x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Holidays with added value and enticing extras

From underwater art exhibitions to exclusive art tours in a private jet, hotels are creating innovative marketing campaigns to attract and retain guests.

Ocean Bungalow at Huvafen Fushi Maldives. Courtesy: Per AQUUM
Ocean Bungalow at Huvafen Fushi Maldives. Courtesy: Per AQUUM

With turquoise waters, a luxury setting and the peace and quiet of island life, you’d think that was enough for a tourist heading to the Maldives.

But it appears the modern traveller wants more variety that the standard holiday offering.

So how about sitting for the artist Jasmin Khezri at Huvafen Fushi Maldives, located 40 minutes by seaplane from the Maldivian capital of Malé?

Ms Khezri, who will be resident at the resort – managed by the luxury brand Per Aquum Resorts and Spas, and Niyama, another property managed by the group – in October, will create an avatar along the lines of her character Irma, a girl-about-town, in sessions costing US$599.

Part of an events calendar, the session with the German-Iranian artist is among a host of initiatives that bring artists, musicians, chefs and spa therapists from around the world to perform at the resorts in an exclusive setting.

“These events generate a great deal of public relations and brand awareness both among our trade partners and guests that has resulted in an increased number of bookings over the years,” says Stacey Dean, the director of marketing and communications at Per Aquum.

From the Maldives to the UAE and farther afield, hotels are racking their brains over how to attract and retain guests. And they are creating increasingly out-of-the-box ideas from underwater art exhibitions to around-the-world exclusive tours.

“These imaginative promotional initiatives can definitely make people stay longer and even spend more,” says Gaurav Sinha, the chief executive and founder of the branding agency Insignia. “In the hospitality industry we call it destination activation: how do you make every aspect and feature of a hotel or resort pulsate from morning to evening?”

Hotels in the UAE have joined in on the trend of bringing added value to stays. At the Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi, guests can enjoy an art exhibition from the Peruvian weaver Eddie Sulca until July 1. But these are yet to embrace a trend Mr Sinha calls “sympathetic pricing”.

Noosa International Resort on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, for example, offered a 20 per cent discount to guests last year if it rained during their stay and stole the sunshine.

It’s an example of “a smart and engaging idea that is socially intelligent and shares the pain when the weather turns bad”, says Mr Sinha.

One Dubai hotel is offering guests the chance to stay connected at all times – even during their airport transfer. Hotel limousines from Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts in Dubai as well as the rest of Middle East and Asia come with a 4G Lite Wi-Fi car mobile device. Guests can use their personal devices or the in-car iPad to browse.

“This type of service, the wow factor, only further aids in creating guest loyalty,” says Laura Perez Diaz, the director of communications for Middle East and South Asia at Mövenpick.

And then there’s high-end packages to lure in the luxury customer with more to spend.

From February next year, a private jet service branded under the luxury hotel operator Four Seasons will launch with three itineraries including two Around the World trips and a Backstage with the Arts itinerary.

In the art tour, guests will be jetted around Europe’s cultural stopovers and stay at Four Seasons properties in a 16-day trip across six cities. The prices range from US$69,000 to $119,000 per person based on double occupancy and transportation in a Boeing 757, customised for 52 passengers.

The exclusive tour will include access to areas closed to the public such as the 14th-century Duomo cathedral in Milan, and a performance at the Estates Theatre in Prague, where Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni premièred in 1787.

It will also take in a private after-hours tour of Lisbon’s 15th-century Jerónimos Monastery, and of the Hagia Sophia and Basilica Cistern in Istanbul. In St Petersburg, guests will be given a private tour of St Isaac’s Cathedral and a dinner at Pavlovsk Palace. Paris will be the itinerary’s last stop and will feature a private dinner at the Michelin three-star restaurant Le Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower.

The new service “builds on feedback from travellers on our previous private jet experiences”, says Susan Helstab, the executive vice president of marketing at Four Seasons.

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