Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Is the Term PR Dead?

The term “public relations” may be on its way out according to an article in O’Dwyer’s, a leading PR industry publication. Of 103 members in the PR Council, one of the leading organizations of prominent firms across the US, only eight use PR In their titles. And at the 2014 conference of the PR Society last October, only 11% of the 1450 registrants used PR as a part of their title. The word “communications”, however, was used by 386 or 26% of the registrants. One of the problems with this name change is, in this age of twitter and other social media, communications takes up too much real estate!

I never really liked the term PR. It might be because I always have to explain it. Most people don’t know what it means, many taking its literal meaning — dealing with the public as in  guest relations, customer relations or giving events. I remember years ago in walking around a tony area of Madrid I saw a sign, courses in public relations and learning to be an airline stewardess. Today, it’s not that bad but it’s still not understood.

“Communications” is certainly a clearer term, but it doesn’t begin to cover the breadth of what PR can be, especially in today’s business world, where the discipline has some overlap with strategic marketing and branding. “Communications” also seems a kind of passive term to me, not reflecting the creativity and proactivity of the job. An expanded role in all aspects of content management is becoming an increasingly part of PR’s role, but it also wouldn’t suit as a title.

So, you’re probably asking me what term do I like? I wish I had an answer. Any ideas on your end?

 

 

Extreme Romantic Travel

Flash mob for a wedding proposal

Flash mob for a wedding proposal

 

Romantic travel. It has a new twist as in extreme romantic travel. And we’re seeing it in everything from couples getaways and wedding proposals to honeymoons and weddings. It combines often luxurious settings with one-of-a-kind, over-the-top romantic experiences that couples might someday tell their grandchildren about.

Get this….for wedding proposals, how about a customizable flash mob? For those unfamiliar with this, it’s when a bunch of seemingly random strangers who happen to be hanging around, all of a sudden start dancing together to a song, which usually culminates in the end with something momentous, e.g. A wedding proposal.  These “strangers” are actually a combination of professional dancers and local volunteers who are recruited in advance and who train for this specific performance.

The luxury boutique hotel Napa River Inn in downtown Napa, California offers an “I Will” package where the “strangers” will be milling around on a patio downstairs, while a song begins to play.  Meanwhile the couple will be looking out from their hotel balcony at the view, or they will be downstairs on the patio, having a drink when the song begins.  The proposer can choose the particular song and the dancers will be choreographed to it by a professional in advance. Then, the Inn follows up the offering with a cleverly named “I Do” honeymoon package.

Adventure and extreme travel is an international trend as well.  A recent survey of 2,000 people in the UK revealed that the top modern honeymoon activities included such things as: zip lining, dolphin encounters, paragliding, cage diving with sharks, etc.

Meanwhile, this year several U.S. hotels offered “extreme” Valentine’s Day promotions, e.g. The Affinia Hotels had a “Naughty or Nice” promotion that included a strip poker set. The Renaissance New York Hotel 57 offered the “World’s Sweetest Suite” promotion, with more than 300 pounds of candy provided by Dylan’s Candy Bar creating a giant fantasy candy land suite for guests.  The Algonquin Hotel in New York brought back its publicity generating  $10,000 martini, that has a preselected diamond sparkling on the bottom.

So forget the chocolates and the flowers.  In the romantic travel ideas department it’s time to dive into deep waters (with dolphins) and get on board offering guests the romantic ride of their life.

New Hotel Revenue Models

the surf office

 

First it was business meetings that moved to Starbuck’s away from breakfasts at hotel restaurants or inking deals in a hotel lobby lounge. Then it was inroom movies, supplanted by laptops with streaming video or DVDs. And what about the legendary “power lunch”? As was reported recently in the New York Times, many millennials are skipping lunch for “crumbs on the keyboard”, viewing it as a waste of time.

What’s a hotel to do? Certainly the “Grab n’Go” concept manages to capture some revenue, provide a service, and appeal to a Starbucks budget and time-strapped business executives. In entertainment. Oz Eleonara,chief revenue officer for interactive content and connectivity provider Sonifi Solutions said there’s a greater movement in hospitality to combine entertainment, information and service to create new scenarios for digital interaction between hotels and guests.” In other words, turn a negative – movement away from current inroom entertainment models — to a positive – enabling hotels to connect with guests via technology. But, in the same article in Hotel Management, Scott Hansen, Director of Guest Technology for Marriott International said the company is looking it as a service and not a main revenue driver.

