Are we guilty of succumbing to these gimmicky PR stunts by writing about them here? Guilty as charged. But as outlandish or strange as some of these things may sound, they do speak to some bigger trends we're seeing in hospitality. Promise.
Here at Skift, we receive a ton of press releases hawking the latest big things in travel, stretching from mundane renovation announcements to breaking merger news, and everything in between. And sometimes, those releases in the in between make us wonder ‘why?,’ and not always in the best sense of the word.
Hotels, in particular, are a popular source for interesting initiatives and promotions. In the past few days, we’ve seen a handful of new hotel promotions and concepts that seemed to make little sense, at first. Some continue to make little sense at second and third glance, too, but others speak to larger trends or shifts in the industry.
Here’s a quick look at just a few of those ideas:
The Pitch: “Take A VR Shower with Rob Riggle – Seriously!”
Translation: As part of its “Stay Smart” campaign, InterContinental Hotels Group’s Holiday Inn Express brand hired actor Rob Riggle to be its creative director, and as such, they cast him in a virtual reality (VR) video that showcases the hotel’s “power shower.” The 360-degree video has Riggle clad in a bright yellow rain coat and it transforms into VR when viewed using Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, or Samsung Gear VR. The video will be promoted in a paid social media campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Why This Matters: If the thought of standing in a virtual shower with Rob Riggle doesn’t necessarily pique your interest, you’re not alone. Still, this video speaks to the larger VR trend that we’ve been seeing throughout the travel industry and other industries as well. By 2020, VR is expected to encompass a $150 billion industry unto itself. While most travel and hospitality VR campaigns have tended to be more cinematic or dramatic in their scope, this one aims to make you laugh, as well as highlight a very specific part of the guest room experience.
Note: For the full 360-degree video effect on your mobile device, it’s best to open the video via the YouTube app or use the Google Chrome browser.
The Pitch: “Marriott Rewards Announces Cast Members of Friday Night Lights to Reunite to Race as part of Global Spartan Race Sponsorship”
Translation: If You’re a Marriott Rewards member, there’s a chance you could compete in the Chicago Spartan Race alongside your favorite cast members from a TV show that ended five years ago.
Why This Matters: Beyond appealing to fans of a perennially under-appreciated TV drama (“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!”) and hard-core fitness enthusiasts, this promotion from Marriott Rewards speaks to a larger trend: that of hotel loyalty programs doubling down, full force, on one-of-a-kind, unique experiences for their members.
While this isn’t an entirely new trend, it’s an especially prominent one, and Marriott Rewards, in particular, is on a charm offensive at the moment, in the hopes that it can appeal to hesitant members of Starwood’s Preferred Guest program (SPG).
Another bigger trend this promotion speaks to is that of wellness. Today’s hotel guests want more than just a nice gym when they travel; for them, health and wellness is part of their lives 24/7, and the growing popularity of obstacle courses like the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder holds tremendous appeal.
The Pitch: “The LINQ Hotel & Casino Offers First Bunk Rooms on the Las Vegas Strip Just in Time for Summer”
Translation: The LINQ Hotel & Casino from Caesars Entertainment knows that leisure groups are traveling en masse to Vegas and trying to cram as many people in one room to save on money. So why not accommodate them by providing them a 350-square-foot room with two queen-size beds and one twin bunk bed to ostensibly fit five people for only $69 a night?
Why This Matters: Bunk bed rooms aren’t an entirely new concept in hospitality but it’s refreshing to see a major Vegas hotel understand that when groups of young, cash-strapped Millennials travel to Vegas, they want to stick together and save money at the same time. It’s also an interesting response to alternative accommodations providers like Airbnb and HomeAway who are attracting groups to stay off the Strip in listings that can accommodate larger groups of travelers.
The Pitch: “W Hotels Worldwide Unveils W Sound Suites”
Translation: The W Bali – Seminyak now has a private music studio and writer’s room perfect for professional recording artists, musicians, producers, and people who fancy themselves to be those things, so they can record their music on the road without having to seek out an expensive studio rental. Expect more of these suites at the W hotels in Hollywood, Barcelona, and Seattle in the near future. W Hotels worked with DJ White Shadow (yes, that’s his name), its North American Music Director, to pick out the absolute best sound equipment and layout for each of the studios.
Why This Matters: It’s clear that W Hotels is positioning itself to be the hotel of choice for the creative set, and as the Marriott-Starwood deal approaches its close, it’s more imperative than ever for brands like W to give themselves distinct, individual brand identities. Over the years, the W brand has evolved, too, and appealing to musicians and fashion designers (W also has a partnership with the Council of Fashion Designers of America) is a big part of that brand evolution.
Music, in particular, is something many hotel brands, from Hard Rock and Hilton to Marriott and Starwood, are all tapping into, primarily as a way to engage with and reward guests through special experiences.
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Photo credit: To promote its "Power Shower," Holiday Inn Express put together a virtual reality video campaign on social media, starring actor Rob Riggle. Holiday Inn Express