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By Alexia Charoupa

Narratives are powerful in moving, inspiring, making feeling unique, orchestrating emotional connections and qualifying a link between the most top-notch hotels and their guests. Today more and more hotels reconfigure their hospitality strategies towards the adoption of an experiential orientation through stories. They script namely unique, extraordinary narratives and stage escapist events, individually customized and personally meaningful for each guest persona.

The following extraordinary personally scripted stories based on the experiential marketing methodology elicit insightful perspectives:

  • Ritz-Carlton's Stories That Stay With You

A pioneer hotel chain that adopted this experiential marketing storytelling principle early on is Ritz-Carlton hotels.

Ritz-Carlton's website section Stories That Stay With You, which comes with the elucidative subtitle Memorable moments from the Ladies & Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton, is a storytelling inventory and library of the extraordinary experiences that the brand's personnel weaved for its guests.

One of the most fascinating stories of them is:

In the winter of 2009 at the The Ritz-Carlton (Ritzcarlton.com, n.d.), Philadelphia, a wedding reception, lovingly prepared for two years, was about to be destroyed. The once-in-a-lifetime event had been planned in an area 30 minutes away from the town and many of the guests were travelling from Australia to attend it, staying at The Ritz-Carlton. The only chance to resolve the big issue was to plan a wedding within just four hours amidst a severe blizzard. The blinding snowstorm had rendered the road conditions perilous and, what is more, all the transfer companies had closed, trapping the wedding guests in the city.

The bridal couple requested from the concierge at 09:00 a.m. that Saturday morning the utmost challenge: to relocate the ceremony to the Grand Ballroom in just four hours! At 13:00 a.m. the hotel staff had arranged a magnificent ceremony within the hotel great hall. The customized menus, the soup, the dessert, the unique lightning arrangements, the flowers, the wedding cake, an eight- piece band, the photographer were all on time and impeccably ready to welcome the bride and the groom, having arrived at the hotel, undeterred by the severe weather conditions, to assist the hotel staff in this extempore occasion. The story is, however, further infused with an additional difficulty: The wedding cake supplier, being in the city, endeavoured to deliver the cake to the wedding site, but upon his arrival it was broken in tree pieces. The hotel's pastry chef, then, holistically rebuilt it, just one hour prior to the commencement of the ceremony.

During the wedding event, the Director of Banquets and the Director of Meetings and Special Events took a photograph of the newlyweds and placing it in a silver Ritz-Carlton frame, they delivered it, accompanied with a personalized wedding card signed by all the staff people, to the suite of the neighbouring hotel where the bridal couple would stay for their first connubial night. The two Ritz-Carlton Directors escorted the bridal couple to the adjacent hotel, plodding through the 18 inches of snow. To the couple's astonishment, the first photograph of their wedding along with the Ritz-Carlton signature card gift was waiting for them in the hotel suite of the nearby hotel that they had booked for that evening. This highly personalized story landed on the headlines of Philadelphian newspapers under the apposite title "Wedded Blizz".

2.  A Vivaldi's opera and the Mayor of a city of Austria, a story orchestrated in Costa Navarino

During the summer of 2015, in my job position as Concierge at The Romanos, A Luxury Collection Resort I created such a story harmonized with the practice and philosophy of the experiential marketing of tourism destinations:

I had some guests, a Viennese couple of which the husband was mayor of a city of Austria. Searching for a dramaturgy with personal meanings and revelance and relying on the narrative canvas of Messinia, I sent him a message to his room in which I recounted the following story: In "L'Oracolo in Messinia" («The Oracle of Messinia") Vivaldi narrates the myth of Queen Merope, who is forced to marry the usurper of the throne Polyfontis who had murdered her husband Cresphontes and the six of their seven children. Forgotten for 270 years, the opera was "reconstructed" from the composer Fabio Biondi and staged in Vienna in 2012. In this way, I managed to find for this man with the particular interest in history and art, a personal connection between the cultural cues of Messinia, Vienna and the very special profile of my guest.

This is a story of how we can manage the hotel landscape with the basic construct of "experience", which offers us the possibility of differentiating and adding value to the tourism product. Besides, the arena of tourism is summarized in the narrative management.

Learning outcome:

Ritz-Carlton and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide are some of the companies that went that extra mile, constituting examples that showcase that the incorporation of experiential marketing stories in organizations is a key determinant in delivering corporate benefits. The cited stories evaluate the scope, leading to the learning outcome that extraordinary personally scripted stories based on the experiential marketing methodology establish a link between the brands and their consumers, scale sustainably the goodwill of the organizations and, consequently, irreversibly instill positive emotions in the minds of customers in a way that transform them to brand ambassadors and lifelong users.

About Alexia Charoupa

Alexia Charoupa is graduate of the Department of Communication, Media and Culture, Panteion University (specialization in Marketing, PR and Communication). She is Hospitality Writer on Travel Daily News while she periodically contributes to epixeiro.gr and Savoir Ville. Furthermore she is Guest Experience Expert at The Cloud Keys. Having performed as Concierge at The Romanos, A Luxury Collection Resort, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. and Concierge d'hôtel at Katikies Hotel, Santorini, she is currently Guest Relations Manager at Rocabella Santorini Suites & Spa. Furthermore, she is the Founder/CEO and Owner of "The Storytelling Hotel". With "The Storytelling Hotel" she was distinguished among the TOP 10 European Finalists in the Third Annual European Thesis Competition of Edcom by EACA (European Association of Communication Agencies), after being nominated by the Greek Institute of Communication to represent her country for this European award. Alexia also received for "The Storytelling Hotel” the TOURISM AWARD 2016- Silver at the Section: Strategy & Innovation/ Award Category: 1.7 Research & Writing Work: ΤEMES (Costa Navarino) in cooperation with Alexia Charoupa, Bachelor Thesis, Panteion University. Her expertise lies in the branding narrative management of hotels, the experience economy as well as the creation of storytelling and "wow" factors in the field of hospitality. Cognizing hotels as narrative platforms, with any hospitality brand that she works, she tries to increase its uniqueness in terms of service innovation, accomplish personalized signature experiences and, last but not least, manage the emotional connection of the guest with the brand.

Contact: Alexia Charoupa

alexiachar@gmail.com

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