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Need a ride? Check in to one of the top hotels or resorts in the nation and you may find a luxury car waiting for you. High-end automobile brands such as Lexus, Rolls-Royce, Cadillac, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi have entered into new and creative agreements with hotels across the country. The automakers loan out a small number of vehicles to the hotel at no cost, and the resorts have a new perk that they can offer guests, in the form of luxury car service or free car to use for short trips.

lo-res_83267052-sWith the growing prevalence of such programs, hotels and resorts even can choose a brand and product line that aligns with their property or values. For example, hotels that promote ecotourism or health spas that highlight a connection with nature might request a loan of hybrid vehicles. Resorts in Aspen or other mountainous regions can request sport utility vehicles, built to perform well even in the most challenging conditions.

The demands from the car companies are typically minor: The hotel must keep the cars visible, promote them to guests, and require drivers to sign a liability waiver. In exchange, the hotels do not have to spend any money needed to purchase vehicles directly for guest-related services.

The benefits to automakers are easy to identify. Each guest who rides in or drives one of the luxury cars is a potential customer, who is in essence taking a test drive while in the happy mood that resort vacations seek to encourage. The automakers’ strategic efforts lead them to pursue partnerships mainly with resorts that are likely to attract guests with the income necessary to make luxury car purchases.

Many automobile manufacturers prefer to let the cars speak for themselves, but some have expanded the services offered through the resort, to promote greater interactions with guests. For example, BMW offers a special short-term program, the Resort Driving Tour. Each year, it brings its newest models to resorts during peak season and allows extended test drives. After a six- or eight-week period, the cars disappear from the site, so travelers who miss the tour are out of luck. Audi takes a slightly different approach, seeking to create long-term relationships with each driver, such that it sends written thank you notes after every experience. The note also contains an offer that can be used on future Audi purchases.

But perhaps the real winners of these experimental new partnerships between hotels and automakers are consumers. For no fee, hotel guests can get where they need to go near their vacation spot, while also living out their dreams of riding in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce or taking in the sights from a sporty coupe. For luxury car lovers, this increasingly popular perk can make any vacation a trip to remember.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Could this popular service expansion be extended to other types of services? Try to imagine other service partnerships that companies could offer to everyone’s benefit.
  2. What are some prerequisites for such a service offering to work? For example, would a car service be successful at a mid-level hotel?

Source: Paul Sullivan, “Here’s the Key to Your Suite, and Another to Your Rolls-Royce,” The New York Times, December 16, 2016