The Ritz-Carlton Checks In To Foursquare

As global hotel companies go, we’re always pleasantly surprised by luxury brand Ritz-Carlton‘s rapid acceptance of and moves towards innovation in the social media space. At the corporate level, they’ve been quick to adapt to and utilize sites like Twitter (@RitzCarlton), and, at the property level, often engaged on social media sites in a way that their luxury competitors are not.
Now, the brand has launched a new initiative with Foursquare, the location-based social networking service that allows users to “check in” at locations around the globe.

Dubbed the World Concierge, Ritz-Carlton’s entree into the Foursquare market is the first time a luxury hotel brand has extended their exclusive services to a mobile public audience. Tips will be populated regularly by concierges from all 75 Ritz-Carlton hotels around the world contributing, with the knowledge-base growing and evolving every week.

There is not a mention to be found about the soup of the day at a particular hotel; instead, the ladies and gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton have taken their knowledge and expertise beyond the four walls of the hotels in which they reside, providing insight into cities such as Toronto, Miami, Berlin and Dubai to name a few.

The result: hundreds of tips and insights about local destinations and landmarks all over the world.

“Guests of The Ritz-Carlton have always enjoyed the expertise of concierges who are the best in the business. Their local knowledge, VIP access and incomparable contacts make them an invaluable resource for travelers”, said Chris Gabaldon, chief sales and marketing officer for The Ritz-Carlton Company.

Foursquare users are able to find local information by visiting the profile of The Ritz-Carlton or by checking in to numerous locations of interest around the world. To receive tips as they go live you can follow The Ritz-Carlton on Foursquare. If you’re not already following the brand, you may see the tips as part of of other area recommendations.

They’re not the first brand to partner with the location-based service. Starwood is also engaged in the FourSquare space, offering loyalty points to users who “follow” the brand and “check in” virtually when they literally “check in” to the hotel with a confirmed registration. Hyatt has had similar success at the concierge level with their proven @HyattConcierge Twitter handle, which supplements the property-level concierge staff by serving as a social media funnel for guest requests across all brand properties.

We’re curious to see if other brands follow suit, emulating one of the established players, or, like Four Seasons, continue to develop individual property personas across channels like Twitter or Facebook.

Starwood makes checking in a social affair

Starwood Preferred Guest, the rewards program for such brands as Sheraton and Westin, just took “checking in” from the front desk to the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android. The hotel company is launching a new program with social media company foursquare to increase member benefits.

According to foursquare’s blog, this partnership is “the first truly global loyalty integration of its kind,” an appropriate statement for a corporate blog, of course. Here’s the upside for you: when you check in (on foursquare) while checking in (at a Starwood), you can pick up more points, get free nights and win contests.

In the past, foursquare has worked with Heineken, American Express and others, but this appears to be its first foray into travel, a natural fit for a company that has built its business around location.

Starwood hotels plans to recycle hotel shampoos, soaps

Some hotel guests take the mini soaps and shampoos from hotel bathrooms, others leave the pint-sized amenities behind – which option is better for the environment?

Did you know your unused hotel toiletries could be put toward recycling efforts to help people in need?

That’s the premise behind Clean the World, a social enterprise working with hotels around the world in an effort to help improve lives and protect our planet.

In an effort to give back, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. inked an agreement with Clean the World on Earth Day to collect and recycle hotel soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions and gels to help fight the global spread of preventable diseases. The deal would include around 500 Starwood hotels in North America (Starwood’s brands include St. Regis®, The Luxury Collection®, W®, Westin®, Le Méridien®, Sheraton®, Four Points® by Sheraton, Aloft®, and Element).

.”Our North American properties represent more than 176,000 rooms, each of which offer the highest quality soaps and bottled amenities to our guests on a daily basis,” says Denise Coll, president of Starwood Hotels in North America, in a statement. “This partnership amplifies our commitment to corporate social responsibility, and it also should make every member of our Starwood family feel better about the role they play each day in caring for our Earth and the people who inhabit it.”

According to Clean the World, an estimated 1.6 million pounds of hotel soap may be recycled each year through this partnership.

Readers: Will you think twice before swiping your hotel bath amenities now?

Starwood Preferred Guest program offers FaceTime customer support

As a kid, I remember playing with a video phone at the local phone store – and thinking how cool it would be if we all had access to video phones in the future. Well, the future came, and along with a total lack of jet packs, video phones never really took off.

Apple has managed to change that with their FaceTime application, and while it is by no means the first video calling application, it is the first to become mainstream. Thanks to its easy to use interface, lack of need for configuring settings, and massive install base, FaceTime is a huge hit.

And with that huge hit, comes new ways to use the service. One of the first customer support applications in the travel industry comes from Starwood Preferred Guest, the loyalty program for Starwood hotels.

On Twitter this morning, an SPG rep announced that they will be offering live chat sessions with their customers using FaceTime. The actual practical applications are relatively limited, but some customers may prefer to talk to a rep face to face instead of using email or phone. What do you think? Would you use a FaceTime chat session instead of picking up the phone, or do you think this is more of a gimmick designed to make them look cool?


Aloft Hotels to open in Cleveland

Starwood Hotels is branching out its boutique brand to Cleveland, Ohio. Aloft Cleveland Downtown is scheduled to open in early 2013 as part of the Flats East Bank development, which is being touted as Cleveland’s newest, upscale mixed-use complex.

The new Aloft Cleveland will offer 150 guest rooms, all featuring the typical tech amenities and including a social environment for guests to mix and mingle.

Aloft Cleveland Downtown will be part of the $275 million first phase of the Flats East Bank project – a project that will include a 450,000 square foot office tower, as well as retail shops, restaurants, entertainment venues, a riverfront boardwalk and 14 acres of parks and green space. The hotel will provide access to nearly 3,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, perfect for business meetings and social gatherings.

The hotel is being financed by the Cleveland International Fund which has raised $20 million in funding and commitments for the hotel project. Aloft Hotels currently operates more than 40 hotels around the world.

[via BusinessWire]