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Giving back to the community, Montage style

Anyone who lives or works in Southern California is well aware of the two ultra-luxurious Montage properties in their midst, located in Laguna and Beverly Hills (in addition to a third property in Deer Valley, Utah). In the 10 short years since the opening of its Laguna property, Montage has worked hard to deliver one of the finest accommodation experiences in the country, rivaling brands many years its senior.

The company’s approach to its 10th anniversary celebration is especially interesting. It identifies community support as a priority under the Montage Memory Makers Contest. This program targets adolescents ages 13 to 17 — deemed “young humanitarians” — to win one of five US$10,000 college scholarships. By submitting a summary of their efforts to inspire and provide community service, entrants are judged on key criteria such as creativity, impact of their achievements, service and inspirational value to others. Ten finalists will be selected, and five winners will then be chosen through a customized social media platform which will allow open voting across the United States.

I spoke with Alyssa Bushey, Montage’s corporate director of communications, while having a coffee at the Loft Bistro at Montage Laguna. As we talked, I couldn’t help but notice the many families with young children within the restaurant, all of them remarkably well behaved for their age. My first thought: this celebratory contest is a continuation of Montage’s already outstanding track record with families, who seem to be a dominant demographic.

Alyssa then remarked, “Luxury is much more than just the environment we create. In particular, luxury has to be inclusive: children and families are a vital part of the Montage customer mix. In bringing this contest into the marketplace, we wanted to recognize both our deep commitment to community as well as the importance of a strong sense of family.”

Of course, the contest does not exclude the parents. Winners not only get the scholarship along with a detailed write-up in Montage Magazine, but they also get to travel to Montage Laguna (accompanied by a parent or guardian) for a presentation of their award by Montage founder and CEO Alan Fuerstman.

That’s a pretty good incentive for anyone, child or adult. But place yourself in the former’s shoes. The vacation experience hotels create for younger, more malleable minds can help shape things to come for many, many years.

I see the Montage Memory Makers Contest not only as a community-building tool but also as a brilliantly effective marketing campaign. Yes, Montage will forever be changing and improving the livelihoods of those kids who win one of the five scholarships. Plus, consider all the entrants — not just the winners — who, through merely putting in the effort of submitting, are learning the valuable skill of applying one’s self. Through all this, Montage is also building its next generation of devoted fans, those who will take their families to Laguna decades from now.

As takeaway musings, consider what efforts your hotel has undertaken to give back to the community. Are any designed to help kids in such noble pursuits as attaining a higher education? Moreover, how are you building loyalty amongst the Millennials and subsequent generations of travelers?

(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in HOTELSmag on March 15, 2013)

Larry MogelonskyGiving back to the community, Montage style