Livestreams of rescued elephants enjoying bath time in Thailand’s far north are shared twice daily by the Anantara luxury hotel group, amusing and soothing people homebound by the pandemic.
From France, the morning routines of the popular Paris Saint-Germain football players will be streamed by the Accor global hospitality company soon.
Hotels across the shut-in planet are now staying visible by sharing bite-sized digital content on the good life.
Mostly posted on Instagram and Facebook, the inspirational content is also in tune with the times, when people crave wellness and escapism, hotel executives and analysts tell The Sunday Times.
The new campaigns include At Home With Six Senses, Accor Live Limitless, #AnantaraEscapism, Club Med At Home, Belmond Invitations and Weekly Gems by Bvlgari Hotels & Resorts.
Collectively, hotels worldwide are creating a rich digital world of home spa therapies, pastry masterclasses, cocktails, meditation, concerts, playlists, safaris, vistas from hotel windows and far more, drawing from their in-house expertise or partners.
In sharing wellness experiences and wish-list destinations remotely, these hotels, and also the travel industry as a whole, are trying to build brand loyalty during downtime and address suppressed wanderlust, to position themselves for the burst in demand after the pandemic.
This works especially well for metropolitan places like Singapore, where “seeking new experiences” is ingrained in the lifestyle of city dwellers, says Ms Carolyn Corda, chief marketing officer of California-based Adara, a leading provider of travel intelligence.
“The desire to travel – to connect and to explore – is deep-seated in the human spirit.
“Brands that recognise and continue to engage consumers in the midst of growing restlessness will be better positioned to capitalise on the burst in demand when recovery sets in.”
With many hotels temporarily closed, staying visible, it is hoped, will lead to room stays later.
Mr Mark Thomson, senior director of public relations and communications for Bangkok-based Minor Hotels, whose portfolio of 530 hotels includes Anantara, says: “By showcasing our best resources, not only our locations, but also our people, from our chefs, wellness gurus, fitness and yoga instructors, marine biologists, in fact all of our staff, we are very confident that staying top of mind during this period will keep us top of everyone’s bucket list further down the track.”
Crafting inspiring moments for online audiences is really an extension of the hospitality ethos, which prioritises the pampering of guests with pleasures like wellness, good food and inviting spaces.
Escapism in anxious days
The difference is that during the pandemic, the hotels are amplifying content for a bigger pool of virtual visitors.
Ms Samantha Strawford, brand communications director of London-based Belmond, which operates hotels, train services and river cruises worldwide, says: “Our content builds on the brand’s wellbeing philosophy – Good Living – which focuses on experiences that enrich mind, body and soul.”
The company has just launched Belmond Invitations, a series of online performances by talents, such as British pianist Joe Stilgoe, who brought a touch of 1920s glamour to homes on March 27.
The series has so far included jazz, yoga, cookery, floristry and, most recently, poetry with British actress Gala Gordon and producer Isabella MacPherson from Platform Presents, a theatre company with a special interest in female voices.
“Poetry is a beautiful way to calm the mind and travel through stories,” Ms Strawford observes.
Belmond uses IGTV, the live video option from Instagram, mindful that the platform has more than a billion active monthly users.
Pastry and soccer
Response to these digital forays has been positive.
When the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort hit upon the idea of livestreaming its elephants in Chiang Rai to give people respite from Covid-19 news, it was reaching about 300 people a day.
After international media such as Fox News and Travel & Leisure magazine highlighted the elephants, the daily audience hit about 2,800. Also, its Anantara Nomads Blog has enjoyed a 30 per cent rise in views.
Mr Thomson of Minor Hotels, which includes the Anantara brand, says: “The feedback has been very positive and I believe that during these uncertain times, the ability to escape, even if it’s virtually, is what people are looking for.”
In this light, its Accor Live Limitless programme, billed as a daily lifestyle companion, includes pastry classes with award-winning French chef Quentin Lechat; playlists designed by the Montreux Jazz Festival; and fitness tie-ups with the Paris Saint-Germain footballers.
Accor signed an exclusive partnership with the professional soccer club, which counts 395 million fans on social media.
Mr Henrik Berglind, vice- president for Loyalty & Guest Experience at Accor Asia Pacific, says the company can bring some joy to its 64 million loyalty members or others seeking immersive content.
“We can certainly bring some of their passions to them to brighten their days,” he says.
“Even if their plans are now on hold, the passion and the desire for food, entertainment and sport remain.”
Accor is Singapore’s largest hotel operator with an inventory of 7,625 rooms, including Raffles Hotel and Swisshotel The Stamford. The company has 5,000 properties in 110 countries.
Dance parties, small spaces
Meanwhile, other hotel groups, big and little, are rolling out getaways from home.
Club Med, true to its forte in active holidays and family fun, has family dance parties, besides Caribbean cocktail classes and virtual travel to the French Alps. These activities are hosted on its Club Med At Home site.
Red Carnation Hotels showcases views from its properties, such as the 800-year-old Ashford Castle, where windows open out to the green landscapes of the Irish West Coast.
Hilton has tips to make the home more hospitable for telecommuting workers. For instance, its Hilton At Home series has a post on “Five Steps to Keep Your Mind and Body Fit in Small Spaces”.
Singita, which runs African safari lodges and camps, lets people enjoy game drives from their sofa.
From globe-girdling groups like Aman to little Nihi Sumba in Indonesia, more and more hotels are creating micro-escapes.
All this virtual travel is feeding wanderlust.
“This may in turn deepen suppressed demand for travel and leisure activities, when the virtual world reaches its limit in offering in-person, immersive experiences,” says Ms Corda from Adara.
Beyond hotels, swathes of the tourism sector have already pivoted online with virtual tours of the Great Wall of China and London Zoo, for instance.
Destinations from Dubai to Australia have started campaigns targeted at the pent-up wanderlust that is building, she also points out.
Finn Partners, a New York brand-building consultancy firm, says in its recent reports that travel brands strive to find the sweet spot between being inspirational and promotional.
It also notes: “Many travel brands and destinations are working on the premise that if the travel consumer can’t come to us, we will come to the travel consumer.”
And so the spirit of travel knows no bounds.