As travel remain in flux, brands are rethinking hotel partnerships

The Travel industry hasn’t really returned to pre-pandemic levels, but brands are beginning to think about hotel partnerships. Over the years, hotels presented a unique opportunity for brands looking to market — or even sell — their products. In 2019, for example, Rent the Runway partnered with the W Hotel, letting customers order pieces that would be available when they checked in after booking a room. And Bergdorf Martin once partnered with the Mark Hotel, offering guests a free pedicab to its storefront. Much of these partnerships focused on larger brand names, and giving hotel visitor’s easier access to the companies they know and love.

But all this changed with the corona virus in 2020, hotel occupancy hit 44% in the U.S., down from 66% in 2019. According to one estimate, occupancy will likely hover around 52% in 2021 — still well below where it was pre-pandemic. As a result, branded partnerships no longer have the gravitas they once held. Now, some startups are changing the way they think about hotel partnerships — using it as a vehicle for brand awareness, or pitching themselves to hotels as a way to better meet customers’ needs. Meanwhile, some hotels are seeking out different types of companies with which to work, inking deals with those that offer pandemic-friendly services and products.

Copper Cow Coffee, a home-brewed Vietnamese coffee company, had signed a deal with Hilton Hotels to have its products featured in certain locations. That proposed deal, however, has been “on ice” since the pandemic first began, said founder and CEO Debbie Wei Mullin stated that a product like coffee, is perfect for a hotel partnership. 

“It is an incredible fit for an in-room coffee experience,” Mullin recently said. But despite the fact that hotels are beginning to see occupancy slowly come back, most hotels she’s spoken with aren’t quite ready to sign a large-scale distribution deal just yet as occupancy has remained extremely low. 

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