The economic slowdown was a nightmare for the global business community and especially the hospitality industry, everyone fighting to survive the impact. Customer retention became the buzz word. However this was in a way a big boom time for the few lucky ones who could still afford to travel for business and pleasure. As market demand shrunk due to tight travel budgets, hotels crammed to woe the travelers left, right and center. This period saw the advent of some very innovative and creative marketing offers by hotels across the globe. While different hotels adopted different strategies to retain guests and business, here are a couple of freebies that the hotels offered to its guests to attract them.
Free Limo Airport Pick-up
As you touch down at your destination airport, you were greeted in the arrival hall by the hotel's representative who helped you collect your baggage, and escorted you out where the hotel limo waited to take you to the hotel. There were even surprises in the limo services. You were offered a cold perfumed wet towel to freshen up, complimentary soft drink or water, shown the stack of newspapers and magazines and also offered a choice of music CD's for your listening pleasure. Luxury, they say has no limits.
Arrival Welcome Drink
Upon arrival at the hotel, you are again offered a welcome drink while you are checking in. This generally included a colorful mock tail, fresh juice or my favorite, fresh coconut water with a fresh red hibiscus flower smiling at you. Very welcoming!
In Room Freebies
Most hotels, including some top branded hotels offered a number of freebies to its guests in the room, like-
Fresh Fruits and Flowers
Choice of Freshly cut fruit platter that you could order from room service, compliments of the hotel.
Free soft drinks from the mini bar. Now this one had a catch. While the soft drinks were free, all alcoholic drinks was charged. However I must compliment the idea as it made the guest open the mini bar and get sold to the other chargeable stuff packed in it.
Free bottles of mineral water replaced daily.
Free platter of homemade cookies.
Free good night chocolate at bed time nicely placed on the pillow of your bed.
Free Newspaper which you got with your early morning tea, if you ordered it or it was left hanging with your door knob.
Free in room tea-coffee maker with different types of tea and coffee sachets, milk powder and sugar.
Free Luxury toiletries in the bath room which included soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, bubble bath and body lotion.
Complimentary hot breakfast buffet offering a huge variety of juices, fruits, preserves, breads, cold cuts, salads, dairy products, choice of eggs and a couple of hot local dishes and hot beverages . This freebie I feel, is the best part of the offer.
Free WiFi offered by many hotels on full or partial basis. You could use the lap top up to certain MB's free and beyond that you were charged. Alternatively some hotel allowed free use of their business center for 30 minutes a day, enough to scan through your mails.
Free Shoe Shine service offered by many hotels on the guest room floors.
A very thoughtful freebie that I experienced was when I got the offer of free ironing of a suit on the first day of arrival in a city hotel. So useful, as generally your suit gets crumpled in the suit case and you have to compromise wearing a crumpled suit on the day of arrival.
Now this one is a real spoiler. I think aimed at winning your personal loyalty. The hotel that offered me free ironing service had a surprise on departure. As I was settling my bill, I was approached by the lobby manager and asked about my stay which is normal in most luxury hotels. He then moved to the desk and offered me a gift wrapped plastic lunch box filled with chocolates and cookies for the kids back home. He also asked me what I generally preferred to drink at home, "wine" I said and he had another box with one piece of wine glass in crystal. What he told me next was a real stealer, "Sir, next time you stay with us do not forget to claim your second piece, and well if you stay here regularly, your bar could have a crystal glass set for wine, on the rocks and long drinks", that was some sales pitch.
The list of freebies is never ending. I remember hotels that offered "free open bar from 6 pm to 8 pm" every evening, not to mention the free give away. I have a pretty good collection of pen sets, key chains; initial embroidered his and her towels, personalized stationary, table clocks, think pads, leather wallets and chop sticks and so on. There is always a way you can pamper your guests, but the winner is the one who converts a need into a freebie, that is something that not only touches you but makes you stick to the brand and talk about it.
If the economic slowdown had a down side, the upside was that it made the hotels think out of the box, come up with great guest retention strategies and not only survive the adverse impact but to come out as market leaders.
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Ram Gupta is a professional hotelier with over four decades of experience in India, Far East, Middle East and Europe. A Member of Institute of Hospitality, U.K., he is also a Certified Hotel Administrator from U.S.A. He has worked for some of the best hotel chains and was associated with over two dozen hotel projects. He is now an independent consultant in the Industry. His web site can be viewed at www.bcgglobal.com and can be contacted at [email protected]
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