How Ordinary Hotels Can Offer Extraordinary Experiences

Family Fireworks

As an hotelier you’ve probably noticed the growing emphasis on hotels providing unique experiences in order to stand out in an increasingly competitive market. While some properties are extraordinary experiences in themselves — like Bolivia’s Palacio de Sal, which is made of salt, and Free Spirit Spheres, which accommodates guests in orbs suspended high in the treetops on Canada’s Vancouver Island — more and more luxury hotels are reinforcing their brand by offering exclusive excursions.
Four Seasons’ “Extraordinary Experiences” offers a vast menu of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, including a private performance of Don Giovanni at the luxurious Estates Theatre with a stay at Four Seasons Hotel Prague, and a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon for a spectacular private picnic lunch with a room at the Four Seasons Las Vegas. The Peninsula Chicago is offering guests VIP access to Chicago experiences through their new Keys to the City program — like a “fast pass” to skip the queue for the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, and an exclusive culinary experience at notable restaurant Grace.
But you don’t have to be made of money (or salt) to offer guests an extraordinary experience. Any property can stand out from their competitive set by tailoring local experiences that help guests enjoy their trip to the fullest.
In a recent blog post, Not Just a Pretty Room: Selling an Experience, we wrote about why and how hotels are incorporating experiential elements to create and sell stay experiences that are more than just a room. We mentioned packaging local activities with accommodation — a strategy more and more lodging operators are employing to stand out from their competitors and earn loyal customers.
In this post, we dig a little deeper into how any property can incorporate local activities to offer guests an extraordinary stay experience…

Identify relevant experiences

It’s important to choose experiences that are relevant to your guests and your brand. While the idea of a private helicopter flight to a spectacular canyon-rim picnic might appeal to almost anyone, such an elite excursion is beyond the budget and expectations of a typical 3-star motel guest.
Identify the travel motivations of your guests and the activities they partake in during their stay. Families looking to spend some fun quality time together might be drawn to the nearby waterpark, couples looking for a romantic retreat might enjoy your stunning local scenery on horseback, and business travelers might often ask about nearby spa services. Experiences that are unique to your destination can attract travelers across segments.
Once you have identified relevant experiences, think about how they can be incorporated into your offerings to provide added value to your guests. This is where forming partnerships with activity operators is key (read on).

Form partnerships

For most properties, the ability to package local activities and experiences depends on establishing relationships with other local businesses. Unless you run a stay-and-play enterprise like a dude ranch, fishing lodge or a beach resort, lodging providers typically choose to outsource tours and activities.
In addition to local tour and activity operators, consider reaching out to restaurants, museums, galleries, theme parks, spas, event organizers and the like. City tours, outdoor adventures, culinary experiences, attraction tickets or spa treatments are all ways to turn a standard hotel stay experience into an extraordinary one.
Forming partnerships with local businesses reaps mutual benefits. When businesses work together to provide value to customers, both parties achieve expanded reach across valuable markets.
Through discounted access to activities, a hotel can provide added value that incentivizes guests to choose the hotel over its competitors. To sweeten the deal even more, hotels can offer guests curated experiences that aren’t available to the general public. For example, imagine partnering with a local surf school to offer guests discounted surfing lessons. In addition to a standard lesson that the surf school might offer to the public, your guests also enjoy a free post-lesson drink at your bar or the local beach bar to celebrate their success in the sea.
Work with your partners to establish the best way to combine your offerings and don’t be afraid to get creative.

Promote experiences

Offering guests activities is a strategy that not only works to create memorable stays that turn guests into loyal customers and advocates — it’s also a great promotional opportunity.
Promoting added experiences (especially curated experiences that no-one else is offering) that align with guests’ motivations helps build a property’s image, even if nobody books the package! The offer itself speaks volumes for the property’s commitment to guest satisfaction and its involvement in the local community. So promote activity packages across offline and online channels, especially on your website and on social media.

Manage bookings

Extraordinary experiences are supported by flexible, intuitive booking systems that make managing and booking activities with accommodation easy.
Whether activities are pre-packaged with accommodation or available to guests as optional add-ons, a reservation system that integrates room and activity bookings through flexible package management, a user-friendly direct booking process, and comprehensive invoicing and reporting is key to efficiently managing activities alongside accommodation.
Make sure your reservation system provides the tools to manage, track and sell stay-and-play packages or separate activity bookings to prevent an extraordinary stay experience from turning into a frustrating one for you and your guests.
The “experience” trend is gaining momentum across all hotel categories, not just luxury properties. Offering activities is a practical and effective way for hotels to distinguish themselves through unique stay experiences, especially when those experiences are thoughtfully and appropriately curated for guests.