And now we’re seeing the beginning of the traditional hotel business/resort model under fire by offshoots of co-working spaces. In exotic locations worldwide, the countryside near urban centers, and beach destinations, properties are cropping up that offer communal work spaces, accommodations, and the opportunity to network, have fun and instant companionship.

What need does this address? Liz Elam founder of Link Coworking and executive producer of the Global Coworking Unconference said ,”More young people want work-life balance and maybe vacations completely unconnected are not feasible anymore; maybe people won’t take traditional vacations. But they can go to work in paradise for two months.” New centers described in the New York Times’ “A Desk in Paradise” have cropped up in Gran Canaria (The Surf Office), Turkey, and towns driving distance from Paris and Berlin. Right now they’re small in number and rooms and limited in facilities, but the appeal, especially to the Millennials is strong. They’re truly a new breed of “lifestyle” hotels.

The opportunity is there to expand the formula with new locations, more facilities, and ultimately, an upscale version of the concept. Let’s see who gets there first.

Authentic, Luxury Travel Word of 2014

titos-sticker

 

If I were to name the top three words and expressions in luxury travel for 2014 number one would be authentic,  followed by experiences and sense of place. What really constitutes “authentic”? “Quenching Consumers” Thirst for ‘Authentic’ Brands”, an article in the New York Times got me thinking about it. Is “real” a synonym? Checking in the Merriam Webster dictionary gave some overlapping definitions.Both can mean “true”, “genuine”. But real – and that’s the reason connotation is so important – is not associated with luxury, it’s mostly about not being an imitation. Some of you will remember one of the most iconic tag lines in advertising – Coca Cola’s “it’s the real thing, it’s Coke”.

The word “authentic” in and of itself needs additional qualifiers to be powerful in luxury branding, and that was the gist of the article. Together with the qualifiers, they’re a powerful message. In the Journal of Business Research they cite three elements: heritage, sincerity and commitment to quality.

It’s not enough ,though, to just mention the words. Alone they can seem trite. The goal is to use them in the context of telling a story. A solid example of how this is done well and the sales results that can follow is Tito’s Handmade Vodka of Austin, Texas, The website tells the life story of Tito Beverdige, the founder, and his commitment to quality, while telling how quality is achieved, following a company tradition (“the vodka is made in small batches in an old fashioned pot still using a time honored method and is distilled 6 times”). In 2014 the company sold 1.3 million cases of vodka compared with 365,000 in 2010. Story telling also establishes an emotional connection with the customer which works toward building loyalty in the long term.

Rest assured the top three words of 2014 will be in the top ten in 2015.

 

 

Site Search Tags: No tags for this post.

High End Bricks and Mortar Retail: Last Man Standing

http://media.bizj.us/view/img/4507871/design-district-3*1200xx3264-1836-0-306.jpg

All the signs are there in luxury retail trends. Soaring urban real estate costs. Inevitable lifting of rent controls, most recently in Spain. Struggling popular priced malls. Lower middle class and middle class incomes strapped by stagnating wage growth. And add to this the rapid acceleration of online shopping.  In the developed world malls and mom and pop retailers are going away, the pace picking up steam.

What will replace them? For starters, in the short term, more ubiquitous and ever larger emporiums of global luxury brands and shopping centers geared to the affluent and elite affluent. Every summer when I go to Madrid I see it happening – independent fashion boutiques replaced by the names you know. In Miami, it’s starkly apparent. With Brickell’s CitiCentre project by Swire Properties, Miami-Dade County will have four high end shopping destinations – Bal Harbour Shops, Village of Merrick Park, and the Design District. During Art Basel I paid a visit to the new section of the Design District and frankly couldn’t believe my eyes – I thought I was transported to Beijing and the shopping center adjacent to the Opposite Hotel (operated by Swire Hotels).

I wrote “the short term” because I think that longer term, the affluent will be looking for more alternatives to the same global designer fare you find in Paris, London, New York or Shanghai. LVMH, Hermes and others have recognized this, and for awhile a few years back there was talk about going global and thinking local, as in designing products that were more of the place. I think they were on to something big, but there hasn’t been much talk of that recently. Absent this, and there will come a time when the affluent will look elsewhere, which they’re already doing online.

At the same time, the cost of marketing for small, independent retailers used to make business challenging, but now, with social media, promotion for a small budget is in the cards. And how about rents? I predict independent high end retailers will thrive despite the rents, considering the kind of profit margins they enjoy.

