Occupancy falls: Luxury hotel chains target niche visitors

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Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, Dallas, broke a $2 million print campaign last week for its 13 luxury hotels, which include The Carlyle in New York, The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas and Badrutt's Palace in St. Moritz. The timing may seem odd, but it's exactly what several upscale hotel chains are doing during these uncertain times: targeting a niche market in order to keep, or lure, high-end customers.

The hotel industry experienced a slow recovery in 2002, after poor economic conditions and the fallout from Sept. 11, 2001, made for a miserable fourth quarter that year. Industry analyst Smith Travel Research, noted that room occupancy in 2002 was 59.2%, down 1% from 2001.


Meanwhile, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, owner of the Sheraton, Westin and W Hotel chains, last week withdrew its first-quarter and full-year earnings forecasts and cited the war and an unusually cold winter in the Northeast for its "significant deterioration in business." Hilton Hotel Corp. cut its profit forecast last week, saying earnings per share would be 2¢ to 3¢, down from the 5¢ it forecast Jan. 27.

The Rosewood campaign from AgencySacks, New York, is aimed at the company's repeat visitors.

"We wanted to reach out to that customer to try and have them feel this idea of `Do you remember when?"' said Robert Boulogne, VP-sales and marketing for Rosewood. "Our issue is less about whether people have the finances but are they willing to travel right now?"

Starwood will break later this month a $20 million campaign for its Sheraton hotels. In addition, its high-end W Hotels chain is in the midst of its second small campaign of the year with its "WellBeing" rooms, promoting foot massagers, yoga mats and aromatherapy. Again, like Rosewood's, the campaign is targeted to a specific audience.

"For us, we're lean and mean anyway in our promotions," said Lisa Zandee, corporate director-sales and marketing, W Hotels. "This year they've taken on a more tactical nature. But the drop-off hasn't been as drastic as we might have thought."

Hilton continues with its "It Happens at the Hilton" print campaign from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote Cone & Belding Worldwide, Irvine, Calif., which it has had since 1998.

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