by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | February 25, 2013

blue suitcaseIt's not often that a hotel's marketing campaign catches my attention. Over the years, boxes of promotional materials have arrived at M&C's offices stuffed with everything from custom monogrammed beach towels and pillowcases to organic spa amenities and even a very unusual (not to mention perplexing) electronic alarm clock that boasted more gadgets than a Swiss army knife. This week, though, New York City-based Leading Hotels of the World certainly got my full attention, when a stunning blue 1950s-styled suitcase, packed with popcorn, candy and several well-known Silver Screen notables, showed up in my mailbox. It turns out that LHW, a collection of luxury properties around the globe, shares something in common with this coming Sunday night's prestigious Academy Awards -- they are both turning 85.

Lobby of the Ritz LondonTo mark the occasion, LHW has launched a marketing campaign that focuses on the correlation between cinema and travel in a very unique way. The new "LHW in the Movies" section of the group's website features 85 films and their corresponding hotels, including behind-the-scenes stories and anecdotes from filming. The DVDs in my little suitcase included the light-hearted Notting Hill (the 137-room The Ritz London); the psychological British thriller The Unknown (featuring the 304-room Hotel Adlon Kempinski in Berlin), and, the ultimate Vegas' heist flick, Ocean's 11 (at the 3,421-room, Bellagio Towers, Las Vegas).

Hotel Adlon KempinskiThe movies are a powerful marketing tool. According to a recent global benchmarking survey by the Belgium-based independent tourism research firm TCI Research, some 40 million international tourists in 2012 chose their destination because of a film they saw shot in that country. In terms of destination marketing that's a pretty compelling statistic, and one that certainly resonated with LHW when looking for a unique pitch to promote and celebrate the strength and longevity of its luxury portfolio. "We take pride in our 85-year legacy of helping people gain insight into other cultures, and offering them the opportunity to experience the authenticity of the destinations they have chosen," said Ted Teng, LHW's president and CEO.

Of the original founding group of 38 independently owned hotels that banded together in 1928 to market themselves under one umbrella, six iconic properties, including the Ritz Madrid in Spain and the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, France, are still part of LHW, whose portfolio today numbers 430 hotels and resorts in 80 countries. In addition, its salesforce has grown from one Europe-based office to 24 sales offices across the world, including a dedicated  meetings and group team.

Don't expect LHW's cinematic romance to end Sunday night. Tucked into that marvelous little suitcase was an announcement that LHW has partnered with Italian filmmakers, and seven of its remarkable properties are featured in a film premiering March 2013 in Rome -- Viaggio Sola (I Travel Alone) -- about the adventures of a behind-the-scenes hotel inspector. Popcorn anyone?

For more fun LHW movie facts, behind-the-scenes stories and anecdotes from filming, visit