36 Holiday Marketing Ideas that Worked
What holidays does your hotel celebrate? If you can count them on one hand, then you aren’t taking full advantage of your holiday hotel food & beverage potential. Holidays are generally tied to large groups of people in good moods — i.e. they’re dying to go out and have a great time. All they need is a venue to host them. Why not yours?
We’ve tracked down 36 examples of hotels leveraging holiday marketing to boost exposure and revenue for their food and beverage venues. The best marketing never copies what someone else did though, so this list is not intended to be a list to cherry-pick from. Rather, this list is provided just to help get your wheels turning for just how much potential can be found in a well-formulated, all-year-long approach to holiday marketing.
Doing something festive is an easy way to make your hotel stand out in guests’ minds. It’s the perfect chance to create a personalized “wow” factor by reminding guests what makes your property a unique, exciting F&B destination.
The Grand-Scheme-of-Things Should Allow Diversity, but there Must be an Overall Plan to your Hotel Food & Beverage
Yes, we’re definitely advocating a property-by-property marketing strategy for holidays. Choosing which festivities to celebrate is not a one-size-fits-all type of game. That said, your company must have an overall holiday Hotel Food & Beverage marketing plan where you set specific goals for all of your properties.
Here are three excellent goals:
- Set a three-holiday-a-month goal and let your properties choose what to celebrate — there are plenty of holidays from which to choose.
- With new holidays, try to reach a new guest market, whether traveling tourists or locals looking for a good time.
- Use holidays to do something special on digital platforms, including company and hotel websites and social media. Even if guests aren’t staying at your hotel, they should associate your brand with the holidays.
Does Holiday Marketing Really have Potential? Let’s Look at a Few Numbers
Who Celebrates What:
- Eighty-seven percent of Australians celebrate Australia Day. In 2012, more than 5 million Australians planned to attend a public event to celebrate. The day after, an extra 170,000 people called in sick to work, meaning your hotel bar should be doing something.
- Carnival is one of those truly global holidays, with celebrations taking place in every continent except for Australia (and Antarctica, but that’s a given). Venice, an iconic venue with a dependable market, saw more than 70,000 people attend last year’s opening events.
- Nearly 35 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day in 2013.
- Last year, 41 million Americans traveled during the Fourth of July.
- With 1.6 million French nationals living outside of France, Bastille Day has become a quasi-global holiday.
- Last year, 43 million Americans traveled for Thanksgiving. Pair that with the 33 million diners who relied on a restaurant to serve up their holiday meal — not to mention the 46 million shoppers who ate out for Black Friday — and you have very compelling numbers to feature a terrific Thanksgiving menu.
- Leading up to Christmas 2013, Japan saw 839,800 visitors during November — nearly a 30 percent increase from 2012.
How Much Do They Spend:
- In 2013, Americans spent roughly $130 per person to celebrate Valentine’s Day — a conservative amount, with romantics in the UK and France spending $195, nearly $250 in Spain, and a whopping $284 in Asia. Collectively, diners in the U.S. spent $3.9 billion taking their sweethearts out to restaurants.
- In 2013, U.S. families spent a grand total of $14.6 billion to celebrate Easter. On average, each person spent nearly $62 on food alone — that’s on top of the $28 spent on candy.
- While you might not think that a holiday marked by a month-long fast, Ramadan, would be the time to emphasize your Hotel Food & Beverage programs, guests actually spend 30 percent more on food during that time.
And We haven’t Even Touched on Gift Cards
Gift cards have been the most requested gift item since 2007, and Christmas is prime time. Mother’s Day comes in second and, for both holidays, 34 percent of shoppers purchase restaurant gift cards. A typical gift card amount is $25, but the average recipient spends between 20 and 50 percent more than the gifted value.
Clearly, people love holidays, and that’s fantastic for Hotel Food & Beverage programs. Looking for inspiration? Check out our list of ways different hotels around the world were celebrating last year:
Tu Bishvat – Inba Jerusalem Hotel, Israel
To celebrate the “new year of the trees,” the head chef at the Inba Jerusalem Hotel prepared a festive meal using ingredients from trees, including pears.
