As travelers become more savvy and competition continues to increase, hotels and resorts are relying more on packages and incentives to drive business and revenue. That’s particularly true in the summer/fall months in South Florida, where the drive-to market is once again playing an integral role in business for those months leading up to the jam-packed Winter season.
But it’s not as easy as just opening the front doors and letting guests catch some Florida rays. With nearly every hotel or resort offering perks and packages, it’s important that properties differentiate themselves in order to thrive. In other words, create packages and incentives for all seasons.
“Packages need to evolve,” said Todd Orlich, regional vice president of sbe Hotels and general manager of the Delano South Beach. “More specifically, as travelers from all over the world learn more about Miami, we create packages that appeal to them. For example, now we’re working on a specific Brazil program.”
Miami and Miami Beach hotels in the sbe portfolio include the Delano South Beach, SLS Brickell, SLS South Beach, Mondrian South Beach and Hyde Hotels & Residences in Midtown Miami.
“The Brazil market is different from the Florida drive market and different from the New York traveler market,” said Orlich. “You have to be highly sophisticated in your approach and highly connected with that specific audience and not waste their time with packages they might not be interested in.”
To that end, Orlich noted sbe Hotels this past March launched a “luxury lifestyle” call center for its nine hotels where its agents have access to all the tools necessary to help potential guests with custom packages that include dining, nightlife, and spa.
“We start with the premise of how can we best serve a guest on this part of the visit,” said Orlich. “Consumers today want as much flexibility in choosing a hotel as possible.”
Flexibility is what it’s all about at The Breakers Palm Beach. The historic luxury resort doesn’t have specific packages, but focuses on daily complimentary benefits such as a full American breakfast buffet for each room guest; free meals for kids under 12 years of age; unlimited tennis; and unlimited access to the Ocean Fitness Center.
“It’s not all-inclusive, but there are a lot amenities guests enjoy,” said Christopher Dagassan, the resort’s director of leisure sales and global travel. “Offering these benefits has been a game-changer – based on feedback from guests in regards to their preferences.”
Two preferences many guests are seeking these days are early check-in and late check out. Each gives them extra time at the hotel/resort, and for the property, each is a good way to welcome guests and a fond farewell remembrance.
“Historically, it has been solid rule – no late check-in or check out, but the past few years it’s become an amenity,” said Orlich. “I think it’s required these days for hotels to become more sophisticated with their property management systems to plan for early arrival and late check out.
“Your room might not be ready (for early arrival) but we have to have a backup plan to get you to the pool and get you changed so you can start your vacation.”
Flexibility doesn’t have to mean complicated packages. Many packages today begin with two-night and three-night stays offering an extra night free, as well as some of food and beverage credits.
For example, The Atlantic Hotel & Spa in Fort Lauderdale Beach offers a three night, pay for two nights package with a $75 F&B credit; the all-suite hotel also has a four-night, pay for three with $100 F&B credit.
“And our Florida residents package (that extend to Georgia residents) always has bene popular,’’ said Scott Frothingham, director of hospitality revenue management for the hotel. “It certainly brings in people from the feeder markets.’’
The Loews Miami Beach Hotel on South Beach is offering guests a stay in a suite along with $125 F&B credit per day.
Packages, of course, aren’t unique to South Florida. The Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World, for example, is offering a $200 Disney gift card with a two-night stay.
On Florida’s West coast, the Westin Cape Coral Resort & Spa Resort offers a third night free and $75 resort credit with its Fun in the Sun package.
“We look at what packages have worked in the past and what have created the most number of room nights for us,’’ Michele Frank, director of sales and marketing at the Weston Cape Coral. “I think consumers do a lot of comparative shopping, so we have to find packages that are available to everyone. It’s a tough game out there. Consumers are smart and look at every channel they can, even if it’s just for $5 or $10 in savings."