A case in point is the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company division of Marriott International, which is expressing that sentiment as the theme of a campaign scheduled to begin on Thursday: “Let us stay with you.”
The switch, replacing the usual hotel-chain request to “Please stay with us,” is intended to convey that the memories of a visit to a Ritz-Carlton luxury property will last longer than another fluffy bathrobe.
Another upscale lodging chain, Orient-Express Hotels, is taking a similar tack in a campaign that is to begin on Monday, which carries the theme “Embark on a journey like no other.” The campaign is centered on video clips of a fictional family whose name, the Astorbilts, evokes wealth of yore but whose behavior is contemporary, valuing experiences over material possessions.
Orient-Express and Ritz-Carlton are among several luxury lodging chains that are continuing to advertise despite the recent bumpy ride that the economy has taken America on. Others include the Luxury Collection, part of Starwood Hotels and Resorts; Conrad Hotels and Resorts, an upscale brand in the Hilton Worldwide portfolio; and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
“Our business volumes are currently ahead of the same time last year and our future bookings are ahead of the same time last year,” said Chris Gabaldon, chief sales and marketing officer at Ritz-Carlton.
“I say that with caution,” he added, because “the economy is still very much in the early stages of a fragile recovery.”
Still, “the one area the affluent consumer is likely to spend money on is travel,” Mr. Gabaldon said. “It’s almost like rewarding yourself for making it through difficult times.”
His counterpart at Orient-Express, David Williams, chief marketing officer, echoed that assessment. “At this point in time, revenue is about 40 to 50 percent up from last year,” Mr. Williams said, “and our booking trends are still very positive.”
“We don’t have our eyes closed,” he added, “but our clients have been resilient.”
Still, encouraging even the rich to spend now is no walk on a private beach.
“Luxury is not a necessity,” said Mark Miller, chief strategic officer at the Ritz-Carlton creative agency, Team One Advertising in El Segundo, Calif., part of the Saatchi & Saatchi division of the Publicis Groupe.
So the new campaign takes an emotional tack, Mr. Miller said, to encourage travelers to evolve from “measuring a stay in the number of days” to “measuring a stay in the number of memories, so you get your memory’s worth, not just your money’s worth.”
The ads list ways that guests can ask the hotels’ 34,000 employees — called the “ladies and gentlemen of the Ritz-Carlton” — to create memories. Among them: “Let us invent a drink in your honor,” “Let us take you snorkeling by moonlight,” “Let us turn a weekend getaway into a honeymoon you never thought you’d have,” “Let us introduce your kids to a loggerhead turtle,” “Let us re-create the recipe from your favorite meal in Paris” and “Let us make you captain of your very own ship.”
The videos in the Orient-Express campaign chronicle the “unique experiences” enjoyed by the Astorbilt family, which may remind viewers of other make-believe brand families, assembled by fashion labels, like the Diors and the Hilfigers.
The clips follow the Astorbilts — father Duke, mother Lauren, son Maximillian and daughter Penelope — as they travel and stay at properties like the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro; the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge and the Hotel Monasterio, both in Peru; and the Hotel Cipriani in Venice. And they also travel on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
“The idea is to create a world around each character,” said Richard Christiansen, creative director at Chandelier Creative in New York, the Orient-Express creative agency, rather than to follow the template for hotel advertising and “talk about a service and a room.”
“This had to be more editorial, more cinematic” than traditional lodging campaigns, he added, “so it feels like experiences, the experiences you get on a journey.”
To help the ads appeal to younger consumers, both campaigns will have extensive presences in social media like Facebook, Foursquare, Tumblr and Twitter as well as at online locations like orient-express.com/journeylikenoother and ritzcarlton.com/stories.
Orient-Express wants to attract “the 29-year-old investment banker,” Mr. Christiansen said, along with its typical customers who are ages 40 to 60.
The goal is to dispel perceptions of “a stuffy old hotel,” he added, and “infuse a little sexiness back into the brand.”
The budget of the Ritz-Carlton campaign is estimated at $10 million to $15 million. According to Kantar Media, part of WPP, Ritz-Carlton spent $13.5 million on ads last year, $9.1 million in 2009, $17.6 million in 2008 and $22.1 million in 2007.
Orient-Express is spending about $1 million on its campaign. According to Kantar Media, Orient-Express spent $495,000 on ads last year, $158,000 in 2009, $496,000 in 2008 and $408,000 in 2007.