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Traditions 

by Dan Richardson


Why would anyone visit Pamplona, Spain, to get chased through the streets by bulls? Tradition, of course. That's the power of tradition: whether serious or silly, the place and the event become one.


With the Davenport Hotel in years past, those traditions included decorative touches like the fountain and fireplace in the lobby, and famous service, like washing customers' coins to a silvery new shine.


In the hospitality industry, drawing customers with traditions -- "identifiers" in trade parlance -- is common. Mention the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tenn., and hoteliers and high-end travelers imagine the ducks that swim in its lobby fountain.


"Just from a marketing 101 perspective, you've got to stand out," says Bob Van Ness. Van Ness is vice president of Preferred Hotels & amp; Resorts Worldwide, a high-end marketing association for independent luxury hotels -- including the Peabody and the Davenport.


At the Davenport, hotel officers plan to resurrect a number of traditions, says Matt Jensen, the Davenport's marketing director. Among these are an in-building candy shop that sells house-brand soft peanut brittle, and Irish linens from the same company that sold linens to the original Davenport. Officials plan to return the hotel's tea dances, too, says Jensen. These were mid-week, semiformal music-and-dancing occasions in the late afternoons.


For other historic posh hotels, identifiers include things like the springs and saltwater baths at the Fairmont Algonquin in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick; the United State's oldest first golf tee and golf instruction school at the Homestead in Hot Springs, Va.; and the extensive art collection on display at the Heathman Hotel in Portland, Ore.


"They certainly can be significant to the marketing of the hotel," says Van Ness. "Everybody wants to stand out."


One Davenport tradition that looks like time has passed it by is the ironing of customers' cash and washing of their coins, says Jensen. The problem with coins, he says, is minters don't make them like they used to. Washing modern coins would knock their finish off, Jensen says. Also, few people use cash anymore for transactions like covering a $159-a-night room tab.

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