Presidential inauguration doesn’t happen every year—all the more reason to celebrate with two specialty drinks: Old Establishment and Death & Taxes.
Australia Day also signifies the annual Triple J Hottest 100 musical countdown; the Newport Arms Hotel celebrated by throwing an Australia Day Eve bash at the beachfront beergarden (the biggest in the country).
Hotels in Las Vegas banded together last year to throw a Year of the Snake celebration. The Bellagio had a money tree, The Venetian Resort had a 38-foot cherry tree, the Mandarin Oriental’s spa offered New Year treatments and — most importantly — the Nobu Hotel (a space completely dedicated to dining) timed its opening to coincide with the events.
Healdsburg California’s H2hotel served a moderately priced $85 eight-course tasting menu that included a to-go desert for guests — a fantastic idea since, for most couples, the perfect Valentine’s Day doesn’t end at the restaurant.
Hotel Bauer’s costume party featured a Renaissance-style buffet complete with acrobats, contortionists and burlesque dancers. What really caught our attention, though, was the menu, which included steamed swordfish and a suckling pig.
Anticipating crowds of shivering folk from the parade, JW Marriott rolled out a special Italian/Irish cappuccino to warm things up.
Passover – Kind David Hotel Jerusalem, Israel
On top of preparing for Passover, the King David Hotel hosted President Obama during his visit to Israel. To cope with the added stress, the King David ensured that all of its Passover preparations (including bringing in entirely new kitchen equipment) were finished ahead of time.
Easter – The Radnor Hotel Philadelphia, USA
Realizing that Easter is one of the rare opportunities for marketing hotel food & beverage specifically for kids, the Radnor Hotel hosted an Easter Tea featuring characters like the Easter Bunny, spring fairies and a spring princess.
Tax Day – Sheraton New Orleans, USA
Everyone in the U.S. marks April 15th as the last day to pay federal taxes (and get them postmarked). To put a humorous spin on the occasion, on the 14th, the Pelican Bar at the Sheraton New Orleans mixed up two tax-themed cocktails. As an added bonus, anyone who brought their W9 forms to the bar got a free drink.
Earth Day – Seaport Hotel Boston, USA
To celebrate this day of environmental stewardship, the Seaport Hotel took some time to expand its hotel food & beverage program by planting herbs in its plaza’s organic garden.
Anzac Day – The Exchange Hotel Brisbane, Australia
To celebrate Anzac Day and remember Australia’s armed forces, The Exchange Hotel hosted a “gunfire breakfast” for the armed forces, followed by lunch, dinner and $1 tacos.
How does a hotel with an Asian restaurant celebrate Cinco de Mayo? At the Luxor Hotel’s Rice & Company, the chef created specialty sushi using amazingly fresh holiday-appropriate ingredients. Shrimp tempura with fresh habañero actually works.
The Omni Hotel’s Grand Cafe made moms “Queen for a Day” last year, serving a regal brunch buffet (eggs Benedict, salmon and the like). What really made the event special was the tiara moms got to wear and the gourmet cupcakes to-go.
Realizing that sometimes money is too tight to take a vacation to a hotel (but not wanting to slow down on its F&B programs), Kimpton Hotels posted a collection of the chef’s favorite Memorial Day recipes online.
Brunch isn’t typically a “dad” thing. To make the meal more manly, the Beverly Wilshire ran a promotion where every dad dining out received a “BW” cigar.
The Peninsula Hotels offer one of a kind “dining out” hotel food & beverage programs year round, but that doesn’t make International Picnic Day any less special. To celebrate, The Peninsula Hotels posted on the company website to remind everyone about its fantastic and global picnic programs.
How do you celebrate the longest day of the year (and simultaneously let everyone know that your outdoor dining venue is back in business)? The Millennium Alaskan Hotel threw an epic 10-hour party featuring live entertainment and plenty of great food on its newly remodeled deck.
