September 2015: When South Africans travel internationally there’s nothing more surprising than experiencing something that reminds one of home. So, whether it’s hearing a South African accent at St Paul’s in London, seeing a Bok T-shirt over a hearty South African ‘boep’ in Perth, or spotting our flag on a Beijing flagpole, we get excited when something so familiar unexpectedly comes our way far away from home.

The emotional attachment to what symbolises our country is something well recognised by Protea Hotels, the South African hotel brand, which has for just over a year been a proud member of Marriott International, the leading global hotel group. “A big focus of our customer engagement approach is to understand the customer as much as possible, and to tap into the customer’s needs and wants in whatever ways we can,” explains Nicholas Barenblatt, Group Marketing Manager of Protea Hotels. “And something that is very clear from our research into our market is that South Africans are very patriotic and have deep-rooted ties to their heritage and culture and therefore really identify strongly with things we associate with the country.”

While having the knowledge is one thing, taking this concept further and converting it into something more concrete takes a bit of thinking and planning, which is what the team from Protea Hotels and Marriott International have recently been doing. “Essentially, we realised that there is an opportunity for us to tap into this sense of culture and pride, and the way to achieve that is to enhance the stay experience of these travellers through greater personalisation and recognition,” Barenblatt explains.

This prompted Protea Hotels’ new campaign in conjunction with parent company, Marriott International. Called ‘Local Global Citizen’ it recognises that significant numbers of South Africans are travelling internationally for a range of reasons: for business and for leisure, as well as to be part of major sporting and cultural events.

According to Barenblatt, “When a South African stays over in particular Marriott properties in one of the cities most popular among South Africans, he or she will find a number of items that hearken back to home: a personalised welcome letter, and a gift pack made up of goodies popular among South Africans – biltong, rooibos tea, Fizzer sweets, Castle Lager beer, and chutney chips. It’s our way of recognising the guest as an individual and letting them know that we understand what’s important to them, and to tap into their emotional tie with South Africa. It’s something small, but it really says quite a lot to the guest.”

In addition to the emotional element, the campaign is geared to educate South African travellers about the association between the locally-known Protea Hotels brand and the global giant, Marriott International. With substantial benefits for travellers arising from the tie-up between these two hotel companies – such as access to the Marriott Mobile App, and the award-winning Marriott Rewards programme which provides members with the ability to earn and redeem points across over 3 800 properties worldwide – it’s crucial that guests understand more about the relationship between the two hotel companies.

Director of Sales & Marketing at the London Marriott Hotel Regents Park, Carol Bridges, said of the opportunity to work with Protea Hotels on this campaign, “I believe it truly shows the strength and support of the Marriott global portfolio and gives us another exciting and unique brand to showcase and embrace. It also allows both brands to co-create a truly memorable experience for our South African travellers, which is what we attempt for all of our guests in some way, shape or form.”

The campaign kicks off this week at the London Marriott Hotel Marble Arch and the London Marriott Hotel Regents Park and will run until the end of the year. “We know that South Africans are there in large numbers for the Rugby World Cup,” Barenblatt comments, “and so we want them to feel entirely at home during their stay there.”So, when you’re next in London, don’t do as the Londoners do – do as South Africans do!