Downtown hotels launch informational TV channel


Three downtown hotels are introducing a new informational television channel to help visitors explore Grand Rapids.

Amway Hotel Corp., which manages Amway Grand Plaza, JW Marriott and Downtown Courtyard by Marriott, has launched Solace TV, which will be hosted by Carrie Kolehouse, senior marketing manager.

Similar to the hotel’s Solace magazine, the TV channel will provide visitors to Grand Rapids with suggestions on restaurants, entertainment and attractions, services and more, in and around the city.

Kolehouse will provide an introduction to each segment, followed by a slideshow highlighting the various establishments visitors can enjoy during their stay. By next spring, additional video segments from paid advertisers will be included, as well.

Like the magazine, new segments, which are being produced by Grand Rapids firm ShutterWerks Media, will be introduced twice a year: fall/winter and spring/summer.

Kolehouse said Solace TV will provide an additional avenue to reach hotel guests.

“If people don’t pick up the magazine, they are certainly going to turn on the TV,” she said.

“It’s another way to make sure we are connecting with them and giving them inspiration of things to do and places to eat so they can have the best possible experience in Grand Rapids.”

Kolehouse noted one inspiration for Solace TV was fear — that someone visiting for a convention, especially in winter, might never leave the hotel to explore the city, and, therefore, would leave with no idea of what the city offers that might bring him or her back for another visit.

“If someone comes to Grand Rapids for a convention in the dead of winter and they take a cab from the airport to the hotel, they eat at the hotel restaurant, take the skywalk over to DeVos Place for their convention, our fear is if that person is on the planning committee for the convention next year, and their options are Grand Rapids, Las Vegas or Orlando, what on earth is going to make them choose Grand Rapids if we’ve failed to make an impression on them?” she said.

“So we really want to encourage people to get out and experience the city as much as they can because we know they will come back and book more business here once they see how much Grand Rapids has to offer.”

Kolehouse said informational TV channels were once a hotel industry norm, but they fell out of favor after many became too self-promotional.

“When you are just promoting your own restaurants and inviting people to come back and stay at your hotel again, people don’t take it as seriously — and they certainly don’t look at it as a credible source for what they should do during their stay,” she said.

Kolehouse said she thinks the new concept Amway is introducing with Solace TV will help make the channel successful with guests.

“The TV channel is one more way to connect with people and give them a credible source of things to do,” she said.

New technology will help Amway Hotel Corp. determine the value of Solace TV.

“Using the back end of our TV system, we can actually track how many people watch the channel and for how long, which will provide us with great insights as to how useful and beneficial this is, and our advertisers, I’m sure, will love to know this information,” she said.

Kolehouse said if the data reveals large numbers of visitors are tuning in, it could also lead to expanding the programming or enhancing the segment format.

“If people are really watching it and like it, we may invest more in beefing it up,” she said. “We may do more editorial and make it a bigger project than it is now.”

Kolehouse pointed to the success of Solace magazine as an example of the potential success of Solace TV.

“Two out of three people say they use a recommendation from Solace magazine,” Kolehouse said. “If 66 percent of the people who pick it up are using a recommendation from it and getting outside of the hotel room and doing something, it’s a worthwhile investment for us.”

You don’t have to be a hotel occupant to watch the fall/winter segment of Solace TV. The segment can be viewed on YouTube.

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