VIP Trend in Hospitality: Perks for a Price

Published 5/29/14
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When you work in the hospitality industry you probably receive, read, scan, glance, share and send thousands of articles and travel insights. During the winter season I received the U.S.T.A.’s Top 20 Articles for 2013, and one particular article piqued my interest.

The New York Times article from June 9, 2013, was entitled, “At Theme Parks, a V.I.P Ticket to Ride.” It brought up a trend we have been seeing where hotels, theme parks, concert venues, airlines and even healthcare have adopted a “tier” model with perks for a price. This article seemed to go on a bit of a rampage about Universal Studios’ new V.I.P Ticket, claiming that theme parks have always been the “ultimate melting pots” and a true “egalitarian experience in which the line for one is the line for all.”

"Perks for a Price" is a trend that is here to stay.

I am not here to judge whether it is right or wrong, or whether amusement parks are socialist versus capitalistic environs, but I will stress that “perks for a price” is a trend that is here to stay—one that has major revenue opportunities for our industry and other industries as well (especially increasing revenue through merchandising—just imagine the mark-up on special t-shirts or commemorative posters).

Since reading the article, I’ve been on the lookout for more about the trend. Here are a few experiences and opportunities that have presented themselves in the course of purchasing items for my own consumption:

  • I went online to Live Nation to buy tickets to see Nine Inch Nails and was asked if I wanted to pay an extra $5 to avoid the line to my prepaid seat.
  • At Opera Philadelphia I had the opportunity to purchase a Backstage Pass, which would grant me exclusive access including a backstage tour and an intimate champagne reception (not to mention a cast-autographed show poster to commemorate my VIP evening).
  • And speaking of those VIP tickets at theme parks, last year my family hired Disney’s V.I.P. Concierge services to take us through Disney World. We tried it for one day and spent the other days navigating around the parks on our own. At first I was concerned whether it would be a waste of time and money, but it turned out to be a godsend and a wonderful experience for the entire family (including two sets of grandparents).

We now have the option to pay to bring baggage on some airlines; get on an advance list for TSA to skip security lines; hire concierge doctors to come to our homes; and get advance seating at concerts. Through this new “perks for a price” trend you can feed sharks at an aquarium, meet the orchestra conductor for a private talk before or after a concert, dine with beloved characters… the options continue to increase in new and imaginative ways.

Here are a few reasons that I think travelers would choose these perks:

Elitism

  • Some people like to be the first or perceived as “exclusive” and get bragging rights
  • Some people like to keep up with the Jones’ and are willing to pay for it

Convenience

  • Families with little kids and/or elderly family members
  • Families with special needs
  • Business Travelers

Experiential

  • People like to be told a story and share a story, and with special perks they get that with a unique experiential option
  • When you travel it is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a diversion from the ordinary day-to-day existence and these types of perks make it even more unforgettable
  • People are social and like share unique opportunities and adventures with their friends and family

The higher price gets you what you want, but it’s the experience that ultimately makes you feel whether you made the right choice and if you’d want to take advantage of the option again in the future. One day, the experience is waiting in line to see Rapunzel for two hours. Another, as my six-year-old daughter explained, was making our VIP tour guide her personal Fast Pass to make her dream come true of going on Splash Mountain anytime she wanted with her Grandpa, now that she was over 40 inches tall.

To me, that is priceless.