Hotels, airlines offer treats to lure customers

While some offers aim to spur business travel, others are finding ways to sweeten the visit for those already on the road.

As part of the Kimpton hotel chain's summer "playground" campaign that runs until Labor Day, guests who hula hoop for 20 seconds or emerge victorious from a game of rock, paper, scissors can win a free room upgrade.

Being quirky is not a new concept for Kimpton, which has featured tarot card readers during evening receptions at some of its properties.

But being inventive is more important in a tough economy in which many hotels are lowering room rates, says Niki Leondakis, COO for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants.

"Creativity is essential," she says, adding that the games help guests "understand the essence of our brand and (reinforce) our connection with our customers … so they'll go out and recommend us to others."

Such novel promotions reflect, in part, generational shifts in what piques the public's interest, marketing expert Rust says. "It's a lot more quirky now," he says.

Rust says the innovative promotions are intended to build buzz that will get some people spending money now and be remembered by those who'll spend once the recession eases.

"It helps create more attention," he says, "even if they don't get the immediate profit benefit from it right now."

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