Heads in Expensive Beds

I often visit Chicago for business (and pleasure), but this past trip was my first time staying at the incredible Ritz-Carlton.  As I ordered room service at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday night, I realized just how amazing it was to have a perfect medium-rare steak and a glass of Pinot Noir delivered straight to my feather-lined bed complete with a bud vase filled with my favorite flower.

My stay at the Ritz got me thinking about luxury hotels in general.  The pampering, the service, the food, the amenities and…the price.  Luxury hotels are downright expensive.  That’s a fact.  And it’s no surprise why these types of hotels took such a big hit when the economy tanked a few years ago.

USA Today published some startling statistics about hotel closures around this time last year, reporting several luxury hotel closings.  There was also a study released in early 2011 by the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University concluding that upscale hotels in the U.S. were worst affected by the 2008 financial crisis. But is that trend approaching a turnaround?  And what are luxury hotels doing to reverse it?

The Daily Deal
There is no doubt that Americans are still cautious when it comes to spending, which is why “daily deal” companies like Groupon, Living Social and YouSwoop have had such tremendous success.  And guess what?  Luxury hotels have jumped on that bandwagon!  Wise decision, if you ask me.  I’ve recently seen several deals via Living Social and Groupon for luxury hotel stays or vacations and I applaud hotel management for going that route.  Why?  Because it’s an excellent means for getting heads in expensive beds during this time of economic recovery.  Sure, these hotels are offering lower rates to those buying the deal, but it’s an effective way of introducing or re-introducing consumers to the idea of luxury in hopes that they will seek it out once the economy rebounds.

Social Media
Another way for luxury hotels to stay current and fresh in the minds of consumers is through social media, even though many people have pushed the idea of luxury vacations out of their minds temporarily.  Staying connected to the public through social media is key to maintaining interest over time.  By posting pictures of amenities, special offerings and new menu selections, the public is more aware of what’s out there and will establish a personal connection to a hotel brand.  It is important now – more than ever – for luxury hotels to stay fresh on the minds of consumers as the economy continues to show signs of improvement.

Media Relations
By marketing a destination and luxurious amenities, hoteliers will find that buzz built around the property will aid in putting heads in beds. Not only is it important to market the rooms, restaurant and bar, but also consider creating events that draw locals in … perhaps a wine tasting paired with farmer’s market finds for the summer? The more creative the event, the more exclusive, the larger the draw.

Just because you’re a luxury hotel, doesn’t mean you have to pay luxury prices for marketing tools that drive people to your property. With a little bit of creativty you can make communications tactics work for your property.