A quality relationship with the local community is an essential element for success for any hotel. A community relationship ensures a property has clear visibility in its respective market, which is key in a world where new supply is popping up every day—to the tune of 2 percent growth for the overall United States in 2019, according to STR. This relationship gives the hotel a chance to become the de facto “face” of the destination.
To support the development of a strong mutually beneficial relationship with the community that surrounds a hotel, partnership is everything. That means maintaining and forging relationships that support the property’s story.
Choosing the Right Partners
For a hotel to become the “crème de la crème” of its community, it’s imperative to partner with appropriate and authentic brands—ones that are aligned with the property’s narrative and mission.
Successful hoteliers know they’re not just selling a room, but rather an experience. Part of that includes the actual destination, so the city’s convention and visitors’ bureau (CVB) can be an essential part of an overall partnership strategy that tells the destination’s story and, by extension, that of the hotel.
Hoteliers therefore need to ensure that the CVB’s message actually supports their property’s story. They should first learn what the CVB can offer in terms of marketing opportunities. The CVB’s approach will likely change from time to time, so hoteliers need to keep in contact with and stay abreast of what the organization is doing to promote the destination. However, there must be a clear return, for example, if the hotelier is giving up room nights for destination-promotion purposes. If a partnership with the CVB is not a fit, hoteliers shouldn’t immediately shut the door. Instead, they should let organizational leaders know they’re open to new ideas that could further align with the hotel’s strategy.
Another way to develop a high profile in the community is through cross-promotion with like-minded brands. For example, The Bristol Hotel in Bristol, Va., partners with the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, promoting applicable offers throughout the year. As hotel management has developed a deeper relationship that pays in bigger ways, the hotel has been able to drive more impactful results. For instance, the museum has a large customer database and will often send property-specific blasts and organically promote the hotel on its social channels due to the strong relationship that’s been developed between the two companies.
Another way to partner with the community is by offering bookable packages that drive customers—and media attention—to local businesses. The hotel team at the HarbourView Inn in Charleston, S.C., created one such package based on the popular movie The Notebook. The hotel partnered with a local restaurant, garden, theater, ice cream parlor, and other vendors to provide guests with a romantic experience reminiscent of the beloved film. It’s a package that could never have been successful without the support of the local partnerships.
Finally, using local suppliers and vendors is another way a hotel can build relationships within its community. For instance, a unique hotel food and beverage experience that integrates local fare can help sell the overall destination when marketing to potential guests. When done correctly, the F&B experience can aid in creating a space where locals feel just as welcome as visiting guests.
In many cases, hotels are developed to be the anchor of future growth for a town, which means there is a heavy weight placed on the hotel to be successful. Partnering with the right vendors and brands further strengthens that stance and makes the market appealing for future development from other hotels, restaurants, and retail outlets, which then supports the local economy—and in turn, the original hotel.
Keeping Partnerships Strong
Relationships need continuous nurturing in order to thrive, which is why it’s crucial for the hotel’s management team to get involved and be seen.
General managers and sales managers should participate in local events to remain visible in the community. Participation at a high level—whether that constitutes sitting on a board, assisting with a social outing, or attending a community meeting—should be encouraged. This height of contribution can and should be part of incentive plans, as the return on investment is significant for the hotel.
Put simply, a hotel will not keep its doors open long without support from its community. If a hotel sits in a silo today, it will be gone tomorrow. The time to get involved is now.