Recently I was fortunate enough to take a second trip to Nicaragua, in what I hope becomes an annual tradition. The trip was amazing, relaxing, thought-provoking and everything I’d hoped for (more to come on the emerging Central America travel trend in a separate post).
Throughout this trip, I also had my professional PR wits about me, constantly on the lookout for new concepts, trends and ideas to apply to the travel PR and marketing world. Here’s my top five:
1. $1 donation per hotel guest for a good cause
In one of our hotel rooms I found a brilliant table tent explaining all guests incur a $1 donation to go toward a collaborative relief fund that helps area hotels shelter and care for locals in the event of a natural disaster. You can ask to remove the donation…but really, who will?
I love this concept from a corporate social responsibility perspective. It enables the hotel to easily collect donations daily, which turns into significant funds over time to support a cause or non-profit of their choice. This venture can be spotlighted in messaging as a feel-good perspective, and what the property does with the funds is additional PR and marketing gold.
Beyond the giant check, perhaps it’s put toward an annual fundraising event produced by the hotel (donations begetting donations), or maybe it’s used to cover the cost of rooms for a once-in-a-lifetime trip for those in need. Perhaps it’s donated to a local non-profit tourism destination such as the zoo (animals are a good photo opp). Endless ideas!
Disclaimer: not all guests will be on board with this, so ensure it is clearly communicated prior to check-out so there are no surprises, or consider an opt-in versus opt-out model. Plus, ensure you’re adhering to any state or local regulations regarding donation charges where applicable.
2. Childcare options via the hotel
We all know couples, especially those in more affluent demographics, are having children later in life when they are more established. This has created a swath of traveling parents with money they’re ready and willing to part with, but are often precluded to do so by the lack of easy childcare options while vacationing. If you’ve ever been stuck in a hotel room from 7:30 p.m. on because it was junior’s bedtime, I know you feel me!
There’s an opportunity for properties to cater to traveling parents by providing childcare options; this can certainly tip the scale when making a booking choice. I was fortunate the resort we stayed at offered all day childcare with a pool and play area of its own, but obviously not all properties are equipped for that.
At minimum, hotels should considering having a go-to referral for an on-call babysitting service they have vetted (and list this on their website). Taking it a step further, explore entities in your area who offer occasional “kid’s nights,” such as a local science museum, YMCA, etc. Perhaps coordinate a parent’s night/kid’s night weekend getaway and push it to families in feeder markets. Or, what about designating an unused, out-of-the-way space in the hotel as a “rec room” accessible for any parents who have approved babysitters coming on property (it can be awkward to stick a sitter in a tiny room with two beds, a TV and your kid).
3. Arrival snacks to showcase the region
Who doesn’t love the freebie fruit plate waiting in the room or the turn-down service chocolate nestled on their pillow? In Nicaragua, our resort room was refreshed daily with four complimentary little snack packs bearing typical foods from the region.
As a firm who does a great deal of food PR, the opportunity is ripe for hotels and packaged good brands to partner together by distributing sample sized items to guests – not big enough to cannibalize the mini bar sales, just a small taste and in-room arrival perk that goes a long way on the classy factor. Obviously the food product would need to be a brand match and ideally something that helps reinforce the hotel’s messaging, whether it’s a food special to the city/region, or has some quality the jives with the hotel vibe.
Food companies are eager to sample target audiences, and hotels are eager to provide simple perks to guests at no extra cost. Win-win.
4. Area voluntarism
For properties in developing nations where visitors are often inspired to give back, consider promoting these opportunities via your website and guest communications prior to their arrival. While guests aren’t booking for a full blown “volunteer vacation,” they might be interested in pitching in for a few hours to a local organization with ongoing needs, or bringing with them some much needed supplies to hand off.
While in Nicaragua I Googled around for volunteer opps and noted one organization asking Westerners to bring with them medical and school supplies if they could – the organization would coordinate the supplies and baggage fee, they literally just needed someone to help with the physical transport to the remote region. Had I been organized and researched this prior to departure, I would have been all. over. it.
Calling attention to opportunities like this for guests, even if they don’t choose to participate, can go along way on the brand feel-good factor while also supporting the local community.
5. Organized multi-property events
The region I stayed near, San Juan del Sur, has a pub crawl every Sunday produced by local organizers. Some hundred young-ish bathing suit-clad travelers show up each week for a day of revelry, which progresses throughout the town via bus, stopping at all the hotel bar and restaurant hot spots along the way.
Collaboration can be key for up and coming destinations looking to draw visitors and give them plenty to do. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other properties and like-minded local entities to see what you can offer as an interesting collective experience or package that’s used to market the destination on the whole. It’s also a great way to get visitors onto your property, who otherwise may have never stepped foot through the door – maybe next time they’ll choose you, or at least spread the word to their friends by throwing up a location tagged-selfie on social media.
Over and out. Happy brainstorming!