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How to offer luxury hotel packages without diluting the brandBy Rachel Lamb
Packages and promotions from luxury hotel brands are fairly common, but some make the mistake of slashing prices in an attempt to hook guests, a tactic that could dilute a brand’s integrity.
Instead, tying promotions to events and emphasizing indulgence and luxury are ways that brands can use packages to their advantage. After all, special packages from luxury brands are a great way to garner buzz, attention and extra bookings, according to experts.
“The days of people being horrified or embarrassed by a discount are long gone,” said Matt Egan, strategy director at Siegel+Gale, New York. “Even luxury consumers are proud of the deals they get, and they are sharing them and discussing them like never before.
“This, of course, is a double-edged sword, because while luxury hotels can and should create sales promotions, they need to be extremely wary about diluting their brand equity,” he said. “The successful luxury promotion is not about saving money, it is about getting more – more luxury, more indulgence, more unique experiences.
“If there is a discount to be found, it should always be secondary to the added value the promotion is offering, such as extra nights or extra services.”
Luxury hotel brands are offering packages for a variety of reasons. One is for surrounding events.
For example, Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ St. Regis enticed its loyalty members interested in Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th anniversary on the throne and London culture with a curated four-night experience.
The Lanesborough, a St. Regis hotel, offered a Diamond Jubilee package June 2-5 under its Aficionado membership program. Guests were able to view the Royal Carriage Procession to St. Paul’s Cathedral from a hospitality suite (see story).
Meanwhile, some luxury brands choose property-specific packages to draw attention to specific amenities.
For example, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa pushed the Essence of Ojai that used the seven different lavender plants grown on-site to draw guests during the summer months (see story).
Some brands are targeting specific groups of people.
For example, members-only travel network Virtuoso is toting packages from Armani Hotel Milano, Castello di Casole, Mandarin Oriental in Paris and The St. Regis Bal Harbour that cater to couples (see story).
Mandarin Oriental, Paris spa
“It is important to take the time to consider both your brand and your audience,” said Taylor Rains, account coordinator at Rawle Murdy Associates Inc., Charleston, SC. “While packages and promotions are certainly capable of drawing in new visitors, they should primarily be designed to retarget existing consumers.
“Luxury hotels must understand their market and how their consumers view the brand,” he said. “Developing packages consistent with the brand identity and aimed at retargeting existing consumers will promote increased foot traffic and minimize risk to luxury brand equity.”
However, some brands do offer discounts for their services.
For example, The Peninsula Hotels is aiming at families with children in its new initiative to offer room and food discounts and property-specific cultural youth programs. This package includes a 50-percent-slash off adjoining rooms and complimentary meals (see story).
“While promotions do run the risk of diluting the luxury association with a given hotel, brands can minimize the risk by marketing them in such a way that maintains the integrity of luxury,” Mr. Rains said.
“This consumer base is characterized by extreme brand loyalty,” he said. “Positioning packages and discounts as something specially designed to reward loyal consumers is one strategy that continues to prove successful for luxury hotels.”
For instance, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts is enticing consumers on its email list to book summer travel by giving a free night or hotel credit in New York, Miami, Hawaii or Cairo (see story).
Four Seasons email
Since email is an opt-in channel, it is plausible to believe that those who subscribe are already Four Seasons loyalists, or at least previous guests. Therefore, this could be Four Seasons’ way of thanking consumers who it knows are highly likely to stay at a property again.
Nonetheless, hotel packages should always highlight certain amenities so that consumers can learn about what the property has to offer, no matter if they decide to book or not.
“Beyond driving sales around a particular season or event, packages can help to promote different hotel amenities,” Siegel+Gale’s Mr. Egan said. “They can also deliver clear suitability messaging to specific target audiences.
“A ‘pampered pet’ package, for example, not only showcases a hotel’s pet-friendly amenities, it lets people know that they and their pet will be fully embraced by hotel staff,” he said.
Rachel Lamb, associate reporter on Luxury Daily, New York
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