Hotel manager uses Internet site to rent rooms, take higher profile

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San Diego’s Hotel Del Coronado, Del Mar’s L’Auberge Del Mar Resort and D.C.’s Washington Monarch Hotel are just three of 27 properties managed on behalf of institutional investors by Destination Hotels & Resorts (www.destinationtravel.com), a division of the Lowes Corp. of Los Angeles.

The formerly low-key hotel-industry player is emerging as a visible marketing force through the Internet.

According to the YP&B/Yankelovic Partners 1998 National Travel Monitor report (www.lodgingresearch.com), the No. 1 source of trusted information on hotel and resort properties comes from a trusted friend or referral, said David Metz, director of relationship marketing for Denver-based DHR.

“But the reality of the Internet is that it is quickly becoming the number-one place where people go to find out information regarding travel destinations and it has become our directive to create a presence for these properties in cyberspace,” Mr. Metz said.

He said travelers are more likely to trust detailed information they get from a Web site than from a printed brochure or a sales pitch from a travel agent.

The DHR Web site contains information on each of its locations, including two new properties: the Argent Hotel, San Francisco, and the Washington Monarch Hotel, which is at 24th and M streets.

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Each hotel’s page includes a text description and photos of the property. Travelers or business-meeting planners also can learn about guest-room accommodations, dining opportunities, sports and recreational facilities, business and conference services and maps.

Links are provided to individual properties that have their own Web sites.

“We are now working on creating our own Web site,” said Steve Schopf, director of sales at the Washington Monarch. “Our goals include creating a site that will give our guests and meeting planners an ease of access to all that the hotel has to offer.”

The Web site will eventually include a virtual tour of the hotel, meeting-space specifications, and menus for hotel dining, as well as catered events, such as weddings and business meetings.

“A prime attraction of the D.C. area for business and leisure travelers includes the local attractions of the area,” Mr. Schopf said. “The site will also include information as to our proximity to Georgetown, the White House, Capitol and other national attractions, such as the Smithsonian Institution and Kennedy Center.”

The DHR site also provides users with the ability to make on-line reservations at most of the properties.

Mr. Metz credits the Internet site with bringing DHR properties to the attention of foreign-born travelers who might find a DHR property on line that a regionally based travel agent or service might not be aware of.

“When making travel reservations in the U.S. from Japan or London, the time difference alone makes it difficult,” Mr. Metz said. “The Web site not only allows us to be noticed by international travelers, but it also allows us to provide them information and respond to their questions via e-mail 24 hours a day.”

DHR’s entrance into high technology does not stop with the Internet.

Escalating its multimedia efforts, DHR has worked with properties such as the Hotel Del Coronado (www.hoteldel.com) to create interactive CD-ROMS that can be mailed in lieu of printed materials.

“What we try to address is the cross use of the digital media so that the CD-ROM promotional piece contains expanded elements of those used on the property’s Web site,” said Steve Seghers, account executive for Hyper-Disk Media (www.hyperdisk.com). “The CD-ROM . . . provides a tangible tool that is a high-impact experience.”

According to Mr. Seghers, the CD-ROM works well as a cross-promotional tool. When the user links to the Web site from the disk, they have a feeling that they are where they are supposed to be, getting the information that they want.

The CD-ROM and Internet approach can provide hotels with considerable savings over the cost of traditional printed materials. The development of an Internet Web site can cost upwards of $50,000 and reach an unlimited number of potential clients. Delivering a CD-ROM to the user is usually under $2 per disk.

“Our research shows that most information and sales packages that include color photos, brochures and slides run upward of $15 each,” Mr. Seghers said.

* Have an interesting site? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Business Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail (joseph@twtmail.com) ****PHOTO/BOX

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