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Think globally. Brand locally.

Posted by Claire Matthews
What do you do when tourism—particularly American tourism— is on a big downturn?

That's the question the Fairmont Empress Hotel, in Victoria, BC, has had to ask itself since the US economy hit hard times. Not only were its accommodation bookings way down, but the hotel's restaurants, spa and many shops and services were suffering.

One answer to the problem? Go local. Yup, market to the locals—and make them feel even more special than the out-of-towners

"Friends of the Empress" was launched in the summer of 2009. It provides "unique offers and benefits to loyal locals and BC residents." According to the organization's website, it has almost 5,000 members, with benefits including special access to hotel wine and food pairings, local golf courses, and local whale watching companies. The web page currently lists offers such as discounts on room bookings, meals, and spa treatments, plus complimentary parking.

It's so simple. A 10% to 20% discount is a big incentive for locals who are drawn to the hotel's prestige and high-end services. Plus, everyone who lives in Victoria has friends and relatives come to visit—and what a treat for them to get a discounted night at the Empress courtesy of their local pals.

Museums and other similar attractions have long offered discounted yearly memberships to promote repeat visits among locals. And many cities, including Victoria, offer discounts for one week a year with "Be a Tourist in Your Home Town" or "Be a Local Tourist" promotions. But the "Friends of the Empress" initiative proves that, with a little creativity and investment, hospitality venues can capitalize on local dollars year-round.

With a 20% discount, even I could be tempted by a glass of scotch in the Bengal Lounge.


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