College Campus Hotels for the 21st Century

An "Old" Hotel Type Gets a New Twist

By Paul Breslin Managing Director, Horwath HTL | December 11, 2016

Co-authored by Oliver Tang, Analyst, Horwath HTL

Generally, any hotel that uses a nearby educational institution as the primary demand generator can be considered a campus hotel; however, the scope of this article focuses on hotels that are directly affiliated with an educational institution, often a college or university.For each campus hotel project, developers should fully understand the school’s vision to create a property that not only meets the design requirements and educational purposes, but is also economically sustainable. On the other hand, operators should have appropriate revenue management practice, leverage school’s internal resources, and manage student employees with extra emphasis on scheduling and training.

The concept of campus hotels is not a new one. In 1923, the American Hotel Association proposed a “practice hotel” for Cornell’s then newly-established hospitality program. For many years, because there are only a limited number of this kind of properties, there has not been significant study on this topic. However, in recent years, the industry has seen increasingly more joint ventures or other types of partnerships between educational institutions and developers all around the country. There are several reasons that contributed to this trend:

  • The boutique lifestyle hotel movement in the hospitality industry requires
    many older campus hotels to be renovated or upgraded.
  • More and more universities and colleges started offering or expanding their
    hospitality programs, and having a hotel can add practical value to these
    programs.

The hospitality industry is becoming more segmented in terms of branding, product offering and affiliated demand generators, and special considerations are required for the development and operation of each type. Corresponding to this need, the industry boasts developers who solely focus on campus hotels. For example, a Chicago based hotel chain, Graduate Hotels, has been developing college-themed hotels since 2014. SMART hotels, a hotel development company based in Cleveland, started their campus hotel specific development service in 2010.

Many educational institutions perceive their campus hotels much more than just a lodging facility; most campus hotels are considered an integral part of the school or program. Schools not only utilize these hotels in the traditional manner, but also use them to provide hands-on working experience for hospitality students. In some cases, the campus hotels have even become the activity and social center of the campus.

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.