Lease up and ship out

As rental markets ebb and flow, apartment owners and managers are on constant watch for the latest trend to differentiate themselves with the hottest features and services. Yet, one the the fastest growing ideas in the battle-for-renters has nothing to do with stainless steel or state-of-the-art anything. In fact, it is a cruise vacation for new residents (or residents coming up for renewal) to get away from it all.

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AIM, a national marketing and incentives company, offers cruise certificates to multifamily properties as a tool for leasing and retention. Long a standard in other industries, prospective residents are offered a 5-day/4-night cruise certificate for two to Mexico, the Bahamas or the Western Caribbean, by signing any new lease or renewing an existing one.

Destinations are dependent on the port of call from which the certificate holder wants to depart. Those available include Los Angeles, Miami, Port Canaveral, Mobile, New Orleans and Galveston. Ports of departure are based upon specific cruise ships, itineraries and travel dates, and are subject to availability.

Getting to the boat is the financial responsibility of the certificate holder, but generally the rest is included in the package. Nominal fees include port charges, taxes, customs and fulfillment fees, as well as extras such as gratuities, bar beverages, gambling, selected spa services, personal expenses and shore excursions.

All cruises are booked on well-known luxury super-liners such as Carnival. Based on double occupancy, the certificate includes a 4A stateroom, all on-board gourmet meals and snacks, complimentary 24-hour room service, a wide range of evening entertainment including Las Vegas-style shows, shipboard activities, and delivery to a number of international cities for travellers to visit and shop.

While the total value of the package retails at $1,798, the cost to properties is $169 per certificate. Although certificates include 4 to 5 star-caliber accommodations, rooms, services and number of travellers may be upgraded by the certificate holder.

Presidential Arms Apartments raves about the program. The community is projected to have saved over $11,875 in marketing over two months while increasing occupancy in a soft market. Property Manger Rita Funya said, “Excitement from prospects has been good. Response from renewing residents has been even better.” She adds that many renewing residents actually look forward to the trip and appreciate that their vacation is completely pre-planned down to the meals. Certificate holders have up to 18 months to book their cruise.

Terry Ragland, property manager, added, “We have had great success with AIM’s cruise promotion: 17 leases in one week. The colorful and eye-catching marketing materials made a real impact in the leasing process, and making the booking for the cruise certificate is hassle-free. We found this promotion to be a great way to add kick to our marketing program.”

The concept of providing a generally free vacation to apartment dwellers seems a real match with the easy going nature of the demographic. And because there are a number of destinations available, residents can look forward to a variety of trips into the future. For managers, that’s the ultimate retention.