For fireworks, there really isn’t a better spot to be than a rooftop bar. Last year, the Sky Room at the Fairfield Inn & Suits by Marriott Times Square threw a picnic extravaganza. The hotel also whipped up a signature cocktail that was, according to the Daily News, “guaranteed to make you see stars.”
Ramadan – Ritz-Carlton Doha, Qatar
Traditionally, Ramadan fasts are broken at home with a large family meal. But with more women joining the workforce, dining out is becoming a popular option. Last year, the Ritz-Carlton Doha made that easier by offering families a 50-percent-off children’s discount.
Bastille Day – Sofitel Manila, Philippines
The Sofitel Manila turned Bastille Day into a monthlong celebration of French culinary prowess, highlighting a different region of France each week.
Kids Month – Discovery Shores Boracay Malay, Philippines
Kids can be picky eaters, and they always love a party. So Discovery Shores Boracay dedicated August to perfecting a kid-friendly hotel food & beverage program, including a buffet with mini-cheeseburgers, corn dogs, spaghetti, etc.
Wisconsin’s American Club Resort served chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches for $3 to celebrate National Ice Cream Sandwich Day—a great way to beat the summer heat.
Julia Child’s Birthday – The Jefferson Washington D.C., USA
What foodie doesn’t love Julia Child? To celebrate her birthday, The Jefferson prepared a six-course tasting menu inspired by classic dishes from Child’s cookbooks.
Mid Autumn Festival – Concorde Hotel Singapore
The Concord Hotel Singapore serves delicious mooncakes for the Mid Autumn Festival, packing the treats in four boxes to symbolize health, wealth, love and happiness.
National Cheeseburger Day – Ritz-Carlton South Beach Miami, USA
To celebrate National Cheeseburger Day, the Ritz-Carlton South Beach offered guests two options: the Sinner (made with Wagyu beef and all the fixings) and the healthier 530-calorie Saint.
Labor Day – Seminole Hard Rock Cafe Hotel Fort Lauderdale, USA
In honor of the unofficial end of summer, the Seminole Hard Rock Cafe Hotel hosted a DJ PJ Brunch promotion for Labor Day, encouraging guests to dine and dance in their PJs with drink specials and a photo booth to remember the event.
The Four Seasons Hotel in Houston celebrated for a cause with its Drink Pink watermelon martinis in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Taking advantage of the fact that A) a secret Masonic Temple was discovered in the hotel and B) Jack the Ripper might have been one of the Freemasons to attend the secret meetings, the Andaz Hotel created a special Jack’s Martini.
The Starwood Hotels celebrated National Seafood Month by asking guests to tweet about their favorite Starwood seafood dishes.
Dia de los Muertos – Hotel Matilda San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Hotel Matilda brought in Martha Ortiz Chapa (of Dulce Patria) to cook White and Black Dinners to celebrate those who have passed on. The culinary color scheme was a fun homage to the holiday’s trademark black and white skulls.
Veterans Day – Gillum House B&B West Virginia, USA
Back in 2008, the Gillum House B&B started something fantastic. To make it easier for veterans to travel with their families, it started the B&B for Vets program and set aside a room for veterans to stay (and eat) free of charge. Five years later, and the good will is still spreading — 800 B&Bs were expected to sign up in 2013, representing as many as 5,000 room nights.
Thanksgiving – Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, USA
Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan took an alternative approach to holiday classics with dishes like pumpkin gnocchi. The innovative menu was so popular that Foursquare ranked the restaurant as the U.S.’s most popular Thanksgiving dining destination.
Winter Solstice – InterContinental Singapore
To celebrate the shortest day of the year, the InterContinental Singapore served a menu based around traditional Chinese clay pot winter stews.
Christmas – Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo, Japan
The Keio Plaza Hotel infused its holiday dining experience with traditional Japanese culture. In December, the hotel hosted an exhibit on traditional chopsticks while its restaurant served a four-course French meal designed to be chopstick friendly.
New Year’s –Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, UAE:
Glamorous evening attire, plenty of drinks and an evening that ends in a bang could mean one of two things: a New Year’s Eve party to remember or a celebration of James Bond’s 50th Anniversary. At the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club on December 31st, it meant both.