Seasonal Color: Effectively Keeping Color in the Landscape Year-round

By Ken Hutcheson President, U.S. Lawns | March 02, 2014

In today's economy, the competition for hotel guests is strong. First impressions are important and a property's curb appeal is one of the first things a guest may notice. Ensuring the property looks its best year round will help draw guests anytime of the year, while quality customer service and generous amenities will encourage guests to return to a property again and again. A bland or overgrown landscape can speak poorly about the quality of service provided by the hotel, eroding customer confidence and injuring long-term loyalty. Regularly updating and improving a hotel's exterior appearance with a healthy-looking, eye-catching landscape will create an environment that is appealing and inviting to guests while sending a strong message about the hotel's commitment to service as well as add value to the property without crippling the bottom line.

While making sure a hotel property looks its best year-round can help keep the reservations coming in, it requires foresight and proper planning. Planning out the landscape will help hotel executives guarantee that the hotel's brand is communicated from the minute the guest steps onto the property. If there are particular colors that are important to incorporate, then a plan will make certain the best plant colors are in place to complement the property and highlight the property's brand whenever possible. It is also important that the correct plants and trees are planted for the environment in which the property is located so as to ensure the best opportunity for them to grow and thrive. For example, marigolds and snapdragons are well-suited for colder climates such as those found in the Northeast, while perennials such as verbina and geraniums are well-suited for the desert Southwest. Working closely with a landscape professional can ensure the property will be laid out in the most efficient and effective manner. Putting a plan in place before any planting begins will ensure that all elements will have the best chance to survive and thrive.

Color is a key element of landscape design which promotes an enjoyable atmosphere. Simple aesthetic changes to a property's landscape can greatly enhance a property's appeal. A dreary landscape can be improved by removing non-flowering plants and bringing in blooming varieties instead. Although spring and summer are the time to showcase a property's creativity, it is possible to inject color year round when planned properly. Winter-flowering plants provide a respite from an otherwise dreary landscape. A few of the most popular winter bulbs include hyacinths, crocuses, and daffodils. These cold weather bloomers are suitable for resorts in various geographic regions.

The warmer months provide a considerable variety of flowering plants to choose from. Blooming shrubs such as forsythia are one of the earliest bloomers and can help transition the property to the colors of spring. In addition, annual flowers can be planted in most locations and with a wide range of colors, species and sizes, and the ability to thrive in the shade or sun; they can revitalize the look of any property. The critical component to remember about annual flowerbeds is they must be planted in an area that can be cared for adequately. While color can have a significant impact on the landscape, it is a design element that can have a negative impact when poorly maintained. Before annual color can be planted, it's imperative that the soil is prepared properly. In addition to ensuring the beds have drainage and water holding capabilities, the soil itself should be made up of at least 50% organic matter so as to maintain optimal aeration of the beds. If a new bed is being planted, fertilizer should also be incorporated into the mix, depending on the needs of the plants. Raising annual beds 4-6 inches will help avoid drowning the plants during rainy weather. It's important to make sure the beds maintain their optimum pH balance throughout the year. A landscape professional can assist with this as well as planning beds so that color can be incorporated into the landscape year round.

It is important to take into consideration the property's environment when planning the landscape. Goldsturm black-eyed susans and wood's pink asters do well in the Pacific Northwest while Spanish gold broom and spike speedwell thrive in the Rockies. In order to keep color throughout late spring, heading into summer, consider lilacs or mountain laurels. It can be more of a challenge to keep the spring color throughout the summer as most spring blooms give way to leaves, but depending on the property's climate, there are ways to incorporate more color. For example, in the more northern states, the long-blooming rose of Sharon won't bloom until the summer, and in the Southeastern states, the crape myrtle tree has a long blooming period. A landscape professional can provide insight on the best varieties that will complement the climate and style of the property, as well offer advice on the best colors and designs that highlight your property.

Planning the landscape and incorporating color year round is only half the battle. It's essential the plantings receive sufficient hydration to maintain the health and appearance of the landscape. Either under-watering and over-watering can wreak havoc on plants and either can cause tremendous unnecessary expense. With the current trend of water and energy conservation, carbon emissions reduction and the protection of local ecosystems it makes proper irrigation crucial to effective grounds maintenance. There have been significant developments in irrigation technology which allow landscape professionals to design custom-tailored systems based on a particular property's needs. This will result in reduced water usage and lower ongoing maintenance expenses. Making sure that irrigation equipment is up-to-par and that plants are receiving the right amount of water will also help keep plants in top condition, and can also generate savings on water bills and reduce plant replacement costs. A landscape contractor will be able to suggest a watering plan that is appropriate for a hotel's property, and may also recommend adjustments to any current watering system.

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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.