City-center hotels are revving up the creativity with family-oriented packages and special services. But, they have to take into the account the specific needs of families and make sure to address potential pain points.
GLOBAL REPORT—As the summer getaway season approaches and business travel tends to drop, city-center hotels are coming up with novel ways to make sure they get their fair share of family travel to boost occupancy.
One of the most effective tools these properties have is rolling out promotions to encourage "staycations.” But urban hotels need to ensure they properly accommodate families, including having the right room type available that is big enough to accommodate larger groups, offering easy access to parking and being able to get information quickly to guests if their plans change.
In March, the 247-room Conrad Indianapolis launched a promotion with the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. The facility has a new Sports Legends Experience, which includes 12 outside sports experiences and additional interactive exhibits. The hotel's Indy Sports Legends package includes overnight accommodations, a family four-pack of tickets to this special sports attraction and a $100 hotel credit toward stay incidentals, said Zachary Lockett, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.
"We think this could increase occupancy on weekends by about 10% and revenues by 50 roomnights," Lockett said. "It's important to be marketing to families, who are looking for new cultural experiences within a four-hour driving market. The challenge in attracting families is to make sure we do right by them pre-arrival and that we have all the necessary information about their family size and what they need."
For instance, Conrad Indianapolis prepares for families by placing them in double-double rooms rather than in king-bed accommodations. The property has a park-and-stay package, which reserves a parking spot for guests before they arrive, Lockett said. In addition, the hotel uses a messaging platform that allows guests to text hotel staff directly with special requests. This can be particularly helpful to parents, Lockett said, who might need to change something with their stay last minute to accommodate their children.
Being prepared for the unique needs of families is what has prompted the 261-room Kimpton Hotel Palomar in Chicago to launch its Baby Butler service, which will begin Memorial Day weekend, said GM Mary Perino-Fleming. The hotel will stock guestrooms with diapers, baby shampoo, baby wipes and other essential items for those traveling with infants and toddlers, she said. Although the guest will be charged for the actual items, there will be no charge for this service. The hotel also has children's welcome amenities.
"We want to be a wonderful retreat for families; this can help boost our weekend occupancy by 15%," Perino-Fleming said. "This means addressing the needs of our families and making sure we are making them comfortable and able to have a happy and easy stay."
The Kimpton Hotel Palomar also offers an option with a luxury suite and separate guestroom that can be closed off, giving parents a wing to themselves. Families often take advantage of this setup, Perino-Fleming said.
Urban hotels both domestically and overseas, which don't have built-in family activities like the beach, need to have more innovative programming and convenient amenities, said Mariano Cannello, director of business development-sales and marketing for the 417-room Hilton Buenos Aires. This property offers families a special Barbie-themed room, which features a life-sized Barbie Dream Camper. Kids can "drive," "cook," and host sleepovers in the camper. Guests also receive a Barbie doll upon arrival, and the room also features a Barbie-themed menu that includes in-room breakfast and tea time in the lobby with cake pops, mini macaroons and cookies.
The room, which features a pink door, has a deluxe connecting room—allowing parents, grandparents, or other family members to be nearby while the kids have the Barbie experience. This room will be available during all of 2018 and also includes specially-themed furniture, pillows, toys, movies and toiletries.
Guests can opt for the Barbie To Go menu for snacks like chocolate truffles and oatmeal cookies. In addition, the hotel offers a Sunday kids corner with games and activities for all families dining in the El Faro Restaurant for brunch.
"We want to ensure we're providing families with an experience that will fulfill the excitement of all generations," Cannello said.
The 182-room Cambria Hotel & Suites Washington, D.C. Convention Center seeks to create its own excitement for guests by offering a package with the International Spy Museum. The package is available throughout the week and helps drive occupancy during the slower times of summer and holidays when there are fewer business and convention guests, said Matt McClelland, EVP of operations and development at Concord Hospitality.
Last year, the total package rate was between 6% and 9% higher than the discounted transient rate and online third-party website rate, McClelland said.
As for the pain points with families, McClelland said there are higher operations costs because of the extra requests for room amenities from families.
"The best way to manage this type of business is to be proactive with the process, anticipate in advance, and be prepared," he said.