extras to build image, bookings
09 SEPTEMBER 2016 6:52 AM

Creating packages of extras for guests provides them with the unique experiences they want and will never forget.

GLOBAL REPORT—The very word “Hamilton” has become associated with exclusivity, because the wild success of the Broadway show has made tickets very difficult to get. That’s why the Conrad Chicago decided to jump on the phenomenon even before the show came to the Windy City as part of the first national tour in a classic example of a hotel seeking to one-up competition with an exclusive benefit at a time when “experiences” have become key to marketing success.

A look at the Conrad package and several other promotions promising some kind of exclusive access demonstrate that it’s all about forming the right partnerships, creating the ideal message and targeting the optimal market. And, interestingly, the packages could pay off even if nobody buys one.

Aside from trying to gain an advantage over competitors, the Conrad is aiming to have guests try its newly redone premium suites. The “Hamilton” package includes two show tickets, a $150 voucher to the Conrad’s restaurant, and an overnight stay for two in a premium suite. Gordon Taylor III, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, said simple packages created around unique experiences are often the most effective.

“Don’t overcomplicate things,” he said. “Is there an audience that has an appetite for what you are offering? Who is that audience, and how do you get the messaging to them? Will anyone care? What are you giving them that they can’t simply go direct and get? With our ‘Hamilton’ package, the show is sold out in Chicago through March. We not only give you two tickets but curate an entire experience you will never forget.”

Taylor said what makes the package work for the hotel is “the attention of powerful social media channels” which can make the promotion successful “even if not one person books it.”

“I know that sounds nuts, but if you put extreme thought and feeling into your decision when putting together a spectacular package and do something no one else has thought of, you can garner more exposure than spending thousands on advertising,” he said.

Taylor said hotel packages should build the property’s image and be time-sensitive, if possible.

“By offering an enticing and timely package, we are already connecting with future guests now and giving them precisely what they desire,” he said.

Finding the right partnerships
To attain its own style of exclusivity, Preferred Hotels & Resorts launched a double partnership for four of its London hotels with car manufacturer Rolls-Royce and Smythson, a venerable London merchant of luxury leather goods. Guests who book two nights or more in a suite at one of the four Preferred London hotels enjoy a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce Ghost for up to three hours, a Smythson Panama currency case that can be personalized, complimentary breakfast and a welcome amenity.

Philipp Weghmann, Preferred’s EVP of Europe, said offering such a package provides a number of benefits, including strong brand affiliation with two other iconic luxury United Kingdom brands. But Preferred does not pay Rolls-Royce or Smythson and there is no barter involved.

“Preferred works with Lawson Luxury (a marketing firm) which is helping us facilitate and confirm these partnerships, but no funds exchange hands between our three brands,” Weghmann said. “These brands endorse us and we endorse them because we are all on the same level of luxury.”

Through its “Just For You” program, The Hôtel Metropole Monte-Carlo in Monaco, France, seeks to secure exclusive experiences through destination partners or contacts that the property already has a relationship with. There is no cost or barter associated with the partnerships; instead the program benefits both parties because the hotel is able to offer guests a unique experience and in turn, the partners gain a new audience for their services.

For instance, since the Grand Prix is such a notable highlight in Monaco, the hotel wanted to provide guests with an alternative way to enjoy that experience. Marketers created the “Get Dizzy with Speed” promotion where guests can see what it’s like to drive a real Formula One racecar around a professional track. To develop this program, the hotel team searched for a company that could offer a professional racing experience to amateur guests.

Other “Just For You” programs are based on the Metropole team’s relationships with other members of the Monaco community. For instance, a behind-the-scenes experience at Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo is the result of leveraging their contact network to provide this service to guests.

More unique offerings
The Temple House in Chengdu, China, celebrated its first anniversary with a package in collaboration with an iconic London bookshop, Heywood Hill. Keeping with the tradition of giving a gift of paper for a one-year anniversary, hotel guests who book an anniversary package will find a hand-selected Heywood Hill collection book in their rooms. Charlotte Merritt, Heywood Hills’ Hong Kong-based bookseller-at-large, even visited the hotel and participated in private talks and one-on-one sessions about new ways to appreciate reading and collecting books.

“We’re very strategic in the partnerships we secure,” Temple House GM Kurt Macher said. “For us, we only work with brands indicative of the level of luxury our guests are seeking and I think that’s certainly what other hotels should be thinking about as well.”

Again, it’s the perception of the partnership that is as important, if not more important, than any bookings or revenues.

“When guests see that we’re offering opportunities for them to experience their favorite brands while staying at The Temple House,” Macher said, “and that we secure a variety of pop-up collaborations, from test-driving a Tesla to a special Valentine’s Day-themed gift and shopping experience at Agent Provocateur (an upscale clothing brand), they want to come back to us to see what’s next and in turn are more likely to become a repeat guest.”

He added that such packages and offerings are the best way to separate a luxury property or brand from competitors in the segment.

“We strive to be different and partner with brands that have similar DNAs,” Macher said. “It is important for us to continue to collaborate with fashion brands, wine makers, artists and influencers to provide exclusive lifestyle offerings to our House guests. Such partnerships allow us to bring different aspects to the hotels, since we simply don’t want to be a normal hotel but a House that enriches the lives of our guests. Both we and our partners benefit from these collaborations.”

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