But there’s a lesson here too for smart real estate developers. My advice? To sprinkle their shopping centers with unique shops at mid-high price points to not only provide variety, but also, draw in the lesser affluent who can make one time luxury purchases and patronize the restaurants and bars. I read that CitiCentre plans to do this very thing. The shopping part of the project is run by the owners of Bal Harbour Shops. It will be very interesting to see what they do. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Baby Boomers and Retirement Niches

Noho_Sr_Arts-501

 

Arguably the most well traveled generation in American history, Baby Boomers, used to the new and different weren’t content with the same old, same old. They helped propel the niche economy, facilitated by technology. We’ve seen everything from special interest cruises and tours to dating sites and ever more niche culinary sensations which we’ve written about over the years. It’s no surprise, then, that in their retirement, boomers are looking for senior-oriented communities to pursue their special interests with the like minded and to be more active in body, mind and soul. And their numbers and healthy assets are propelling a growth in this newest niche.

True, some sports oriented communities like golf and polo have been around for decades. The differences now are that interests are a function of everything from sexual orientation to a wide range of passions and hobbies. Think LGBT focused communities and university based enclaves where residents take classes and have access to skilled nursing care. Others are devoted to the arts such as the NoHo Senior artists Colony apartments in North Hollywood, California with classes in collage construction, creative dance and screenwriting. Probably one of the most unusual is Escapees Care Center in Livingston, Texas, for those with an interest in recreational vehicles and onsite medical treatment.

But don’t think these come cheap. At one multi generational community called NewBridge on the Charles entrance fee for independent living apartments range from $600,000 to $1.3 million besides monthly expenses. The fee is 90 percent refundable but it’s still a major outlay and isn’t risk free.

With the market potential in numbers and price tag, it’s a sure bet to conclude these kind of communities will grow. What’s the next niche?

In an article in the New York Times, Max Greenberg, a senior living adviser and senior real estate specialist in Palo Alto, California predicts we’ll see ones run by large national fraternities and sororities “allowing seniors to once again experience the partying, socialization and spirit of frat life they had in collage. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Grateful Dead oriented community sprout up in the Bay Area, “he concluded.

Spirits Tourism

Kentucky Bourbon Road Trip

Kentucky Bourbon Road Trip

Wine tourism has been around for decades – tours of vineyards, wine hotels, and wine trails, from California and New York to New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the southern tier of South America and more. Of late, thanks to craft breweries we’re seeing a growing number of craft beer festivals and museum like brewery tours. The newest link in the chain, not surprising given the celebrity status of mixologists and interest in new beverage taste sensations, is spirits (as in liquor) tourism. Spirits tourism is following what is a major growth in spirits revenue nationwide. Excluding wine and beer it has doubled to over $50 billion from 2000. Its appeal is also based on an interest in local products and history and, similar to craft beers, the boom in craft liquors. A recent google search revealed a surprising number of states – Delaware, Washington, Oregon, New York, that have gotten on the bandwagon with spirits trails, sometimes combining them with wineries and breweries.

Not only distillers, but also state and local governments see this as a new source of tax revenue and jobs, as well as a new tourism niche. Kentucky, in particular, is getting in on the act, enjoying a special upswing from bourbon, with new distilleries being built, complete with a tasting room for sipping bourbon and looking at the local scenery. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a collection of distilleries on a scenic route, attracts thousands of visitors annually. Distilleries offer behind the scenes tours where one can watch vats of yeast bubbling and workmen rolling barrels of whiskey as they’ve done for decades. In downtown Louisville, Whiskey Row is being revived with a new distillery for Old Forester, the country’s first bottled bourbon. Another producer, Wild Turkey, has paid double in taxes this year, twice what it paid in 2010 thanks to robust sales. For hotels and restaurants, craft spirits are a new avenue for public relations, with the media devoting more space to everything from drink recipes and signature cocktails to star mixologists. One of the more clever outtakes is the bar at the new Traymore restaurant at the Metropolitan by COMO. It has a gin bar boasting 40 different kinds of gin and the Apotheker at the Shelbourne Wyndham Grand South Beach, a riff on bar as pharmacy.

Photo courtesy of NationalGeographic.com

Super Rich, What are they Buying?

