Fashion is becoming as associated with travel as food. The connection is not new – witness fashion shoots in travel magazines and, conversely, the big deal about where Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue is located (of course, that depends on whether you consider that fashion.)
But the relationship has stepped up as hotel companies seek to associate themselves with the fashion world to create a stylistic halo around their brands. The latest example is Hilton’s late-summer announcement of a partnership with iconic Chinese designer Vivienne Tam to provide slippers in Hilton hotels that offer Hilton Huanying, the year-old Hilton Worldwide program that offers services and amenities customized for Chinese travelers.
Available for a limited time, the “Water Dragon” slippers are a complimentary amenity for Hilton Huanying guests visiting the participating hotels that include locations in many destinations popular among Chinese visitors – San Francisco, New York, Hawaii, etc. Shoppers can also buy the slippers at www.hiltonhome.com
The slippers mirror the blue that is Hilton’s signature color and celebrate the Year of the Dragon. Tam herself was supposed to appear at a Hilton press conference to announce the partnership but was forced to appear via Skype as a result of a typhoon in her country.
She told the media assembled at the Hilton New York Fashion District, “I’m pleased to provide Chinese travelers staying with Hilton a warm welcome on their journeys.”
On top of all that, members of Hilton HHonors, the brand’s loyalty program and social media communities can save 20% on online purchases of Vivienne Tam products.
The promotion not only aligned Hilton with a fashionable partner, but highlighted the company’s success in appealing to Chinese travelers. Since launching in August 2011, Hilton Huanying has grown from 30 participating hotels representing 10 brands in 13 countries to 70 hotels in 23 countries.
In the first seven months of the year, booking globally by guests originating in China increased 129% at Hilton Huanying participating hotels over the same period last year. Hilton Honors has seen an increase of enrollment within China of 81% this year
Of course, Hilton is not alone in seeking out a fashion partner. The Dorchester Collection, a group of luxury hotels, gives out a fashion prize of almost $50,000 every year to an up-and-coming designer to highlight the fact that the hotels are located in major fashion capitals.
Other examples include: Shutters on the Beach and Kate Spade (summer beach bag); Hualalai Resort in Hawaii and James Perse (exclusive apparel); and Le Sereno and Anya Hindmarch.(travel accessories for the St. Bart’s resort.)
Those other properties are seeking to reinforce a high-style image while Hilton is more interested in targeting Chinese travelers while providing a reminder to non-Chinese guests that it is a global brand that caters to guests coming from anywhere.
Partnerships are always tricky – and fashion is by definition about trends that come and go. But a limited partnership like the one between Hilton and Tam – designed to highlight a program that is not specifically about fashion -- seems like a reasonable and rewarding approach.
Even a brand that doesn’t dress itself in fashion can initiate a strategic partnership for a specific goal. And that’s what Hilton has done.