A Hotel Marketing Director's Best Friend... Location, Location, Location!

By Todd D. Scholl Director of Sales and Marketing, The Peabody Little Rock | October 28, 2008

The city is Little Rock, Arkansas. The catalyst for an unprecedented Little Rock tourism boom is a library. Known in Little Rock as the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park. It is an attraction unique to the presidential library system, because it's not an attraction at all; it's a destination. The Peabody Little Rock, which opened a few years before is the bookend to this National Treasure. The meat in this sandwich is the wonderful River Market District, which is very pedestrian friendly and connected by a wonderful trolley system that is a throwback to days gone by. The triple treat of the Peabody Little Rock, William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park and the River Market District have placed "La Petite Roche" in the hearts and minds of both meeting planners and leisure travelers alike signaling a new age of tourism in what is being described as the "New South".

Opened on November 18, 2004 in front of four American Presidents, rock stars, celebrities and 25,000 friends and fans, the Clinton Presidential Center brought the national spotlight to Little Rock. From Entertainment Tonight to national nightly news broadcasts Little Rock was front and center. And the city was ready, showcasing its wonderful new River Market District, its beautiful Arkansas River scenery, historic Little Rock Central High School and a metropolitan array of restaurants, museums, galleries and nightlife. Today, hundreds of thousands of visitors are flocking to one of the hottest destinations in America. One exciting side benefit for visitors to Little Rock is the occasional sighting of #42, President Clinton himself. "The president is in Little Rock once or twice a month," said Skip Ruther, Dean of the Clinton School of Public Service, "and when he's here he likes to stop and greet the people."

That's the thing about this presidential library - just like President Clinton himself, it's all about the people. Anchoring the east end of the thriving River Market District, the Clinton Center is also easy to get to - it's right off Interstate 30, a byway between Memphis and Dallas, with signs directing motorists to two easy exits. "It really exceeds expectations of what visitors think of presidential libraries," Rutherford said. "President Clinton wanted his library to reflect the history he lived. He wanted visitors to be able use modern technology to experience his presidency through interactive kiosks, videos and elaborate exhibits."

The excitement surrounding the project spawned other development as well including the Peabody Little Rock. In fact, more than $1 billion has been invested in Little Rock's downtown area since the president announced the site of the library back in 1997.

"You can't overestimate the value of the Clinton Presidential Center," said Dan O'Byrne, chief executive officer of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. "President Clinton, through his library and museum, has helped put Little Rock on the map as a tourism destination. People are coming for the Clinton Center and discovering all of the other great things our city has to offer."

For me personally, this world-class attraction was a deciding factor for my relocation to Little Rock from Indianapolis, IN. It was interesting to watch my colleagues and friends from Indy question my decision to move to a smaller hotel market, as Little Rock gained national prominence on major news media and entertainment shows nightly. With the coming addition of Heifer International's Global Village in the next few years just a stone's throw from the Clinton Library a truly incredible "Green Corridor" is a reality in a former Brownfield zone. The diversity of the new projects and historic sites in Little Rock make it one of those unique places that offers something for every palate.

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.