Delivering unique and memorable guest experiences and offers is helping put hotels in Australia’s gateway cities on travellers radars as international border closures force them to adjust their travel plans, says Ross Beardsell, Executive Vice President, Hotel Asset Management, JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group.
Not to be left behind as their regional counterparts’ race towards a recovery, city operators are “throwing out the rulebook”, to drive up occupancy as travellers take advantage of re-opened state borders in time for the festive holiday season.
“The hotel industry is doing a brilliant job coming out of domestic COVID border restrictions, but holiday season means it is definitely time to step it up,” Beardsell says. “Our conversations and collaborations with hotels are on another level now, and they are collaborating other industry experts, tourism operators, and even people outside of the industry to implement effective ideas to draw guests as traveller confidence recovers and limitations ease.”
Measures undertaken by city hotels include creating ‘cruise-inspired’ packages, such as the Mercure Resort Darwin Airport’s ‘SS Cossies Family Package’. This hotel throws kids’ board games, ten-pin bowling, dining vouchers and mocktails into a two-night stay in a family room.
The hotel also offers dedicated pet-friendly rooms for travellers who want to holiday with their pooch.
The Gold Coast’s Paradise Resort’s ‘Family Escape Package’ includes unlimited use of its on-site waterpark, ice skating passes and a food and drink voucher.
Other hotels are providing immersive cooking experiences – some even online to promote guest loyalty. Marriott Hotels & Resorts are offering a culinary documentary series to Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program members, taking them on a virtual food journey.
Delivering additional value
Expanding value-add offers from simply including breakfasts within standard room rates, to including car parking as well – particularly over the December-January holiday season – is becoming a popular strategy, says Vibhor Kalra, an asset management specialist in JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group.
“We are having conversations with many of our CBD hotel manager and operator clients about how they can make inclusive parking feasible, especially since it is typically charged as an extra cost to the guest,” says Kalra. “They are seeing this as a great opportunity to boost occupancy as they target guests within a four-hour driving radius, which in the short-term is exactly the right strategy.”
For example, Holiday Inn Sydney Airport is promoting a ‘breakfast and parking is on us offer, and more CBD hotels are expected to follow, especially over weekends and public holiday, Kalra adds.
Digital and marketing strategies are critical investments for hotels, which now have access to a potentially wider pool of guests who are adapting their holiday plans around the current landscape.
Digital efforts should reflect the expectations of this new cohort of traveller, as well as amplify the local experience, Kalra says.
“This is the time for hotels to get personal by marketing the experiences unique to their venue, – while also leveraging the hotel brand, – to a highly targeted data base, be it the corporate of leisure traveller,” Kalra says. “Marketing efforts and dollars should go towards updating websites, so they also promote local experiences, excursions, and even parking offers to give visitors a true sense of the experience they’ll be getting.”
Hotels can also improve their outlook by working with local tourism communities even more than they already may be. Joining up with local tourism operators on redemption offers and being able to leverage these operators’ marketing databases is also a way to tap into new customers.
State and Territory government voucher schemes which encourage people to spend in restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs in city locations, should also be taken advantage of.
“All city hotels, including select-service, mid-scale and luxury, have a huge opportunity to capture travellers who are looking to immerse their senses, or to discover – or re-discover – Australia’s vibrant metropolises,” Beardsell says. “Thinking creatively could make all the difference to their experience, their loyalty, and to a hotel’s recovery.”