Not your average hotel deals
In this economy, the hotel industry is coming up with unusual promotions to try to lure guests: Stay a night, get a tattoo or rent a Porsche.
At the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, some guests get a $75 voucher that can be used for a massage at the spa. Other hotels are also offering limited-time promotions instead of cutting room rates.
By Hugo Martín
October 3, 2009
Hoping to keep its 119 rooms filled, Hotel Erwin on Venice Beach is offering an unusual promotion for its countercultural clientele: an Ink and Stay package that includes $100 toward a tattoo and a bottle of tequila to numb the pain.Down the coast at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego, guests who get the Hard Rock and a Hog deal can roll through the All-American City on a Harley Davidson motorcycle that comes complimentary with a two-night stay.
But for hotel perks, it's hard to beat the deal offered at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, where your stay comes with a free rental of a Mercedes, Porsche or BMW convertible.
As the U.S. hospitality industry struggles through one of the worst financial crises in more than 20 years, hotel managers are moving beyond the usual discounts and offering a wide range of creative promotions to attract business. Some deals offer big savings for guests, and others are simply meant to generate publicity.
If this all sounds desperate, it's for good reason. Occupancy rates nationwide have been hovering at below 60% this summer, the lowest levels since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Hotel revenue per available room has dropped nationwide by nearly 20% this summer, to less than $60, the steepest dive in 22 years, according to industry reports. Even worse, hotel analysts don't expect the industry to rebound until 2011 or later.
Experts blame the slump on a "perfect storm" of conditions, including the recession, an increase in new hotel openings in the last two years and a dramatic drop in business travel as corporations cut budgets.Promotions and package deals have long been a staple of the hotel industry, particularly during slow periods. But industry experts say more hotels are relying on them to survive the recession. Not only are the deals more common but many are more creative than ever before.
But special promotion packages that include free dog toys and discounted tattoos don't work as well on business travelers. John Mayberry, an executive with a San Marino engineering company who travels for business nearly 20 times a year, said limited-time discounts and gimmick deals don't appeal to him. When he travels, he said he looks for a low rate, free Internet and complimentary breakfast."The rest of that stuff is worthless to a business traveler," he said.
Hotel managers defend such promotions, saying extreme tactics are needed to keep hotels open and workers employed."We don't feel like we gave away the farm, but we felt like desperate times call for desperate measures," said Marc Loge, a spokesman for the Wilshire Grand Los Angeles, who added that the Beat the Heat deal helped increase occupancy by about 10% this summer.At the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, general manager Bill Doak said discounts and special packages, such as the Grrreen Dog Package for pet owners and the Rejuvenation, Restoration deal that includes a $75 voucher toward a massage, accounted for about 20% of guest sales in the last year."
Everybody is out to save money," he said. "We need to respond to that if we want to stay in business."
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