As we move towards summer, hundreds of thousands of people are approaching the date of their canceled vacation. We like to think of these trips as being delayed rather than canceled, but no one can be sure when we will be safe to travel again.
That is bad news for us, but it is devastating for the hotel industry. Every hotel in the world has had to face up to losing a significant proportion of its business, in some cases 100%. We as consumers may be looking towards a future when we can travel again, but how can we ensure the industry is still there waiting for our return? The Buy Now, Stay Later initiative has an answer.
The brainchild of Rachel Harrison, the campaign encourages people to buy ‘bonds’ in their chosen hotel. Just like a real savings bond, you buy one bond for $100 and after 60 days of maturation, you receive $150 worth of credit to spend on a stay at the same hotel. Anyone who has ever invested in a bond will know that is a very generous rate of return.
“It’s a win-win,” Rachel tells Elite Traveler. “Hotels get an influx of cash now when they need it, and guests get to dream about traveling, and ultimately traveling to these places at a discount. The discount is not much more than most hotels offer during slow periods anyway. I was the chief marketing officer of Island Outpost hotels, and one of our best selling packages was a ‘buy two nights, get the third night free’. This bond program is essentially the same offering.”
While the discount is the main appeal for most, purchasing a bond from any of the hotels will have a far deeper impact. It offers the hotel a lifeline and allows its owners to support the employees who have had their livelihoods put on hold. The cash will be used to support the housekeepers, bartenders, concierges and everyone in between for as long as possible.
The program has so far been a tremendous success. Over 300 hotels have already signed up and many more are waiting to be added to the rapidly growing list. There is also a growing number of ultra-luxury hotels to choose from including Jade Mountain (St. Lucia), Le Barthélemy (St. Barths) and Bisma Eight (Bali).
Asked whether she anticipated making such an impact so quickly, Rachel says: “I was confident in the idea. I knew it was simple and easy to communicate. The uniformity of it made it easy to explain the concept and easy for hotels to sign up. It also made it simple for people to understand the concept and have confidence in making a purchase. That is one of the most successful learnings of PR and marketing. Uncomplicated ideas take off much quicker than the alternative.”
While the initiative is still in its infancy and developing fast, Rachel is keen to underline that hotels are not competing for business on their site. Quite the opposite, she wants the hotels to work as part of a collective movement and to share information and resources where possible.
She says: “We want to build an army so that each hotel is not only helping themselves but helping each other and the industry as a whole. Hopefully, consumers will purchase from your hotel, but maybe they’ll also purchase from a hotel that’s a new discovery for them.
“The more that we can all do to help our friends in the travel industry, the faster we can all bounce back together and start to see the world again. And this time, maybe we’ll see the world through new eyes.”