For a certain breed of traveler, the luxury hotel stay defines the lifestyle. That means for a hotel to service their clientele, every facet of a hotel property must communicate the same message, from the initial phone reservation, to the check-out process and every amenity in-between. Allison Kneubuhl and her company Allimar Marketing assists some of the most notable luxury hotel brands in the world, by repositioning, marketing and upholding the lifestyle message consistent to appeal to the consummate traveler.
How did you become a specialist in hospitality?
I am not sure I am a “Specialist” but more of a lover of travel and hotels! My father was a Captain for Pan American Airways and I used to travel with him when I was growing up. I loved every part of the travel experience but hotels held a special interest for me. My first hotel job was as a hostess at a Holiday Inn in Palo Alto California when I was in college and it got me thinking I might actually be able to carve out a career in the hotel business. I have worked in dozens of hotels over the years and have evolved into a perpetual student of sales and marketing processes and how they can improve. I love this business and plan on working until someone makes me stop!
What is about the hotel business that you fell in love with? What happened at the Holiday Inn that sparked a flame?
I think I fell in love with the idea that I could actually get paid to work in an environment that encompassed restaurants, travel, meetings, events and really interesting people! The real epiphany came five years later when I was hired as a Sales Manager for the first Four Season Hotel in the US, “The Clift” in San Francisco. That was my introduction into the luxury hotel market and I never looked back!
What’s the best thing about working at your company, Allimar?
Having been on-property for most of my career I am enjoying the flexibility of working with various hotels and providing marketing solutions. Participating in the success of a hotel is the greatest reward.
How does design help you in your marketing a property?
Design is not just the sizzle on the steak, it is as important to the overall branding of the property as the delivery of the promise of the guest experience. Design permeates everything from how your email looks to the logo. Great design can communicate (often times subliminally) the quality and ambience of the hotel without ever stepping foot on the property. The best design communicates the essence of a property evocatively.
There exists the trend in selling the lifestyle of the hotel, instead of a property’s features. Do you feel this trend will continue? What’s held in the future for hospitality marketing?
The hotel industry has evolved right along with the guests. I remember traveling with my parents on road trips and staying at hotels with pools and vibrating beds (for a quarter!) and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. 20 years later Four Seasons introduced shampoo, conditioner, slippers and robes as a standard amenity which was ground-breaking in the 80’s. Then they got busy with offering alternative items on the restaurant menus for travelers that were watching their calories and cholesterol. Revolutionary! Today hotels are still paying attention to how their travelers live: work-out equipment brought to your room, pillow butlers, beds you can purchase, iPod alarm clocks…it will never end. As long as travelers demonstrate a need for a product or service, hotels are happy to oblige. As far as the future, I predict that brands will become less important. Luxury travelers want an authentic experience, not the same standard issue staff, furniture, menus, etc…that they can get at any hotel worldwide. They want to be surprised and delighted. The eco trend will continue and the winners will be the hotels that adopted early and are committed to the process.
What is your favorite property and why?
This is a tough one… I love different hotels for different reasons. My top favorites are Hotel Bel Air in LA, The Lodge at Koele on the Island of Lanai and The Cloister on Sea Island Georgia. Each one of these hotels offers impeccable service, unique and exquisite surroundings and accommodations. And they deliver on their promise of excellence!
What is your best hotel or resort-stay memory?
I was staying at The Oriental in Bangkok and had to prepare a presentation I believe, and was on deadline. I had laid at least twenty carefully organized piles of paper on my unmade bed in a specific order so I could hole punch and get them in a binder. I had to leave to meet someone and when I came back and entered the room, to my horror I realized that the room attendants had been in to clean and I was sure that all my work was lost. I couldn’t believe that the bed was perfectly made with every single pile in perfect order. Things like that happened all week. The next day as I was leaving for the airport one of the doorman handed me a magnificently hand written note on a bag tag that had the most beautiful bit of philosophy about life. He was so genuinely pleased when he handed it to me. Hands down, best hotel experience I have ever had.