IHG gets local for San Diego property launch

Hotel Indigo is an urban-focused hotel brand owned by IHG with locations in New York, Shanghai, and Chicago.

Client: Hotel Indigo San Diego/IHG (Atlanta)
Agency: JWalcher Communications (San Diego)
Campaign: Hotel Indigo San Diego launch
Duration: January 2009 -- January 2010
Budget: $70,000

Hotel Indigo is an urban-focused hotel brand owned by IHG with locations in New York, Shanghai, and Chicago. IHG opened Hotel Indigo in San Diego in July and asked JWalcher Communications to help showcase the Hotel Indigo brand to consumers, investors, and franchise owners.

Strategy: Caroline Counihan, senior manager of media relations for IHG, says engaging with the San Diego community and establishing Hotel Indigo as integral to that community were key to the overall strategy. The team used media relations, social media, and events to capture attention about the hotel, which was positioned as the brand's flagship hotel.

Tactics: Outreach began in January 2009 at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit, with the team targeting potential investors, franchise owners, and media about the upcoming launch. The team invited hospitality trade and local media to a “hard-hat tour” of the construction site and, as the campaign progressed, outreach expanded to include local and national consumer travel, green, and art-related media.

Jean Walcher, president of JWalcher Communications, says that the Hotel Indigo is the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified hotel in San Diego and the first for IHG in the US. Messaging reinforced the brand's green features and a $300,000 investment in local art.

The team also used Facebook and Twitter to engage consumers prior to the opening with messages focusing on the personalities of the hotel management team, updates, and giveaways. Journalists from 25 outlets attended a grand opening sleepover event in July and IHG executives hosted a public opening in September.

Post-launch events, including an ongoing “Canine Cocktails Happy Hour,” sustained local engagement.

Results: Occupancy rates and revenue for the hotel in July exceeded projections by 25.8% and 65%, respectively. Occupancy rates continued to exceed goals from December through February.

Counihan notes that the campaign is informing best practices across IHG's entire portfolio of hotels, which include Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza.  The hotel, which has 1,235 Twitter followers and 727 Facebook fans, received coverage in ABC News, Los Angeles Times, and Travel + Leisure.

Future: The agency continues to work on local projects with the hotel. The team is preparing to launch a new series of events.

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