Disclosure: Fairmont is a client of Spafax, Sparksheet’s publisher.

alexandra-blum1

As director of partnerships for Fairmont hotels and resorts, you’ve joined forces with a variety of brands – from Adidas and Aveda, to Lexus and Napa Valley Vintners. Can you talk about some of the mutual benefits of these partnerships?

Our partnerships fall into three categories: the environment, food and beverage, and health and wellness. Adidas and BMW fit nicely under health and wellness. So what Adidas gets is brand exposure at every one of our properties globally through a variety of ways.

If you are a Fairmont President’s Club member, in the top two tiers, you can have your apparel size and shoe size on your profile and every time you stay with us you can have Adidas apparel and footwear delivered to your room. Adidas provides us with great pricing. We purchase the Adidas apparel. They get some great market research and our customers are very happy.

BMW is our exclusive car partner in Canada. Later this year we’re rolling out the new X5 Diesels as our official courtesy cars at our Canadian properties. But in order to highlight BMW’s green positioning as well as ours, we thought providing all of our Fairmont hotels in Canada with BMW bicycles was a great way for our guests to stay healthy and also see the local surroundings. That’s just an extra surprise and delight for our guests.

Transumers love buying things that enhance their experience, but I imagine they also see hotels as a kind of sanctuary from the 24/7 hustle and bustle of consumer life. How do you make sure guests don’t feel barraged or overwhelmed by brand partnerships and promotions?

We have opt-in-permission marketing rules that we adhere to fanatically and that ensure we are not bothering our guests with these partnerships and promotions. A lot of them are tied to our Fairmont President’s Club and the co-branded materials that we produce are subtle. But if you look to classic CRM (customer relationship management) strategies, every program we launch is deeply rooted in what our guests tell us they want.

So our belief is, if you have a very subtle piece of paper that’s in the check-in slip when someone picks up their key, and it’s something you know that is consistent with the psychographics of your guest, they’re not going to feel offended. I think guests feel offended when they’re getting barraged by marketing messages that mean nothing to them.

So it’s about providing content that is useful and not just advertorial?

Yes. It’s providing content in context.

Fairmont has been a leader in environmental policies and partnerships since 1990. Now that hotel greening campaigns have gone mainstream, how do you demonstrate to guests that you’re not just “greenwashing” to cut costs? How do you go beyond those “please re-use your towel” cards to show that sustainability is not just a marketing buzzword but an integral part of your brand?

We’ve been focused on this for 20 years, so we have some pretty innovative things like our rooftop herb gardens and our bees that produce fresh honey for our guests to enjoy at breakfast. And we also mandate that we source locally and, wherever possible, organic. We feel very passionate about this. We do not have a huge laundry list of global food suppliers so that when you sit down at the hotel restaurant 99 percent of ingredients on the menu are coming from one of the top five food conglomerates.

Do you think you’ve led your guests onto the local food bandwagon, or are you simply responding to customer demand?

We had such a head start but consumers have really caught up. That movie Food Inc. is striking a chord with a lot more people than you would think. A lot more people are starting to become very, very concerned about what’s in their food. So in some ways we are meeting expectations of our guests, and in some ways I think we may be ahead of the curve and we might be introducing a new way of eating to some customers.

Fairmont is known for its iconic, historic properties. How do you incorporate cutting-edge technology into a centuries-old shell without ruining the effect?

It’s really hard and really expensive. It is something that our global tech team is very focused on. Absolutely our guests need to be connected. A huge number of our guests are Blackberry users – it’s a disproportionate amount of Blackberries at our hotels. And so we have to accommodate that. It’s constant upgrades. It’s finding creative ways to use wireless technology. The guest does not care that they’re in a beautiful iconic property if they can’t check their e-mail.

As the traditional magazine industry struggles to retain its footing in the Internet age, custom publications like Fairmont Magazine [published by Spafax, Sparksheet’s publisher] are weathering the storm quite well. I know your father was the publisher of Flare magazine for many years. As someone who grew up around magazines, do you think branded content can save print media?

Our research shows that the people spending the most time with our magazine are the highest tier Fairmont President’s Club members and the most affluent. The content in the magazine is an opportunity for them to explore a brand that they feel very strongly about, that they already connect with. So again it’s about content in context. The magazines that really provide value to readers will thrive even when others are struggling.

We feel that in the intimacy of our hotel rooms there is a good opportunity for our guests and a good opportunity for us. People have a lot of time, more time perhaps than they do at home to pick up a magazine. And so it’s an opportunity for guests to explore relevant content, and for us to strengthen our bond with customers.