After many years of traveling the hotel world it takes a lot to ‘wow’ me. While staying at the Fairmont’s Le Château Frontenac in Quebec City (www.fairmont.com/frontenac-quebec), however, one employee showed such warmth, poise and professionalism that I had to take notice. I’m talking, of course, about Santol, their canine ambassador.
The Mira Foundation originally trained Santol as a guide dog before he was singled out for his affectionate and charming personality. The Fairmont Château Frontenac then entered a mutually beneficial partnership: Santol would act as the hotel’s canine ambassador while continuing with The Mira Foundation in a fundraising capacity.
Visitors to the hotel are encouraged to pet and socialize with Santol, who is a beautiful cross between a Labrador and a Bernese Mountain Dog, and one of the friendliest animals I’ve ever met. The simple act of having a dog onsite instantly helped me feel at home, brightening the mood for all passersby. Sadly though, he’s too old to join guests on walks, although this was an option a few years ago.
When I got home I was more than compelled to tell friends about this experience. With a quick Google search, I discovered that canine ambassadors are a feature at select Fairmont locations throughout the world. Extrapolating my post-hotel fervor to the thousands of guests who might have had similar dog interactions, this equates to a lot of people talking about Fairmont, whether this was intended or a mere by-product.
I also contemplated this program’s social media implications. People love to take pictures of dogs and post them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. As it pertains to Santol, how many photos do you think have been posted with the caption ‘taken at the Château Frontenac’? Whether the Fairmont brand name is explicitly mentioned or not, this is nevertheless an excellent example of word-of-mouse marketing. People like to ‘like’ cute animal pictures after all.
With so many hotels in the world it’s hard to stand out, but Fairmont has shown that simple is still impressive. Times may change, but an adorable dog will win people over every time. This goes to show that sometimes, instead of innovation, you just need to appeal to a guest’s heart.
(Article published in HOTELSmag on September 12, 2012)