Climb onboard Peninsula Hong Kong hotel's helicopter for a bird's-eye view of Hong Kong Global Geopark. // © 2014 The Peninsula Hotels
Experiential programs are nothing new for hoteliers. But these experiences — often including high-level interaction with chefs, mixologists and other expert in-house service providers — have traditionally been designed to keep guests inside the hotel. Additionally, they have typically lacked an adventurous element.
Today, chefs, concierges and other hotel ambassadors are hitting the road with guests, as brands roll out handcrafted activities designed to take explorers beyond the hotel’s four walls and into brave new worlds.
For example, guests at The Peninsula Chicago can zip around Chicago’s Autobahn Country Club racetrack after receiving private training on how to handle five distinctive high-performance vehicles, including the Porsche 911 Coupe. Once guests complete their racecourse education, they are free to drive throughout the city for up to four hours in their preferred vehicle.
The “Exotic Car Adventure” program is part of the Peninsula Academy, a series of learning programs offered by The Peninsula Hotels that give guests an insider’s look at the culture and lifestyle of the 10 cities where Peninsula properties are located. Each hotel offers a handful of carefully curated activities led by vetted local experts.
Experiential programs such as Peninsula Academy are good news for travel agents who are looking to book more diversified itineraries for clients. In addition to increased earning potential, travel agents don’t need to worry about the quality of the activities they are booking and can rest assured that the hotels have done the vetting for them.
Four Seasons Hotels is another brand that’s rolling out singular guest experiences, many of which include an adventurous spin. The brand’s “Extraordinary Experiences,” launched earlier this year, are built by on-site staff at each Four Seasons property and are designed to give guests a local’s perspective on the destination.
In Japan, guests can climb Mount Fuji with a personal guide selected by Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi. At Four Seasons Maldives, they can swim with manta rays in the company of marine scientists, while at Four Seasons Hotel Austin, guests can shoot hoops with basketball legend Hakeem Olajuwon.
Plenty of other hospitality companies, including Destination Hotels & Resorts, Leading Hotels of the World and Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts have also launched brand-wide initiatives that are tapping into growing consumer interest in unique experiences.
Whether it’s exercising Austria’s famed Lipizzaner stallions through Hotel Sacher Vienna, or taking a rock climbing clinic in the Sonoran Desert with an expert from The Boulders, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, adventure activities offered by hotels are constantly becoming more creative.
Adventure as Reward
Creating programs that tap into guests’ wishes to actively experience the world around them makes good business sense. In fact, some brands are offering one-of-a-kind experiential activities as a reward to guests in their top-tier loyalty programs.
MGM Resorts International provides a long list of perks for members of its popular “M life” program, which rewards guests for staying and playing at brand properties in Las Vegas, Mississippi and Detroit. One program component, M Life Moments, offers distinctive experiences that can often only be found at MGM Resorts.
“MGM Resorts customers enjoy M Life because of all of the benefits and members-only experiences that are part of our loyalty program,” said Josh Swissman, vice president of Loyalty Marketing for MGM Resorts International. “Members gain exclusive access to the best that MGM Resorts has to offer.”
Key M Life Moments include exclusive Las Vegas activities, such as diving with sharks at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino or participating in a marshmallow tossing lesson with members of the famed Blue Man Group.
The Ritz-Carlton has also developed a limited series of once-in-a-lifetime events through its rewards program. Exclusive annual events include a golf weekend with retired Swedish golf pro Annika Sorenstam and a skating event with Olympic gold medalists and famed ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
Perhaps money really can buy happiness — when purchasing a life experience. And if participating in life experiences does lead to more bliss, hotels are certainly doing their part to help travelers increase their contentment levels.
Unique Adventure Packages
Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf Astoria
Guests can feel like they are back in time when they learn the ancient art of gladiator fighting. Students receive a full gladiator kit, including Roman sandals, a traditional tunic, a belt, iron and leather protective gloves and a wooden training sword.
Luxury by Land & Sea
Peninsula Hong Kong
Onboard the hotel’s helicopter, travelers trade in views of the urban skyline for the rugged coastline of Hong Kong Global Geopark. After landing on a white-sand beach and enjoying a picnic, guests board a luxury yacht for a sailing excursion.
Private Batting Practice at Comerica Park
MGM Grand Detroit
Only MGM’s most elite loyalty members can enjoy taking advantage of a batting practice session on the field at Detroit’s Comerica Park. Up to five people can take a swing at balls pitched by former Detroit Tigers pitcher Dave Rozema.
Row Like a Pro
Four Seasons Hotel Boston
Outfitted in custom attire, guests team up with an Olympic rowing champion who will guide them to prime spots along Boston’s Charles River, such as the iconic Eliott Bridge and the Cambridge Boat Club, in a private two-hour rowing session.
Surf Witch’s Rock
Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort, Costa Rica
Surfers can enjoy a full-day excursion to surfing hot-spot Witch’s Rock. The package includes custom Faherty gear and an insider’s surf guide created by brothers Alex and Mike Faherty, who were recently designated the resort’s Cultural Insiders of Surf.
Inn and Spa at Loretto, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Partake in an Indiana Jones-style adventure at this inn. Upon arrival, guests receive a copy of the book “The Thrill of the Chase,” written by archeologist Forrest Fenn. Inside, clues direct seekers to actual treasure hidden within the southernmost subrange of the Rocky Mountains.
Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas
Enjoy an unforgettable night flight filled with stunning aerial views of the Las Vegas strip in a Waco biplane. Modeled after the original 1930s aircraft, the open cockpit plane features seating for two, just right for a romantic and intimate experience.