Cynics call it the Hallmark holiday, but according to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent over $19bn celebrating Valentine's Day last year - proving that despite disillusion there's still serious money to be made.
The weekends surrounding February the 14th are some of the busiest dates in the calendar for hotels. But is the tide turning when it comes to traditional romance? Classic gestures such as champagne, chocolates and rose petals scattered on the bed are being replaced by alternative perks such as couples massages, private film screenings and personal tours.
“Valentine’s Day can be a very lucrative event for hotels and restaurants, so of course everyone is competing for the business,” says Warren Elliott, Head of Marketing & Communications for the Elite Hotel Group. “For hotels to stand out and appeal to couples looking for a special way to celebrate, they need to remember that Valentine’s Day is all about the romance – don’t focus on price-led offers, focus on how special guests will make their loved ones feel if they come to your hotel. Showing couples how they will be able to make lasting memories at your hotel is what will set you apart.”
Photo: Clem Onojeghuo
In the age of social media, millennial guests are often drawn in by how Instagrammable their gestures of love are. Last year, Hotel Arts in Barcelona offered a storybook proposal package where romancing couples were taken around the city by a personal photographer to document their romantic weekend. While those with deeper pockets flocked to The Dominick in New York City, which offered a skywriting service with their own pre-hired plane, private rooftop dinners and helicopter rides for lovers in the Big Apple.
However, a special Valentine's promotion doesn't have to be an expensive investment for the hotelier. Last February the 14th, the Henry Norman Hotel in Brooklyn featured a pop-up love letter station in the lobby with a vintage typewriter, fancy stationery with free postage, and a cocktail trolley, so guests could send love notes to their amours. Other properties attract by courting the whole family, even the dog.
The other 'significant other'
"Valentine’s Day is all about love and we wanted to celebrate not only guests' significant others, but another loved member of the family – man's best friend," explains Sam Carlton, General Manager of the Tennessean Hotel, where couples and their dogs can stay together with the Puppy Love package. Dogs will be treated to homemade treats and in-room dining, as well as the services of a dog sitter, while couples can enjoy the more traditional chilled champagne, chocolate dipped strawberries and rose petals on the bed experience. "We thought this type of package really exemplifies this concept. Partners get the romantic date night while still being able to include our furry companions who often get left at home on these special occasions," says Carlton.
In recent years, savvy hoteliers have started to see Valentine's Day as an opportunity to reach out to the singles market. First coined in the TV show Parks and Recreation, Galentine's Day, which falls on the February the 13th, is a celebration of female friendships. It has since become more mainstream - both Hallmark and Moonpig now sell a range of Galentine's Day cards - and now, even big hotel chains are jumping on the trend. Radisson Blu's Mall of America offer a Galentine's Day deal with heart-shaped macarons, chilled fizz and shopping coupons for the mall. While across the pond in Liverpool, The Shankly Hotel has offered single Valentine's packages for groups of girlfriends in the past, with a grand dinner, complete with semi-naked butlers, followed by a private screening of Fifty Shades Darker.
Alternatively, hotels could tap into unique local customs. Mandapa, a luxury Ritz-Carton property in Ubud, Bali offers the Grahastha Ritual package. Grahastha means 'time to marry' in Sanskrit and the two-hour experience includes a purification ceremony at the hotel's on-site temple followed by a guided Balinese wedding ritual. Whether it's rose petals or romantic rituals, it seems Valentine's Day is still a big hit for the hotel industry.
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- Valentine’s Day is all about the romance – forget price-led offers and focus on how special guests will feel
- Be social media friendly. Millennial guests are likely to be drawn to big Instagrammable gestures of love
- Look outside the box. Savvy hoteliers are using Valentine's Day as an opportunity to reach out to the singles market
- Tap into local customs and quirks and introduce romance rituals and traditions into your offerings