How do you persuade people to go back to the same hotel multiple times? Make it different. The location is fixed, renovations are too costly but a change of theme is easy. This means creating a whole set of activities based on an occasion. Many of these themes are fairly straight forward such as Christmas, Easter or Halloween. It is now fairly normal to include Valentine’s, St Patrick’s and perhaps some imported from America like Superbowl, Thanksgiving or the Oscars. These worked well, so more were added and now there are often three a week.
These are often pre-set by the marketing department in a corporate head office in another country, months in advance and the resort managers are under a lot of pressure to deliver which rolls down to us. Yet very rarely are explicit directions actually given. Every resort in the group is expected to make something up and a competition is set for who will have the best event, social media posts are created and the guests are contacted in advance to let them know all about it. However (in my experience) about 9 in 10 of these are a total disaster.
Sometimes the themes are wrong for the local clientele. President’s day is a public holiday in USA but celebrating it elsewhere in the world is odd, “president of what?” is a usual response. Even the staff assume it is something to do with the CEO. Diwali is a lovely festival if you have lots of visitors who are Hindu or Sikh but if you don’t, it is a lot of work.
On other occasions the timings are wrong. I once had to move Halloween to the following week as October 31st clashed with the VPs birthday party. Children’s events in term time are commonplace. The Shadow Puppet Festival and Unicorn Day both stick in my mind of events that had zero attendees due to the fact it was not the school holidays and the mainly retired set of guests we had were not interested in recreating a version of the Baby Shark video.
The last few years have seen a rise in environmental themes. Litter picking, energy saving and recycling are all important but nobody wants to take time out of their precious holiday to ‘learn more and get a ticket for the prize draw’ when they could be at the beach with an ice cream. On the rare occasions somebody asks what the prize is, I say it is a mystery rather than the truth – a bamboo toothbrush or t-shirt flown in all the way from China.
The hardest group of all are the ones that we don’t understand. I remember being instructed on a conference call to expect delivery of a package of supplies for an upcoming Matariki festival we were to run. Confused looks ran around the room, none of us knew what Matariki was but a conference call was no place to admit that. Perhaps we had missed an email? Expensive costumes and banners arrived but still no instructions. We phoned back.
‘Hi, we just have a few questions about the Matariki festival’ The boss started.
‘Sure’ corporate person answered.
‘Well, what exactly are we expected to do?’ He asked.
‘It is a festival that is very important to the guests in your part of the world so we ask you to use your local knowledge and creativity to create a vacation highlight’.
‘I wonder if there has been some confusion, we are in Singapore and from what I can work out, Matariki is from New Zealand’ I chipped in.
‘Yes, absolutely. Everyone in your area will expect a celebration and we can’t wait to see the photos’ Corporate person answered back, clearly having no idea that we were more than 5000 miles away and so it meant nothing to the people here. Matariki just like Harmony Day, Syrup Day, Migratory Bird Day and Towel Day was a predictable failure.
However, this is where it gets complicated. Nobody wants to hear that these days don’t work because the money has already been spent, the decorations have been ordered and the guests are informed long before we are. Although 80s weekend is a winner, I have never yet met anyone who had booked a holiday especially for Goose and Gosling Day or Marianne Twanette Day. If it goes wrong, it must have been because we didn’t try hard enough. So instead we fake photographs, bribe people with offers of free drinks to stand with a prop and then we write on social media what a great success it was. Everyone else in the group does the same and it is good fun to spot the same helpful friends in multiple shots over the year.
I have not yet had the events calendar for 2021. Whenever it arrives, you can be sure there will be something obscure I will need to organise for later that week and that whatever it is will be a disaster (unless you are from head office, then it was great).