Miami Herald: Mouthwash. Comfy robe. Sewing kit. BMW?
Hotels increasingly are offering a new amenity: access to luxury cars. The Ritz-Carlton in Key Biscayne has a fleet of new BMWs available for guests to test-drive for up to three hours through early June. Fairmont Turnberry Isle in Aventura shuttles VIPs in a Jaguar XJL. Miami’s Epic Hotel has hosted special events showcasing exotic roadsters including Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
“When we put a Jaguar out front, it’s subliminal advertising to a degree, because it’s sitting right there for all our members and all our guests to see every day,” said David Feder, managing director of Fairmont Turnberry Isle. The shiny speed machines look good parked in front of the lobby, sure, but they’re also a sales pitch from auto dealers and manufacturers to well-heeled (but hopefully not lead-footed) guests.
“It’s product placement both ways,” said Chekitan Dev, a professor of marketing and brand management at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. “Car companies want to get in front of these people because they have money to spend. The hotel is also trying to place its product in front of the car.”
Stacy Morris, marketing communications manager for BMW of North America, calls the six-year partnership between Ritz-Carlton and BMW a “perfect brand fit.” The tour arrived in Key Biscayne last year.
BMW assumes all liability and has staffers on hand to gas the cars up, keep them in good shape and show drivers how to use their features. Test drivers must have a valid license, be at least 21 and be a guest of the hotel.
Hotel general manager Derek Flint said there were no mishaps last year aside from a couple of speeding stops and one man who ran out of gas. While the promotion likely doesn’t drive many people to book rooms at the hotel, he said, the benefit comes from enhanced guest satisfaction. “The feedback is great,” he said. “And we’re connected to that.”
In car-crazed Miami and its environs, the relationship between cars and hotels stretches back decades. During David Kurland’s tenure running the old Grand Bay Hotel in Coconut Grove in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the hotel accepted a Porsche 911 to keep out front.At the St. Regis Bahia Beach in Puerto Rico, where he works now as general manager, a Bentley Mulsanne (base price: $285,000) graces the entrance.
“People associate what sits out front with what goes on inside,” Kurland said. “When you go to hotels like the Shore Club, the Delano, you’re always going to see parked out front — and it’s not by chance — the Ferraris, the Lamborghinis, the Porsches.”
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