As long-distance running season gets underway, hotels can market to marathon runners and other athletes by providing race-day amenities and a comfortable home-away-from-home atmosphere. Le Méridien Columbus, The Joseph, takes the guesswork out of eating and pre- and post-race amenities and services. An avid runner himself and director of guest services for the property, Brian Herro says, “Nobody wants to be running around trying to find a supermarket to buy bagels the morning of a race. It’s nice to offer and inform guests that we have breakfast ready for them.”
“For breakfast, we offer complimentary bagels, peanut butter, coffee, waters, and Gatorade for both runners and their families. We also give giftbags to the runners before the race,” continues Kellee Marker, director of sales and marketing for the property. The giftbags include Clif Bars, Gatorade, Band-Aids, Advil, Biofreeze, pins, and a certificate for a free drink at the hotel’s bar. Hotels in cities that host marathons—like Columbus—can market to runners using social media or pre-arrival email campaigns to show what amenities and services they offer both before and after the race. Runners typically aren’t looking to have an authentic, out-of-the-ordinary experience immediately before a race; supporting runners in their accomplishments, providing a comfortable room, and providing a service like a complimentary breakfast can make all the difference for a guest looking to return for another race.
Post-race, runners would prefer to relax and clean up rather than immediately rushing off for the trip home. For this, Marker says, “We extend a late checkout offer to our runners if they would like to come back to their guestroom, shower, and freshen up.” Herro adds, “They really appreciate a hot shower and being able to rest their legs for a little bit before heading out.”
Hoteliers who cater to runners can greatly benefit from taking good care of this specific subset of guests. They tend to travel often and have a very large, organic network. Beyond Le Méridien Columbus, The Joseph, other Marriott hotels in marathon cities have developed their own programs to meet runners’ needs. Ideally, these services will make a one-time guest a repeat customer who will return for the same race year after year. Marker adds, “Making it easier for them alleviates concerns and takes their stress away so they can focus on their race and their goals—which is exactly why they’re there in the first place.”