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Grand hotelOrientation. Move-in day. Parents’ day. Moving-out day. Commencement. Reunion. Over the spans of time that students and their families interact with their colleges or universities, there are innumerable situations in which someone needs an extra room. Whether parents are dropping their first-year students off for their first taste of campus life or picking up their new graduates, or even returning as alumni, they represent a steady, predictable stream of potential revenue for the hotels located close to campus.

Recognizing the vast opportunity associated with this captive market, hotels are getting better at presenting themselves as virtual extensions of the school. From keeping sports memorabilia in the front lobby to decorating with school colors, these hotels seek to make devoted fans, students, and parents feel connected. One hotel near Boston University has established a dedicated room, the Terrier Suite, to honor the school’s mascot. On its walls hang historical photographs of the school, and the minibar has glassware etched with the university emblem. The Nashville Marriot promotes its symbiosis with Vanderbilt University by decorating the lobby with one wall of equations, balanced by another wall of Vandy football helmets.

Beyond décor, hotels also are finding ways to pitch offers to parents that are valuable enough to encourage them to keep coming back for all four (or five or six) years that their students are enrolled in the school. A hotel located next to Bucknell University hands out cards, preprinted with the dates of key events for the upcoming year, such as homecoming or graduation, so that parents can book their next trips well in advance. The Revere Hotel Boston Common is in close proximity to several schools, such as Suffolk University, Tufts University, and Emerson College. For each guest, it determines his or her school loyalty, then hands out welcome packages stuffed with school merchandise, museum passes, and access to other local area attractions. It even solicited help designing staff members’ uniforms from the design students attending the nearly Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

These moves appear popular among both independent hotel operators and national chains. They reflect an increasing focus in the hotel industry to address the customer experience, in an effort to enhance customer loyalty and thereby buffer themselves from the dynamic demand they usually face. And ultimately, who can resist a hotel room festooned with balloons and streamers in their school colors?

Source: Julie Weed, “Hotels Embrace the Campus Nearby,” The New York Times, May 19, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com