CHARLOTTE, NC—There may be no place like home for the holidays, but if you can’t be at home, Extended Stay America is bringing the festive spirit of the season to its properties. The brand was chosen by Santa Claus himself to house several jolly Old St. Nicks—his trusty assistants, if you will—in its extended-stay accommodations wherever Santa is dispatched through a partnership with the Noerr Program, a provider of Santa Experiences to shopping centers in the U.S.
“Extended Stay America exists to take care of people who are building a better future for themselves and their families. That’s our purpose and the work we do. We want to create an environment that is home-like so it feels like staying with a friend or a relative. With the holidays upon us, we’re trying to create a similar experience to staying with Aunt Betty—a friendly and warm environment,” said Terry Atkins, VP of marketing, Extended Stay America, which is based here. “We bring this to life through certain elements, such as a large display piece talking about Santa’s favorite hotel and ‘Give Ho Ho Hope,’ which is our room key collection program where for every key we collect, a dollar of every value is given to the American Cancer Society.”
For many, the icon of Santa defines the spirit of giving, kindness and generosity. According to Atkins, it also personifies the hotel brand’s mission. Through its association with Old St. Nick, the Noerr Program sought out Extended Stay America with a distinct business need.
“They have 785 Santas in their program and 170 of them stay with us. Some can live in their own home and go to the local mall, while others need to travel. Noerr supports 630 malls/shopping centers across the country. We’re in 45 states and every market, so we provide a good base foundation,” said Atkins.
The Kris Kringles bunk at an Extended Stay America hotel for 54 days, starting in early November and will remain up until Christmas or slightly longer, if needed. Atkins explained that having one partner who knows what their needs are is vital for the program’s success and the Santas as well.
“We let everyone know Santa is coming to stay and we prepare the hotel staff. We coach our folks on how to interact with Santa; our associates wear green Santa hats that say ‘Give Ho Ho Hope,’ and there’s a nice integration that takes place. Noerr has been a fantastic partner,” he said. “These guests—who really are Santa—all have natural beards, which makes them stand out. They prepare all year. There is a Santa University where they train on the proper way to interact with children, how to get the best photos and the right things to say.”
In addition to housing Santa, the brand is encouraging families to send their overflow guests to its properties with its “Stuff Your Turkey, Not Your House” program. “We want to remind people that sometimes, the best times with your family is to get together but not for every minute of that time,” he quipped. “With two or three generations coming in, it’s important to have a place where you can go at the end of the day to relax and rest versus sleeping on the couch or the floor. Extended Stay America is a great solution for that.”