Graduate Hotels enters short-term rentals with an eye on college football fans
Expect other hotel brands to look at the Graduate Hotels experience. Professional management of vacation rentals can be a way for hotels to extend their reach while minimizing certain risks.
Fans of college football teams such as the Ole Miss Rebels and Michigan Wolverines are about to find that booking accommodation for home games just got a little easier – if they’re willing to stay in a house instead of a hotel.
Graduate Hotels has just launched Graduate Homes, a short-term rental program that targets key college football markets while adding crucial inventory during peak periods. It is the Nashville-based global hotel chain’s first non-hotel product. While hotel companies like Marriott promote vacation rental stays, Graduate Hotels takes a more hands-on approach.
“Ben Weprin, our founder and CEO, came up with the idea of expanding the brand without actually expanding our physical footprint,” said Graduate Chairman Kevin Osterhaus, referring to the company’s 32 college hotels.
“Given our college markets, our (room) occupancy is peak for home games, graduations, reunions, and we felt we had an incredible opportunity to leverage our presence while providing ancillary services to guests and owners.”
College football has been a big source of local tourism for years.
The graduate’s first locations are in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Oxford, Mississippi. The new program will help the brand make a bigger foray into football fans, a lucrative market that has generated millions of dollars for the hospitality industry.
While Airbnb, Vrbo, or Booking.com hosts are responsible for things like cleaning their properties, providing clean linens, and handling the proverbial 3 a.m. calls about lost keys, Graduate Homes handles all of those tasks. . The program also offers owner discounts for stays at traditional Graduate hotels.
Groups that would otherwise be split into separate hotel rooms — or even different hotels during peak periods — can stay in the same spacious unit. Properties purchased by Graduate have three to four bedrooms and are equipped with dens and living rooms. Home guests have access to Graduate’s pools and fitness centers as well as discounts at restaurants at the nearest hotel.
Surely, skeptics wonder how Graduate or other hotel operators can extend their brand into the home rental service. Time will tell if it can deliver a cohesive brand experience that provides safety and security at a price that makes it profitable and without straining existing hotel operations.
But the unique growing demand for college football on a few dates of the year makes it a good test.
Upsell opportunities can also help provide a margin cushion. The graduate can arrange optional services, such as transportation to and from airports, backyard parties, or pre-stocked refrigerators of food and beverages.
Plus, a partnership with experiential platform Way offers additional in-home experiences, such as yoga classes, personal mixologists, and chocolate tastings.
“We added all these cool things that are very specific to those communities,” Osterhaus said.
Graduate Hotels isn’t the only brand leveraging the platform for streamlined concierge-level activity bookings. Jenny Schipani, corporate director of experience for Bunkhouse, an Austin, Texas-based hostel brand, said there’s so much to do in the city that she “could spend a whole day working out an itinerary for a guest”.
But, what is the one thing missing from Way and Graduate Homes? The easy ability to get tickets to the biggest games. All-inclusive packages, such as those offered by ESPN Events, often come with a few caveats. The Ivy Hotel in Minneapolis once offered — in an Ultimate Tailgate package — a one-night stay in a penthouse suite and three other hotel rooms with food and drink credits, limo service, and six tickets on the 40-yard line for a Vikings game for the modest sum of $12,000. These tickets, however, were only for a pre-season game.
Other companies, like fledgling Field Day, partner with hotel brands like Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott to sell party packages that include accommodations, a welcome open-bar celebration with a DJ, transportation, and a pre-game tailgate. However, the $399 packages do not include tickets to see the elite college teams play.
The cheapest but perhaps least immersive experience may be a good old-fashioned parking lot party. The Residence Inn by Marriott Pittsburgh North Shore is allowing guests, who can park overnight for $27, to park in their parking lot before Steelers games, as long as they don’t obstruct others from entering and leaving. get out of the hotel.