By James Wilkinson
A positive, if there was one, to come out of the 2009 global financial crisis for the hotel industry was undoubtedly the way properties pampered their regular guests. Hotels went above and beyond to hold on to their loyal customers, from room upgrades, complimentary drinks, meals, parking and transport.
The last point, perhaps, is one of the most important.
Being able to provide guests, particularly foreigners, comfortable, clean and safe transportation has been a key element for hotels over the last three decades (think back to the classic James Bond films of the 1960s and 70s when 007 would find himself in a hotel’s Rolls-Royce) – but only last year was it again brought to the forefront.
BMW’s class-leading 7 Series on the ‘drive’
A way for hotels offer something a little extra in late 2009 and during 2009 was through a limousine service, either within a 5km radius or to the airport, at little or no cost for the most frequent and VIP travellers.
If not for free, some hotels would price the service equivalent to a taxi fare, but with that Hyatt, Sheraton or Langham touch. Taking a ride to the airport in a BMW 7 Series with refresher towels and cold water bottles was so much better than the back of a smelly Melbourne taxi.
Several hotels in Australasia have taken the lead with in-house limousine services over the past 18 months, including the Park Hyatt hotels in Sydney and Melbourne, The Langham in Auckland and Pullman Sydney Olympic Park.
At the top of the shopping list for hotels are cars, both luxurious and economical, from brands such as Audi, BMW and Lexus.
BMW Group Australia’s Communications Manager Tim James said there has been significant interest from hotels of late for several models, including the brand’s class-leading 7 Series.
“As the company’s flagship model, the BMW 7 Series represents the very best of BMW from a technology, comfort and brand perspective,” he told HM.
“Leading hotels such as The Peninsula in Hong Kong, The Plaza in Manhattan and The Park Hyatt in Melbourne are just a few to consider the BMW 7 Series to be their car of choice.
“There is a definite synergy that exists between the core values of BMW and the respective hotels – exclusivity, innovation and culture,” he said.
James said more than just exclusivity, innovation and culture, BMW has also been chosen for its product offering and features of its models, particularly the 7 Series.
“The BMW 7 Series is designed to embody the BMW brand values providing a cultured, exclusive experience and challenging the status quo,” he said.
“For hotels that have created their own brand and reputation that aligns with these values, the BMW 7 Series is an ideal choice.
“Available features relating to rear passenger comfort include active rear seats with a massage function, soft-close doors, rear DVD entertainment system and automatic side and rear sun blinds.
“A key distinguishing feature of the BMW 7 Series that sets it apart from its competitors is that it not only provides supreme comfort for passengers, it offers the driver a dynamic and sporting experience,” he said.
Not just the 7 Series, James said the BMW X5 has also proven popular of late for hotels and resorts in regional areas.
“The X5 sets the benchmark in its class with regard to driving dynamics and agility,” he said. “Coupled with a remarkable level of comfort and safety, with advantage of being able to carry seven people, the X5 makes for a very logical and sound business choice.
“In addition to the features above, the X5 offers a unique blend of power and efficiency unrivalled by others in its class… further evidence the X5 is Australia’s best-selling luxury Sports Activity Vehicle for the past seven years running,” he said.
At Sydney Olympic Park, the Pullman Hotel has been partnering with BMW’s German rival Audi, whereby guests have been able to request an A6 for transfers to events, meetings and nearby attractions.
“We have been thrilled to be partnering with Audi to personalise our service for our guests even more and offer them the opportunity to enjoy one of the world’s most prestigious vehicles as part of their hotel experience,” said Accor’s Director of Sales and Distribution, Kerrie Hannaford.
“Everything that Audi stands for is present in the Pullman brand’s DNA and the experience we offer guests – stylish, high-quality, modern technology and highly individualised service to suit our customer’s specific needs.
“Both brands are about exceeding customer expectations and I am confident our guests have been enjoying the opportunity to experience this high-level brand and service,” she said.
In Auckland, the Langham hotel has not only been driving the guest experience, but also supporting the environment.
In mid-2008, the hotel switched its limousine fleet to the environmentally friendly Lexus LS600hL, the world’s first V8 hybrids that operate on a fuel consumption of just 9.3L per 100km.
At the time, the three cars formed Australasia’s first fleet of hybrid limousines and reinforced the property’s position as New Zealand’s most sustainable hotel.
“It’s wonderful for us to be able to offer our guests the pinnacle of refinement and elegance with these vehicles in an environmentally conscious way,” said Langham Auckland General Manager Jeffrey van Vorsselen.
He said the vehicles are used by the 5-star hotel’s corporate, diplomatic and leisure guests for airport transfers, business meetings, and for shopping and sightseeing tours.
An added bonus, van Vorsselen said, was that customers who used the hotel’s limousine service from the airport (which is priced around the same cost as a corporate taxi when in traffic) are able to check-in to the hotel during their journey.
As hotels continue to enhance their guest experience in 2010 and beyond, Audi, BMW and Lexus can only expect more orders from Australasia’s leading hotels. After all, when a hotel can save a guest $50 on an airport transfer, they can be confident they’ll return – most likely sooner rather than later.