After many years of traveling the hotel world it takes a lot to ‘wow’ me. While staying at the Fairmont’s Le Château Frontenac in Quebec City (www.fairmont.com/frontenac-quebec
), however, one employee showed such warmth, poise and professionalism that I had to take notice. I’m talking, of course, about Santol, their canine ambassador.
The Mira Foundation originally trained Santol as a guide dog before he was singled out for his affectionate and charming personality. The Château Frontenac then entered a mutually beneficial partnership: Santol would act as the hotel’s canine ambassador while continuing with The Mira Foundation in a fundraising capacity.
Though many hotels are taking the strategic angle of being pet friendly, it is still unusual to have an onsite canine mascot. And since many people love dogs, it’s a great way to immediately connect with guests while also giving cues to the customer they are in for a different type of experience when staying at a hotel with a doggie ambassador.
Visitors to the hotel are encouraged to pet and socialize with Santol, who is a beautiful cross between a Labrador and a Bernese Mountain Dog, and one of the friendliest animals I’ve ever met. The simple act of having a dog onsite instantly helped me feel at home, brightening the mood for all passersby. Sadly though, he’s too old to join guests on walks, although this was an option a few years ago.
However, dogs at other Fairmont properties are the perfect companion, according to Fairmont’s website, for “extra security and the comfort of home.” Furry friends can be found at many hotels including Smudge at the Fairmont St Andrews, Scotland; Jordy at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu; Marcus at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Catie at The Fairmont Copley Plaza.
The program is popular among guests too, giving them a chance to connect emotionally in a completely different way than during the typical hotel experience. The dogs also are a great symbol for the property.
At the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, doggie ambassadors have even been put to work as guinea pigs. That is official taste testers for the hotel’s pet menu. According to the hotel “After several tastings, the two gourmet hounds selected mouthwatering treats such as Organic Venison and Cranberry Pepperoni (made with organic venison and juicy cranberries), Organic Beef Granola Bars (protein-rich snacks made with certified organic extra lean beef, whole oats, eggs, fresh veggies and apples) and Turkey & Spinach “Paw-Stickers” (made with all-natural ingredients like hormone-free turkey breast and fresh spinach). The hotel didn’t forget feline friends with offerings such as Succulent Salmon Stew for Cats (a hearty stew made with salmon and veggies like zucchini, pumpkin and carrots) and Wild Salmon Jerky (a high protein snack chock full of omega-3’s and local BC flavor).”
When I got home I was more than compelled to tell friends about this experience. With a quick Google search, I discovered that canine ambassadors are a feature at select Fairmont locations throughout the world.
Extrapolating my post-hotel fervor to the thousands of guests who might have had similar dog interactions, this equates to a lot of people talking about Fairmont, whether this was intended or a mere by-product.
I also contemplated this program’s social media implications. People love to take pictures of dogs and post them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. As it pertains to Santol, how many photos do you think have been posted with the caption ‘taken at the Château Frontenac’? Whether the Fairmont brand name is explicitly mentioned or not, this is nevertheless an excellent example of word-of-mouse marketing. People like to ‘like’ cute animal pictures after all.
With so many hotels in the world it’s hard to stand out, but Fairmont has shown that simple is still impressive. Times may change, but an adorable dog will win people over every time. This goes to show that sometimes, instead of innovation, you just need to appeal to a guest’s heart.
Larry Mogelonsky (firstname.lastname@example.org
) is the president and founder of LMA Communications Inc. (www.lma.ca
), an award-winning, full service communications agency focused on the hospitality industry (est. 1991). Larry is also the developer of Inn at a Glance hospitality software. As a recognized expert in marketing services, his experience encompasses Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Preferred Hotels & Resorts, as well as numerous independent properties throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Larry is a registered professional engineer, and received his MBA from McMaster University. He’s also an associate of G7 Hospitality and a member of Cayuga Hospitality Advisors. Larry’s latest book entitled “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama” is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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