G650 Gulfstream, the jet of choice of the uber rich

G650 Gulfstream, the jet of choice of the uber rich

 

A colleague said she developed a high end cooking tour to Italy, 7 days with classes each day and stays in Renaissance palaces. The cost? $10K plus airfare. She said she was concerned that she might not be able to sell it at that price. My advice to her? Charge a lot more and you’ll sell it.

As Robert Frank, chronicler of the top 1% wrote, today there are the “haves and the have mores”. And what’s selling are products and services for the top one-hundredth of the 1 percent. While sales of the smaller, cheaper jets, and 150 to 200 foot yachts have dropped, sales of $65 G650 Gulfstream private jumbo jets and yachts over 250 feet are booming (the largest is now the 590 foot Azzam owned by the president of the United Arab Emirates). A recent article by Frank in the New York Times quoted Jim Taylor, a wealth specialist and managing partner of YouGov, a marketing research and survey firm who said, “ The very wealthy are often the ones pulling the trigger right now, and they have a very big trigger.”

How many are in this financial stratosphere and what’s their fortune? The 16,000 families in this category have fortunes of at least $111 million. And, parenthetically, they’re also buying double digit million dollar condos and houses and art. Not surprising the art world continues to break records. If these ultra rich have to fly commercial – pardon the expression – there are new facilities for them as well. Eithad Airways’ A380 has a $20,000 suite with three rooms and dedicated butler and within no time of its being announced,  its 10 initial flights were booked.

To be sure, this is a limited market in terms of the numbers. But then again, with the markups and commissions to be had, you sure don’t have to sell a lot to make a good chunk of change.

 

 

Culinary Tourism Trends: What’s In and Out

Eat With ; Hummus Brunch with Naama Shefi & Noam Bonnie ; Photo By: Eilon Paz

Make no mistake about it, culinary tourism is booming. It’s now a mature special interest category which brings with it higher expectations for novelty, creativity, and innovative offerings. Cooking and mixology classes, food and wine pairings, and food festivals seem so, well, yesterday. Here’s a look at what was and what’s now.

 

THEN NOW
Cooking classes Behind the scenes with the chef
Wine tastings Hot sauce or other specialty food tastings
Eating local Eating with locals in their homes or outside venues (e.g. mama cooks, eat with a local)
Group food tours Personalized dining itineraries based on food preferences, traveling configurations, budget
World’s Fair with Food Courts Food themed world’s fair (Milan Expo 2015)
Chef driven menus Crowd sourced menus
Dining as party Dining and conversation (“silence is the new luxury”)

 

And in the category of dining trends, it’s important to not leave out gluten free. Any major restaurant has to cater to the needs of gluten free diners. Not only is it expected, but the absence of sensitivity to these special needs loses business and also makes a statement about service.

It’s interesting that in two restaurant visits in Miami in the past 45 days, one to a multi million dollar upscale restaurant operated by an international group, there were only two items on a multi page menu for gluten free. I was with a group of 8 and the diner walked out. In another case, another high-end restaurant, the waiter and kitchen staff had obviously not been trained about this special needs group. Take note!

Photo courtesy of Travel and Leisure

 

Hotel as Sanctuary

Silence is the new luxury. My prediction: a new hotel trend 2015. Why? Advertising is everywhere — big, bold and bolder. On floor tiles in some supermarkets, turnstiles in New York subways, plastered even on high end residential buildings and, of course what I find especially distasteful, totally covering public buses. Then there are the growing traffic jams in urban centers, technology that’s in your face, and restaurant music which is more about disco decibels than for dining. I was thinking about this on a recent trip to New York and how, in this climate of urban sensory assault, a growing group of travelers are increasingly going to want their hotel to be a sanctuary, and their restaurant to follow in the same vein.

Not much hotel copy talks about things like windows that seal out the street noise, use the word “serenity” or a synonym, or address décor that’s soothing, except for maybe wellness or yoga retreats and Westin’s wellness rooms. But all of these qualities will soon be strong selling points, just as “digital detox” programs and offerings are growing.

Singapore based COMO Hotels “gets it”. In South Beach, where most  restaurants are places  where it’s almost de rigeur to have a party atmosphere otherwise called “buzzy”, they’ve taken a whole different tack at The Metropolitan by COMO. “Silence is a luxury” said their spokesperson about their Traymore Restaurant. “We want people to be able to talk to one another rather than the experience being about seeing and being seen”, he continued. The décor as well is expressive of this approach: cool whites and gray, quietly elegant and sophisticated. The music is there, loungey and just the right volume. Hopefully COMO will kick off a new trend.