Though New York City is one of the most popular places to visit in the world, Apple Core Hotels has experienced a drop in occupancy rates each July.
To convince families to abandon the beach and brave the city, Apple Core Hotels and Nancy J. Friedman PR, its AOR, created the family-friendly "Take the Grandkids, Leave the Parents" package.
"We wanted a different take on a normal New York City travel package," explains Jack Yeaton, AE at Friedman. "No other hotels offer intergenerational packages."
At Apple Core's heart stands five mid-priced hotels that operate in conjunction with several nationwide chains: Comfort Inn Midtown, La Quinta Manhattan, Ramada Inn Eastside, Red Roof Inn Manhattan, and Super 8 Hotel Times Square.
The "Take the Grandkids, Leave the Parents" package was created to promote the bond between grandparents and their grandchildren, focusing the vacation on learning about heritage and history.
The idea to target that audience sprung from the fact that, although kids are out of school for most of the summer, their parents still have to go to work. A vacation with retired grandparents was positioned as a great way to keep the kids busy while touring one of the greatest cities in the country.
"For some families, summer is the only time the grandkids can spend with their grandparents," says Kara Schnabel, account supervisor at Friedman.
"With kids, you don't want to take them to stay at a super-luxurious place, and in that instance we absolutely fit the bill," says Vijay Dandapani, COO for Apple Core and chairman of the hotel association of New York. "We're clean, comfortable, safe, affordable, and convenient."
The PR team's long-term goal was to build awareness of Apple Core's family friendly rates and accommodations for visitors year round.
The agency created a press release that was distributed to top-tier national and international newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters.
To get the most bang for its buck, the agency focused on press releases and phone calls to key syndicated columnists and publications that feature family travel. By targeting certain journalists, the agency sought to take a one-on-one approach to make sure to get key messages across. Presenting the effort as a "feel-good package" also allowed the PR team to tap into photo-ops and sidebars.
"We found a lack in the market and played up the uniqueness of the package," Yeaton says. "It got writers and editors interested."
The package was implemented for the month of July and included complimentary continental breakfast, four tickets to board the Circle Line's Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island ferry, and admission to tour the Statue of Liberty. Children under 13 were able to stay for free when sharing a room with their grandparents.
Because Apple Core Hotels was not running any other promotions or campaigns during July, the results were clear.
Compared to July 2004, Apple Core's website dramatically increased its exposure to unique viewers by 82%. Forty-one packages were booked, and revenue from reservations increased 20%. "There is a need out there, and we were pleasantly surprised at the response," says Dandapani.
The coverage was reported throughout the US, Canada, and the UK in newspapers, travel and trade magazines, syndicated columns, and online outlets, including in The Washington Post, New York Daily News, Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, and Lodging magazine.
The success of "Take the Grandkids, Leave the Parents" led to a new initiative slated for December in conjunction with the Big Apple Circus, with Friedman leading the charge.
Due to the success of the July promotion, Apple Core plans on offering a package along the same lines for next year.
PR team: Apple Core Hotels and Nancy J. Friedman PR (both New York)
Campaign: Take the Grandkids, Leave the Parents
Time frame: July 2005