Las Vegas is undeniably one of the greatest testaments to the power of creative marketing. The daunting task of attracting more than 40 million visitors annually to fill 150,000 hotel rooms is not a job for the faint of heart. Given that the majority of the United States population lives less than an hour drive to a casino, the need for world class resort marketing plays a more crucial role than ever in guaranteeing the survival of the hotel industry in Nevada.
Within Las Vegas, individual casinos must further rely on strategic marketing skills to establish their own identity to differentiate themselves from each other. Without the inclusion of a must see focal point, stylized architecture or exceptional service standards, Las Vegas resorts would run a real risk of being viewed by consumers as a parity product. Fortunately, Las Vegas has been able to successfully adapt, and attract some of the industry’s most talented hoteliers who understand the critical role that marketing plays in the resort industry here. One such talented hotelier is Las Vegas’ Claire Nagel.
Claire, a native of England, has called Las Vegas home for the last ten years, and has more than 25 years in the hospitality industry. She recently completed four years at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas in catering and hotel management. She is currently taking advantage of that experience as a consultant for convention groups that choose Las Vegas as a meeting destination.
When asked about the beginning of her career in London, Claire is quick to reference her early start as a promoter in the London night club business as her introduction to the powerful role that marketing plays in the world of hospitality.
“In the beginning, the nightclubs were simply bars that served food,” Claire explained. That would soon change forever with the opening of Studio 54. “Following the success of their iconic New York nightclub Studio 54, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell created a boutique hotel business model that was brilliant,” said Claire. For their boutique hotel concept, Schrager and Rubell created a hotel space that beckoned customers to hang out in the hotel lobbies, socialize and enjoy cocktails. Schrager and Rubell’s first foray into this concept was The Morgan Hotel. With this success, saw the addition of the Royalton Hotel and Paramount Hotel. Eventually, the Delano Hotel in Miami and the Mondrian West Hollywood opened and joined their hotel family.
“Their innovative and creative marketing philosophy was readily passed on to all employees,” said Claire. “Through their ideas, I was able to see what a powerful role marketing played in the hospitality business,” she added. “The early boutique hotel days saw Schrager, Rubell and Philippe Starck and big, expensive ideas. These men had great ideas, but little money for interior design, so the decision was made to develop their boutique hotel properties with minimalistic decor” said Claire. “That was a brilliant marketing decision that was made out of necessity,” she added.
The impressive business model lead to the creation of The Morgan, The Mondrian, Shore Club, Sanderson London and Morgans Hotel Group. “The Sanderson London,” said Claire, “was my introduction to hotels. From there, I traveled to the United States to join The Mondrian in Los Angeles.” From California, Claire relocated to Las Vegas be closer to her mother, and to accept a job at the MGM Grand. She left hotel management at the MGM Grand to accept a director position at the Platinum Hotel and Spa, and then moved on to the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Claire recently had time to share some thoughts on the role of marketing in hospitality, and the hotel business as a whole.
“Did you focus on marketing as a major when you were in college?”
“I didn’t. I did not know what I wanted to do, so I studied business, because it gives you an overall aspect that applies to all business and provides a good foundation on which to build. The marketing came later. I believe marketing is very important in the hospitality industry. Among my favorite advertising media is airline magazines. You have people who travel, have means, and have little to do other than to read your advertising while in the air. It takes that type of marketing and advertising to get the people initially through the front door. You can only impress the guest once. After that, it takes great service to make them want to return.”
“I understand that while you were at Platinum Hotel and Spa, the property had the highest Trip Advisor rating in Las Vegas.”
“That is true. We were number one on TripAdvisor. To get there, I personally answered every comment. Good and bad. We had daily briefings, and I had ten minutes with a representative from every department to discuss service comments, feedback and Trip Advisor. Service was discussed across the board several times a day, and we made a huge deal when an employee was recognized by name with a good comment on Trip Advisor. For marketing, it was wonderful. If you are in the top ten properties on Trip Advisor, you got mentioned for free on their site, and you were featured when someone searches your city.”
“In our texting and digital age, how do you convey to millennial employees the importance of retaining face-to-face skills with guests?”
“Not just with Millennials, but with all employees, I stress that talking to guests is very important, and face-to-face contact is necessary. If there is an issue, I tell the staff to come from behind the desk if possible, and join the guest on the same side of the counter to speak to them. This face-to-face, person-to-person, interaction allows many issues to be solved.”
“What is some good advice you would give students of The International School of Hospitality in Las Vegas who are considering a career in hotel management or marketing?”
“I always advise all students to start off in the PBX department, answering phones. There, you can start interacting with guests on the telephone, and get used to assisting and answering questions. This prepares you for future face-to-face conversations and questions from guests. To be successful in the industry, you need a true passion for service and creating innovative ways to always take care of the guest and your employees.”
“Properties often market to both convention and leisure guests. How are convention guest different than leisure guests?”
“Convention guest are on schedules. They have breakfast, lunches and evening events. They typically don’t destroy rooms, and they leave the rooms in the morning so that housekeeping can clean the rooms as scheduled. Leisure guests are really on no set schedule, and it can be challenging to work around them.”
Before returning to work, Claire touched on the importance of positive feedback in an organization. “Positive feedback and coaching allows employees an opportunity to improve without constant criticism. Everyone wants to get better at doing things, and positive feedback and coaching allows this to happen in a positive manner,” Claire concluded.
This article is presented by TISOH: The International School of Hospitality, a 10-year-old, Las Vegas-based, accredited continuing education institution. The school offers quality, short-term, practical training and career development programs in hospitality. Developed for the industry and by the industry, TISOH’s small class sizes and online courses include: concierge, conference management and event planning, catering, hospitality leadership and supervision, hospitality human resources, hotel operations, and wedding coordination and design. Diploma graduates, trained by working experts in the field, enjoy a 90 percent job placement rate. TISOH is an academic partner of the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute and is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training. For more information, visit www.tisoh.edu or call (702) 947-7200.