In the spirit of the holiday that comes every year on October 31st plenty of hotels and resorts are busy highlighting their guests who’ve never left and leveraging their presence to add an extra, otherworldly, dimension to enhance the stay of curious present day guests. According to a report from Historic Hotels of America (www.historichotels.org), more than 110 historic hotels are still home to friendly haunting and more than 25 hotels have ghosts that have been haunting since the early 1930’s. Though year round ghostly appearances are plentiful, this time of year is particularly impactful for raising your property’s visibility.
With the return of popular shows like Grim and the addition of a new Dracula on the NBC lineup, and e-books like “Dead Sexy: The Walking Dead Fan Guide to Zombie Style, Beauty, parties, and a Ghoul-Lurching UNLifestyle (http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Sexy-Ghoul-Lurching-UnLifestyle-ebook/dp/B00FVZMX8G/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381845355&sr=1-7&keywords=Dead Sexy
) which features unique to the e-book exclusive travel discounts for haunted hotels like NY’s Sagamore Resort (www.thesagamore.com) it seems everyone is in on the ghost game. How do you make it work for you?
Have ghost, will travel…As your marketing department knows, there is a fine line between honoring your past and courting your present. Donna Quadri-Felitti, Ph.D., CHE, Clinical Associate Professor, Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management, New York University, notes, “Having ghostly guests can be a great public relations asset. Particularly if they are from a certain historic period or have had renown. They were of the celebrity class of the past. And therefore it is savvy marketers that will capitalize on these great relationships. Not unlike if you had today’s headline celebrities on your property you’d want to capitalize on that in similar fashion. It is really a great PR effort to make the connection to the differentiation of your property.”
At the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa (www.crescent-hotel.com) in Eureka Springs, Arkansas they are celebrating their past incarnation as a notorious cancer hospital with a full renovation of their morgue. The property does multiple ghost tours each week for groups of up to 25 people but they knew the experience could be enriched. Bill Ott Director of Marketing and Communications, explains why they turned what had been a maintenance area into a walk through exhibit, “People were intrigued by the morgue but weren’t getting the real morgue impact. It was getting difficult for those tour guides to say ‘picture this’ with our key making machine sitting on the autopsy table so we made it more ghost interested user friendly. We relocated maintenance and fixed up that area so it would better reflect the temper of what it was when it was a morgue. What we’ve done is actually allow them to go where the bodies were taken, dissected, tumors were studied, cadavers were kept.”
He continues, “The interest grows and grows each time we have a national program tape and air. We now have a nice little area to welcome them into the morgue, we show the video that was featured on “Ghost Hunters” and then as they enter the morgue area from the outer morgue area they get a better feel of what it was.” This upgrade to the experience has proven to draw visitors from beyond the hotel registry; locals and Eureka Springs day trippers are heading to the Crescent just to take the tour.
Locals who know about the ghostly history associated with the
Queen Mary (www.queenmary.com
), a decommissioned luxury liner that was converted into a resort hotel in 1971, are filling the venue regularly for the hotel’s renowned frightful event, Dark Harbor, and an opportunity for a random spirited encounter. The haunted ship permanently docked in Long Beach, California draws guests from far and wide who are eager to see if they’ll catch a glimpse of the little girl in the old fashioned blue and white dress who scampers around what was once the first class pool area or have other sorts of unexplained experiences like what Sponsorship Director Geri Gordon Miller describes as the bane of existence for her cleaning staff, “Some of the maids at different times would put on bed sheets and then they’d be pulled off.”
Discussions for a ghost tour of the Jekyll Island Club (www.jekyllclub.com.) have
been on and off the agenda for years.
Multiple sightings have been reported and this is the first year that an official ghost tour is underway. Patty Henning, Director of Sales and Marketing at Jekyll Island Club in Georgia has approached this inaugural event cautiously. She notes that her ghosts, like the old time valet who politely shows up unannounced bearing clothing, are of interest to guests who often begin wondering about the presence of spirits once they arrive and see all the nooks and crannies in the property. She admits that her guests today very definitively split into two camps when it comes to ghosts, “We have guests that don’t want them and guests that ask about them all the time. It’s a fine line to walk.”
Paula Woolsey, CSW, Owner of Cellar Door Unhinged, walked that line well when her restaurant The Asylum, was situated within the notably haunted Jerome Grand Hotel (www.jeromegrandhotel.com)
near Sedona. She saw evidence of ghosts constantly and welcomed and nurtured their presence, despite activities like a little kid’s handprint that routinely appeared on the brass plate of the kitchen’s swinging door as soon as it had been cleaned. She advises all hoteliers to do be as welcoming for their permanent guests. Creating that safe environment for those who have passed on makes it a safe environment for those who remain amongst the living, it seems. She explains, “You don’t want to make it scary for people, you do want to encourage their curiosity.”
For some, like the Presidio Social Club (www.presidiosocialclub.com
) that’s a winning approach. On a regular basis it has been noted that beautiful women in skirts who pass by bar stool number 13 inexplicably trip. Despite the absence of anything foreign on the floor. Chef Ray Tang chalks it up to the presence of a spirit they affectionately refer to as Lieutenant Dan. When it inevitably happens Tang and his team explain to those embarrassed women that they fell because they are so pretty and Dan couldn’t help himself. A naughty ghost with good taste in women? Surely that’s a great way to get a positive word of mouth story going about what could otherwise be scary.
But not all guests are appeased by flattery, and fear overrides any pleasure that others may have found in encountering a ghost. For those guests who don’t believe in apparitions their position has to be taken as seriously as any other normal complaint. Notes Quadri-Felitti, “Any perceived interruption of a positive guest stay should be resolved in a prompt and empathetic manner. You have to treat perception as reality so with guests you want to treat with empathy. You don’t want to discount someone’s feelings.”
Henning agrees, “If they encounter something and want to stay we’ll do the best we can to move the room to wherever they want to be; we absolutely try to accommodate.”
Whether you’ve got guests who embrace the afterlife or are perfectly happy only encountering other guests who don’t disappear into the mist one thing is certain, taking a page out of the Crescent’s handbook is a surefire way to keep everyone happy and your rooms full as Ott concludes, “The reason we have so many ghosts is because we’ve made so many people happy since 1886.”