On a recent afternoon, the hotel’s general manager, Dieter Hissin, led me downstairs past the hotel’s iconic attractions and into an aging ballroom. “That’s where they filmed the scene from the movie ‘Top Gun’,” he explains. “You know, where Tom Cruise sings ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ to Kelly McGillis.”
The Lafayette, which is in the midst of a top-to-bottom renovation, is restoring the bar just in time for the release of a “Top Gun” sequel in May. Hissin says the time has come to bring ’80s-loving tourists back to Lafayette.
He’s not the only hotel general manager wondering how to keep travelers coming back.
“Hotels are getting creative,” says Jennifer Dohm, spokesperson for Hotels.com. As resorts move into the summer travel season, they’re adding new room experiences, introducing promotional rates and waiving fees.
There’s a reason for the creativity: The past two years have been tough for hotels, with many travelers opting for staycations and vacation rentals over more traditional accommodations. Hotels that cater to business travelers have suffered the most and are eyeing 2022 as a way to accelerate their recovery.
“For hotels, marketing promotions are a proven way to attract customers,” says Amanda Belarmino, assistant professor at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. “Many hotels have used the closures as an opportunity to renovate their properties, and many of those properties are seeing the benefits of these changes.”
The marketing people know they can’t turn you into a guest without first getting your attention. If a new look, new attraction, or new gear does, then they’re ready to give it a try.
the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles last year unveiled recent renovations, which cost $2.5 billion. Everything at the Fairmont, except perhaps the modernist facade, is new. He cut the number of rooms roughly in half, to 400, added a new spa and opened Lumière Brasserie, a French restaurant. The hotel’s owners hope to make it the hottest property in Los Angeles as the pandemic abates, and they see this summer as an opportunity to recapture its glory days. It’s a tall order, but a few billion dollars definitely puts the Fairmont in the running.
theHamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club Bermuda has traditionally considered itself an oasis for travelers in search of culture; it features around 300 original works of art by artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Pablo Picasso. Last year, the hotel has taken it up a notch, offering a art inspiration package which includes a private tour of the hotel’s collection, plus art-inspired amenities and passes to the National Gallery of Bermuda. Executives hope these packages will inspire more visitors as travel resumes.
CitizenM, the Netherlands-based boutique hotel chain that opened its first Los Angeles property on August 23, hired a curator to add original artwork to its rooms and marked its opening with an exhibition of local photographer Corinne Schiavone, whose images appeared on the hotel’s facade. Not to be outdone, the hypermodern Dream Hollywood the hotel, in collaboration with the Crypt Gallery, unveiled an NFT (non-fungible token) art gallery in August – the hotel has a huge wall of screens in its lobby – showcasing works by some of LA’s top digital artists.
Other properties looking to increase their appeal are looking back rather than forward. At the end of last year, the alexandrine, a luxury hotel in Alexandria, Va., has launched a package that allows guests to book an evening at its Carlyle Suite and be treated like 1920s royalty. There’s a car with a private driver, monogrammed bathrobes and sparkling wine on ice. There’s also a VIP dining experience in the Cocktail Garden with a custom tasting menu from its on-site restaurant, King & Rye. Rates start at $5,000 a night.
Will these gambits work? Maybe, maybe not.
Ultimately, good customer service is the backbone of hotels, no matter what new things they offer returning travelers. Guests like Kristen Bello have noticed some changes to their hotel experiences, such as improved cleaning protocols and countless promises to keep rooms “covid clean.” But that’s about it, says retired teacher from Raleigh, NC
“I haven’t seen anything yet that would make me think that hotels are trying to gain my business,” she says.
Hotels know they can’t just offer a glitzy weekend package and expect travelers like Bello to overlook poor service. We are about to find out if all the effort was worth it.
Prospective travelers should consider local and national public health guidelines regarding the pandemic before planning any travel. Information on travel health advice can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and the CDCs travel health advice web page.