Over the past year, there has been no shortage of unconventional approaches to attract new guests: a free room for disconnecting from social media, vegan-friendly suites, and very non-vegan-friendly suites at the new Taco Bell Resort. Travelers have plenty of options for where to call home when they’re away from home, which means that companies must work to create headlines that are worthy of a double take.
Graduate Hotels managed to do just that with its innovative Hall Pass program, which invited guests to pay $400 for an unlimited number of hotel stays from July 15–Aug. 15. The package was available to a limited number of guests, and it sold out quickly. Those lucky guests can do plenty of exploring this summer. The program includes 15 properties, spread across the country from Eugene, Oregon to Charlottesville, Virginia.
Those carrying the Hall Pass aren’t the only winners here, though. Graduate only operates in college towns. While the portfolio includes major markets such as Minneapolis and Seattle, the majority of these properties most likely see lower occupancy rates during the Hall Pass period. Their average daily rates are almost certainly lower, too, since peak periods such as homecoming, move-in, and parents’ weekends are all in the fall when classes are actually in session. While the company will lose some money if all guests decide to take full advantage of the 30-night stay opportunity, they’ll make plenty back in food and beverage spending, too.
Growing a Database and Growing a Portfolio
And when guests are looking for rooms during those busy times, Graduate will be able to connect with more than the deal-savvy summer travelers who scored the Hall Pass. They’re rewarding those who missed out with a 25-percent-off discount code and an invitation to hand over something even more valuable: their email addresses. It’s a smart and simple approach to growing their database, which will be essential to fueling their continued growth. Graduate has plans to open eight new properties by the end of 2020. The hotel company may be playing in cities where students live, but it seems like it could taking on a teaching role for the hotel industry at large. Named to Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies list in 2018, Graduate tends to drive rates that are 20-percent higher than its competitors. How? Graduate seems to have already mastered a lesson that many established hotels are trying to learn: It’s cool to be different.
The restaurant at its Madison, Wisconsin location pays homage to a combination of summer camp and Badger State supper club taverns, and the lobby in Eugene celebrates the Nike brand that has helped build the University of Oregon’s athletics program. The you’ll-only-find-it-here finishes are reminiscent of the value proposition of one of the hotel industry’s biggest competitors — Airbnb — but the promise of upscale rooms helps visiting parents avoid feeling like they’ve returned to their own dorms.
David McMillin is an associate editor at Convene.