Employing Charitable Causes: Build a Better World and a Better Business

By Steven Belmonte CEO, Vimana Franchise Systems LLC | November 08, 2008

In the never ending quest to gain market share in a highly competitive business, hoteliers are, unfortunately, being seduced into what I call the "amenity game" to build and secure a form of loyalty with customers. An example of this game is when Hotel Brand X puts coffee makers in every room, then Hotel Brand Y feels the need to 'up the ante' with automatic pant pressers. While the seduction for fancy gadgets or basic amenities is an enticing lure, customers today are still not fully satisfied with self-indulgent benefits. According to studies, they feel a need to do more - to make a difference in the world.

The global and information community is getting smaller via the Internet, travel, and abundance of media outlets. As a result, the awareness of the plight of the needy, sick, environment, and endangered species is more acute. Therefore, it's not surprising that many times when a customer is deciding between hotels that offer similar products, the tie-breaker most often isn't the state-of-the-art fitness center but the hotel's program that is making a difference in the world. An example would be those that are directly supporting global welfare initiatives, green issues, and/or health research programs.

The consumer marketplace is being transformed by a generation of socially-aware individuals who would like to see companies they patronize and work for take the lead in making the world a better place. Surveys have long validated the growing power of the baby boomer generation, and businesses should not dismiss those unique wants and needs. On top of that, the younger Generation Y members are voicing their desire to embrace causes they are passionate about. To the hotelier, this means that guests and employees want a promise of social vision and to be a part of a brand that advocates social improvement.

That promise is generally referred to as strategic philanthropy, or, corporate giving; that is, when a company makes a long term investment in the cause that not only does good in society, but also enhances the company's reputation with key audiences. Some forms of strategic philanthropies are already engrained in the public's consciousness - such as the eponymous Ronald McDonald House and McDonalds Restaurants; environmental causes and Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream; and Home Depot's involvement with Habitat for Humanity. Those carefully selected charities are a logical extension to those companies' primary businesses.

The megahit Hollywood movie, Field of Dreams, provided us with the cherished line "if you build it, they will come." In many instances, the adage is dubious at best. We all know that building a hotel or restaurant does not mean people will instantly start flocking to it. However, in the cases where businesses are already built and established, the movie line couldn't be truer. Many hotels that have embraced a form of strategic philanthropy are not only building a better business, but a better world at the same time.

Joining forces with a charity and putting the weight of the brand behind the philanthropic mission should be a no-brainer for hoteliers. I truly believe that 99.99% of guests can relate to charitable endeavors, regardless of the cause. Here's an example of how interconnected consumers are with charitable causes:

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.