ATLANTA—Cookies, milk and books, oh my! Holiday Inn has launched its first-ever Summer of Smiles program, a collection of family friendly in-hotel activities. Since June, select Holiday Inn hotels have hosted on-property events, such as Chocolate Milk Happy Hours in partnership with Fairlife ultra-filtered milk and Otis Spunkmeyer baked goods, and teamed up with Scholastic to keep kids excited about reading throughout the summer, with books at check-in and character breakfasts.
“Our goal with the Summer of Smiles program is to bring new and fresh experiences to our valued guests as the physical extension of our Holiday Inn Smiles Ahead multimedia advertising campaign,” said Eric Lent, VP, full-service hotels & food and beverage solutions, IHG. “The campaign underscores the Holiday Inn brand’s commitment to making every moment matter for our guests, which is something the brand has long been known for. We knew that many families would be taking trips together during the summer, and Holiday Inn has a rich history of being part of family vacations. This marked the perfect opportunity to create an exciting, unexpected and memorable program that will leave a positive, lasting impact on our guests.”
The final program event will occur Aug. 21 at the Holiday Inn Nashville – Vanderbilt hotel where associates and guests will celebrate the first total solar eclipse in America in nearly 100 years.
“We’ve teamed up with Scholastic to provide guests with a once-in-a-lifetime viewing opportunity of this rare celestial occurrence, complete with a special pair of eclipse-viewing glasses. Guests can also meet Scholastic characters and learn about space with eclipse-themed book giveaways and crafts,” he said.
These experiences are rooted in the service culture and brand promise to go above and beyond to make both parents and kids smile, noted Lent. “There’s no other brand that epitomizes family travel like Holiday Inn. When it comes to summer vacations, we have a special emotional connection with our guests. Adults remember the excitement of a family vacation at Holiday Inn from their childhood,” he said. “Our warm, welcoming service and amenities like pools and kids eat free help to recreate that same feeling for their families.”
The Summer of Smiles program seeks to build upon this foundation. In terms of meeting the needs of families, as well as their likes and dislikes, there was extensive consumer research conducted.
“We found that family travelers are often staying in limited-service hotels when a full-service option may be better suited for their needs. They’re trading off because they often aren’t aware of the benefits of a full-service hotel. The Smiles Ahead campaign and coinciding Summer of Smiles program presented an opportunity to highlight how the full-service experience at Holiday Inn hotels can make travel enjoyable for the whole family and give guests even more to look forward to during their stay with us,” he said. “We wanted to introduce new moments for families that would create long-lasting memories for parents and kids alike. We chose events and experiences that would be fun and exciting for kids, but that would make parents feel good, too.”
Select Holiday Inn hotels will host a one-time special breakfast event with popular Scholastic book characters such as Clifford the Big Red Dog and Geronimo Stilton. Kids will get a book at check-in, and they can meet and take pictures with the characters and participate in craft activities throughout the breakfast.
“The response from kids so far has been fantastic. They instantly get a smile on their faces when they see the characters, and parents and grandparents have enjoyed seeing the excitement from the children,” Lent said.
With regard to the partnership, he noted, “As the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books, Scholastic aims to bring joy to kids through reading, making our collaboration the perfect fit. Teaming up with Scholastic enables us to create memorable moments for our guests and set our hotels apart in the family travel space with an exciting, educational summer program. We’ve been working closely with Scholastic throughout the planning and execution of the program. They recommended book titles and characters that were a good fit for our target age groups. From a marketing standpoint, they’re helping communicate about the program to their parent audiences, with the goal of driving business to our hotels. One of the most integral parts of the program is the character breakfasts, and Scholastic has been a great partner in executing those. They have extensive expertise in hosting events like these for kids, and their characters are the stars of the show.”