How a Hotel Can Pivot Its Marketing to Provide Much-Needed Moments of Escapism

The idea of “armchair travel” or “armchair escapism” is nothing new. If you’ve ever become engrossed with a good book or been suddenly sucked into a travel show on TV, you’ve experienced it. And with the rise of experiential travel in recent years, we’ve been spoon-fed little bits of escapism regularly in the form of travel influencers on social media, paid Facebook ads from travel and tourism bureaus, and blog content from your favorite travel gear brands.

With stay-at-home orders in place as we weather our way through this global pandemic, you’d think content built around travel inspiration or wanderlust might naturally fall to the wayside. But, in fact, it’s the very opposite. Because the public has more time than ever right now and are looking for uplifting ways to curb the inevitable anxiety that arises every time they turn on the news. And travel escapism – whether that’s in the form of a simple Instagram post or a company’s whole revamped blog site – is a valuable medium to do that. So, why not give the people what they want?

Many savvy hotels and other travel industry businesses are doing just that by pivoting and/or amplifying their marketing plan to provide valuable moments of escape under the on-brand theme of travel and wellness. And the benefit is twofold: Not only is it a nice distraction for people during this globally turbulent time, but it builds a brand’s loyalty to better position the hotel to capitalize on the travel demand once recovery sets in. And like we stated in our last post, 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Pause Your Marketing During a Crisis, businesses who continue to invest in their marketing to engage with their consumers – rather than go dark – historically do better during a recession, as well as outperform their competitors in the long-term. So with all this in mind, we look at a few ways various hotels and travel brands are using their marketing to create and deliver these much-needed moments of armchair travel – and, more importantly, bolster their brand in the process.

Digital Version of Opal Magazine Offering Escapism with April Email Campaign

Opal Unpacked is the travel and lifestyle blog that Hawthorn Creative manages for Opal Collection, a collection of 19 luxury, waterside resort properties scattered up and down the Eastern Seaboard from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Key West, Florida. In addition to writing and loading content for this blog, Hawthorn also manages a series of email campaigns targeting subscribers and past resort guests, including a monthly “Opal-wide” campaign that shares a hand-selected assortment of blog content to cross-promote the different resort destinations.

But for the month of April, we decided to take this monthly template and, instead, use it to push out content from the annual travel magazine, which we also produce for this client, and that had just been printed. While we had originally planned to push out other blog posts in this monthly campaign, it no longer jived with the messaging we have temporarily adopted for the client during this pandemic, which is to simply give their valued guests moments of escape. And that it did. With a subject heading of “Enjoy a Little Armchair Escapism on Opal,” it was sent to more than 400,000 subscribers and reported an open rate of 31% (to put that in perspective, the open rate for these monthly sends typical hover between 16% and 19%).

Opal Unpacked April Email Campaign
The campaign offered up a bit of escapism by sharing inspirational travel stories from the recently-live digital version of Opal Magazine, including a travel influencer couples’ experience driving down Florida’s Gulf Coast and a narrative about a native New Englander’s trip up the coast of Maine.

The best part? This was content our client already had on hand. No additional work or charge came from creating this campaign or the ePub itself (all of Hawthorn’s print magazines are available in digital format), showing that there are ways to creatively pivot and repurpose content without missing a beat – and that’s when having a creative marketing agency, like Hawthorn Creative, in your back pocket comes in handy.

Special Website Page Curated with “At Home with Six Senses” Content

Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas manages 18 hotels and resorts and 30 spas in 21 countries, from remote islands in the Maldives to the mountains of the French Alps. Since a big part of the hotel brand focuses on health and well-being, they recently created a special page on their website called At Home with Six Senses that utilizes in-hotel wellness experts and partners to deliver online sessions and other content. For example, there are how-to videos for immunity-boosting food and drinks to make at home and a “VP (Visiting Practitioner) Talks” series that speaks to partnering practitioners about tips for better sleep, breathing exercises, mediation, and more.

Coupled with a custom hashtag, #AtHomewithSixSenses, the hotel collection encourages staying home while pushing this content out on its social media channels. “For now, you might not be able to come and see us,” states the brand on their website. “We hope that, in our small, small way, we can offer some positivity to support your well-being during this time.” Consider our interest piqued.

Four Seasons’ Wanderlust-Inspiring Social Content

No, no one’s traveling right now. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t dreaming about it. And Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is taking advantage of that by providing fuel for future travel daydreams. Operating more than 100 hotels worldwide, the collection is putting its massive photo assets to good use by almost exclusively filling its Instagram and Facebook feeds with high-quality, wanderlust-inducing imagery from its various destinations and resort properties.

Take, for example, this post and caption about dreaming about the “bucket-list views” of Johannesburg’s historic Westcliff neighborhood as seen from their hotel. Or this other post capturing the lush tropical landscape of Desroches Island, a private island in the Seychelles, where another property is based. They all come accompanied with a custom hashtag #DreamWithFS, making searching for more inspirational content easy (the 100 other Four Season properties use this same hashtag in their own feeds).

Belmond’s Live-Streaming “Belmond Invitations” Series on IGTV

When you stay at one of Belmond’s 46 hotels, river-cruises, and trains spanning 24 countries, you can always expect cultural activities – from poetry to live music – woven into the experience. So the luxury hospitality brand simply migrated that philosophy to its Instagram page by creating “Belmond Invitations,” a campaign consisting of virtual programs to provide entertaining experiences for armchair travelers. Streamed on Belmond IGTV, the series kicked off in late March with a live performance by British pianist Joe Stilgoe (he played jazz in honor of the brand’s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, which was originally scheduled to host a Roaring ’20s-themed ride the same weekend).

It has since been followed by other live sessions, including meditation with celebrity yoga guru, Nadia Narain; an Easter-themed floral workshop led by UK-revered florist, Simon Lycett; and various cooking tutorials from world-renowned French chef, Raymond Blanc. Now, think of how amazing these types of hotel experiences will be once guests can travel to various Belmond properties again? It’s a smart way to keep the brand relevant, their followers entertained, and entice future guest stays.

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From all of us at Hawthorn Creative, we wish you good health and a positive mindset throughout this challenging time. As always, we’re here to help with anything you or your team may need. If you have any questions about this article or want to talk about how we can help prepare you for success the moment your doors open again, please reach out to us online. 

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