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Mr. Rosenberger

Family Travel

One-of-a-Kind Experiences Create Unique Brand Stories for Families

Dr. Seuss, Ducks, Cookies, Art and the Freedom Trail

By Matthew Rosenberger, Consultant & Publisher, ABC Travel Guides for Kids

My kids are still talking about a recent trip we took to New York. We had a great visit to Lincoln Center and the Big Apple Circus. We rode the Ferris Wheel at the Times Square Toys R' Us. We were fascinated by the World's tallest man and the "believe it or not" exhibits at the Ripley's Museum on 42nd street. We ate "out of this world food" at Mars 2112 restaurant on 51st and Broadway where we traveled in a spaceship to the red planet and were served by Martians. Although the kids aren't talking about these amazing experiences any more they are still talking about our trip. They are still talking about our hotel; a hotel that provided them with one-of-a-kind experiences through its design elements. A green escalator. A restaurant, featuring the most unusual seating any of us had ever seen-think fallen down tree with chairs built into it. A room that featured a sheer white curtain the length of the room. And while this exquisitely designed hotel, may not be on any list of the "most family friendly hotels" in New York, it's on ours, and our kids will never forget their experiences while staying at the Hudson. This is how unique brand stories are born.

Initiatives taken by hotels are featured in this article. These properties have created awesome one-of-a-kind experiences that create unique brand stories.

The Dr. is In

It's as if you have stepped right into one of the beloved Dr. Seuss stories. Upon entering the suite, colors and patterns are everywhere, from the vibrant blue carpet that is sprinkled with a pattern of lighter blue dots to the beds, which appear to be part of "Whoville" with Seussian forms inspired from the Horton Hears a Who book. As the Cat in the Hat, Horton, the Grinch and the Sneetches are all smiling back at you the Seuss stories come to life to create a one-of-a-kind experience for the entire family. These are the Dr. Seuss kids' suites at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando®. "Every design element was purposefully chosen to reflect our vision of the books coming to life all around you", notes principal designer Kimberly Bewley.

This is one of the most exciting initiatives we have seen in recent years. Virtually every kid, for the past 50 years, has had some Seuss in the life. The idea for the suites was simply brilliant and brilliantly simple!

Ducks, Ducks, Ducks

In 1933 Frank Schutt, General Manager of The Peabody, and his friend, Chip Barwick, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. The men thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys in the beautiful Peabody fountain. Three small English call ducks were selected as "guinea pigs," and the reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. Soon, five North American Mallard ducks would replace the original ducks. In 1940, Bellman Edward Pembroke, a former circus animal trainer, offered to help with delivering the ducks to the fountain each day and taught them the now-famous Peabody Duck March. Mr. Pembroke became the Peabody Duckmaster, serving in that capacity for 50 years until his retirement in 1991. The original ducks have long since gone, but after 75 years, the marble fountain in the hotel lobby is still graced with ducks and the Peabody ducks march at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.

Nothing rivals the indelible image of the Peabody ducks march. Kids marvel at the pomp and circumstance and are delighted by the tradition in ways that Masseurs. Schutt and Barwick never could have imagined. There have been several children's books inspired by the ducks and I am certain that there will be several more, as this sort of experience is sure to stimulate the imagination of those young visitors who bear witness to the ducks at the Peabody.

Cookies and Milk

Kids love cookies. In fact most of us do. For 20 years, Doubletree Hotels have been serving warm delicious cookies, 24/7 to their guests. These legendary chocolate chip cookies are presented to each guest at check-in and have kept families coming back for me. The cookies are baked fresh daily with a main purpose of providing a warm welcome and refreshing hospitality for travelers around the world. Doubletree serves more than 10 million cookies a year at its more than 200 hotels; Midwest, nearly 10 million.

This is another brilliant way to connect and reach into the hearts of millions-serve them one of our favorite treats, freshly baked, delicious chocolate chip cookies. Kids have loved cookies and milk for centuries and nothing creates a more permanent memory for children then a warm chocolate chip cookie upon arrival to the hotel. In fact, the anticipation and family chatter about the cookies might even be more powerful and is a perfect example of how to create a unique brand story .

I can do that

Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson founded 21c Museum in Louisville in 2006. Laura and Steve wanted to help with the revitalization of Louisville's downtown and engage the public with contemporary art in a new way. Their hotel was recently selected the #1 hotel in the US and #6 in the world in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards. The property's unusual mix of a hotel and a contemporary art museum that organizes special exhibitions in 9,000 square feet of shared public spaces is a place that kids and families can really enjoy.

Talk about one-of-kind experiences; consider last winter when ice storms knocked out the electricity in much of Louisville and 21c was filled with families. While most of the city's attractions were not able to welcome visitors, the 21c kids (and parents) where able to enjoy and visit the contemporary art museum on the premises. In fact, kids love contemporary art (I can do that) which is often playful and interactive, and leaves them inspired to make their own creations and art. Everyone had a blast and a unique brand story was born.

Freedom to learn

The Omni Sensational Kids program caters to Omni Hotels' youngest guests. Upon check-in, children receive a goodie bag containing a flashlight, a flip drum, Twizzlers, a disk launcher and canteen and a scented plant-able bookmark. Kids also receive milk and cookies delivered to their guest room on the first night and can request to borrow a rolling backpack full of toys, books and games. Omni Hotels in California, Texas and Boston also offer Kid's Fantasy Suites that has kids bedding plus a connecting room for the parents and includes bean bag chairs, an art table, books, games and toys.

But one of our favorite Omni Hotels is The Omni Parker House in Boston. Open since 1855, it is America's longest continuously operating luxury hotel. The property is located in historic downtown Boston on the 2.5 mile red-brick Freedom Trail that leads to 16 nationally significant museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks and historic markers. The Freedom Trail Suite is an ideal way to start off a family adventure for those coming to experience our rich American history firsthand," said Mimi La Camera, president of the Freedom Trail Foundation. The suite helps teach kids about Boston's vital role in American history.

What we love most about this initiative is its educational elements. Omni Hotels do so much for families in general, working hard to make sure kids have fun when visiting one of their properties. The Parker House has taken it a step further by combining those elements of fun with elements of learning. After all these years, the hotel continues to find ways to reach out to travelers to create a unique brand story.

As market conditions continue to improve in our industry hotels have to work harder than ever to attract families to their properties. Marketing departments must take initiatives to reach out to families to create one-of-a-kind experiences for them. It is the creation of these experiences that will lead to unique brand stories and attract families to your property.

Matthew G. Rosenberger is a family travel consultant and publisher who works with hotels that want to be recognized as the most family friendly in their region. He is publisher of ABC City Guides for Kids, an all-in-one alphabet book, activity guide and souvenir. The books are customized by hotels and resorts to feature their images, logo and address on the book's front and back covers. Mr. Rosenberger also promotes his selection of family friendly hotels at his website and family travel related assignments through his "We Love Kids" and "TOP FIVE" pick selections. Mr. Rosenberger can be contacted at 215-242-4011 or mgr@kidstravelguides.com Extended Bio...

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