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By: Christian Kuhn, vice president of marketing, Homewood Suites by Hilton

The hotel industry is a constantly evolving sector, with brands always seeking ways to attract new customers and establish loyalty with guests. While broad demographics such as business and family travelers continue to be top targets for hotel marketing programs, there is another large, untapped demographic of leisure travelers that is catching the attention of many hotel brands - active and retired military.

There are more than 25 million active and retired members of the military in the U.S., and they are a prime target for hotel brands as they use their own money to travel often and have, on average, six weeks of vacation per year.   

The key for many hotel marketers is to create a campaign that will reach this target leisure travel audience in a way that fits their unique demands and respects the sacrifices they make. While some brands are only offering standard discounts, the military marketing programs that are the most successful are those that are not just trying to drive stays; but rather are seeking to build relationships and connect with this audience in ways that resonate most - creating opportunities to reconnect with family, providing aid for veterans in need, and sharing career opportunities. A few examples include:

Hilton Worldwide: The hotel company offers a "thank you" discount program for active and retired military, offering between 10 and 15 percent off the best available rate across all Hilton brands. Additionally, the company launched Operation: Opportunity, a pledge to hire 10,000 veterans over the next five years and donate HHonors points and free night stays to help job-seeking veterans. Hilton Worldwide's extended stay brand, Homewood Suites by Hilton, also initiated a special military campaign in August, hosting a surprise family reunion for a returning military official, and the brand hopes to enlist more travel industry partners to continue to host these types of reunions.  

La Quinta Inn & Suites: The brand has embraced an overall military initiative that not only provides employment opportunities for veterans by hiring those who have returned from overseas at La Quinta owned or franchised hotels and company offices, but they're also recruiting military spouses. The company has also created the La Quinta Returns Military Rewards level, which provides active military, veterans and their families with a multitude of extras, including more points per stay, discounts on the best available rate, free room upgrades, etc. 

Wyndham Hotel Group: Along with members of Wyndham Rewards, the group has donated more than 15 million points to the Fisher House Foundation's Hotels for Heroes, providing up to 250 free nights for injured military men and women to use while seeking treatment.  

As hoteliers will need to continue finding new audiences, there is no doubt that more hotel brands will begin offering special programs targeting active and retired military, and their families. These initiatives are just a small way we can begin to thank those who have done so much for us, and I look forward to seeing the innovative ways hotels will market to this important consumer segment. 

About Christian Kuhn

Christian Kuhn is vice president of marketing for Homewood Suites by Hilton.  He has played an instrumental role in the development and implementation of Homewood Suites' military marketing campaign, which includes a series of surprise military family reunion, cross-platform advertising campaign, strategic partnerships with military organizations, dedicated Facebook community and a special discount for military guests.  For more information, please visit www.HomewoodSuites.com

Contact: Christian Kuhn

christian.kuhn@hilton.com / 703-883-1000

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