Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

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.

Bread and Marketing

Bread and marketing? Yes. Bread has served not only as a mark of a restaurant’s quality, but also as a generator of press coverage. For many years in New York the bread to have at the best restaurants was Tom Cat’s sourdough. Peter Lugar’s onion rolls are legendary, and most recently in Miami, bread by Zak is the one that gets a mention on menus.  And when the bread is really good, don’t you find yourself mentioning that to friends? Butter, too, gets noticed by foodies —peel off butter packets, others you unwrap on the low end ,and  the top of the line being soft, unsalted tub butter from France.  And speaking about generating press, one of the selling points of a new restaurant, art gallery and lounge opening early next year in Wynwood, Miami will be their baguette oven imported from Strasbourg.

Given all this, I find it  short sighted to charge for bread. One could make an argument to diners for serving bread only on request which some restaurants are doing — that it saves waste and eliminates temptation for those on a diet.  But charging, especially if a lunch of broiled salmon, baby vegetables and a glass of wine with tip is $50 a person? That was my experience at a recent lunch at an upscale food hall in New York City.  It’s a buzzy, exciting place and the food is quite good but to charge for a piece of baguette and butter? Time to relook that policy.

Behind the Scenes Travel Experiences

16lvmh-span-superJumbo

 

It’s natural to think, who would be interested in a behind the scenes look at the engine room of a cruise ship? Or a look at the housekeeping department of a hotel? The answer, a lot of people. One of the favorite pastimes of cruise ship passengers at Carnival is the engine room tour.

In this day and age when all surveys point to an interest in travel experiences, certainly up there at the top are opportunities to see what is happening behind the scenes. This works not only for travelers, but also, for luxury brands in particular. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate craftsmanship, artisanry, expertise. A company that really gets the value of this is LVMH. And when they get behind a concept, they go all the way.

Case in point, in 2011 they launched what they called Open Days in which 25 of their brands from Dior to Dom Perignon opened their usually closed ateliers to the public. Tickets were free, but reservations were necessary. As reported in the New York Times, in year one 6,000 spaces allotted for Louis Vuitton’s workshop in Asnieres were taken within 90 seconds of release; for the Christian Dior Couture atelier it took 3 minutes to fill. They wrote, “From Paris to Poland, where Belvedere vodka is based, some 100,000 people attended the first open atelier weekend. Last year, the total was 120,000 and a third weekend is planned for 2015.”

This is obviously a low cost/no cost initiative and one most products and services could be able to do. Love to hear any behind the scenes offerings you do at your firm.

Photo courtesy of www.nytimes.com

Native Advertising: A Quick Primer

One of the top three topics at the recent Advertising Week conference was native advertising and I’m not surprised. A question I often hear bandied about – is native advertising a new term for advertorials? In my book, no. Advertorials were mostly about fluff, little substance and I frankly always wondered who was reading them. In an article on the topic in PR Tactics, Joe McCambley, founder and creative director of The Wonder Factory summed it up well: “Native advertising, at its best, is indistinguishable from good journalism. It’s created with the intention to be as helpful to a reader as possible,” he said.

A more apt synonym is probably sponsored content. Whatever you call it, here’s a great guide to three general categories of native advertising courtesy of Brian Conlin from Vocus :

 

  • Paid syndication: When a brand produces stories, videos or infographics that appear alongside regular news
  • Paid integration: When a publication inserts a brand’s messages into a regular news piece
  • Paid co creation: When a media outlet receives money to produce content on a specific topic or theme

For low cost/no cost sponsored content, one of the best vehicles is the service piece, tips and advice from a company executive, department head, or just a service provider, for the consumer or industry colleagues (B to B).

We recently sent out a series on tips for travel with baby from the baby concierges at Grand Velas Resorts in Mexico. The most recent one was a page and a half article on Tips on Baby’s First Vacation, how to travel. The news release which we sent out through paid distribution garnered 58 million readers and appeared everywhere from Reuters and the San Francisco Chronicle to the Boston Globe and LA Daily News.

One of the best examples of sponsored coverage I’ve seen, albeit at a very comfortable budget, is Netflix’s coverage of women’s prison issues in The New York Times, tying in to the release of the series “Orange is the new Black”.

Whatever you do, be relevant, be authentic and be substantive.

 

 

 

Hotel Shops and Branding

 

The selection of shops in a luxury hotel can speak volumes about its brand. I thought about this recently as a good friend and I were talking about a new 5 star hotel that opened in a major European capital and their shops. The default solution for hotel retail is often global luxury retailers and I doubt that nowhere is this truer than in Shanghai where it seems every top hotel has LVMH, Hermes, Prada and the like and, equally important, little else.

Today we read about the growing interest of the affluent in authenticity and hotels that offer a sense of place. A great deal of thought and care can go into the selection of hotel décor and artwork for that very reason. So instead of the ubiquitous luxury retailers, why not feature the best of local fashion designers, artists and craftsmen?

When Salvatore Ferragamo opened his Tuscan retreat Il Borro,  not only did he have fine leather, jewelry and woodworking craftsmen, but also, their workshops on site. Granted, that’s difficult for an urban hotel, but how about a shop that is exquisitely curated, similar to the ones found in museums, but where local (note I say local) fashion accessories, beautiful objets, and  gift items are presented and sold?

Some of you might remember what the W hotel in New York did when it opened. It had one of those “concept” like shops which generated a lot of media coverage. It also became a destination in itself, attracting travelers from other hotels and local residents who came, saw, and probably oftentimes stayed for a drink or a meal. Plus, it made a statement that W was creative and hip. More recently, Ace Hotels have done the same.

Getting back to the point about global luxury brands. To be sure, they do offer the benefit of imparting a luxury pedigree (you’re known by the company you keep), but at least one or two hotel shops that are original, creative and of the place can have multiple marketing and sales benefits.

Nudity, Travel and TV

dating naked

Clothing optional resorts have been around for years, in places from Europe and Jamaica  to, more recently, Mexico. Resorts like Hedonism which opened in 1982 were all in the news and then later became part of let’s say “the establishment”. Today the American Association for Nude Recreation lists 260 nudist resorts and clubs around the world.

Will the same happen with the Naked TV craze? Adweek’s cover story recently asked, “Is naked TV the next big thing or will it just flop”?  A bit of short history – the Discovery Channel was first out of the gate with its adventure/survival series, Naked and Afraid. Then came Buying Naked about nudist house hunters in Florida on TLC; GSN’s Skin Wars about body painters and nearly naked models; Syfy’s series on the body painting business in Las Vegas; and most recently Dating Naked on VH-1.  Interestingly enough, Adweek reported that Fox was working on a series with contestants dating in the buff in front of a live audience but it was ultimately seen as too risqué.

Too hot for advertisers? Apparently not according to Lisa Herdman, SVP at agency RPA. They’re lining up, appealing to certain brands that appeal to an edgy, younger market.  Maude Standish, co founder of Tarot a millennial trend insights company claims the appeal is to an audience searching for a “deeper level of authenticity”, the next step in reality shows. I tend to differ on that one.

One of the cardinal tenets of PR is that to get attention you need children, sex and/or animals. And the more offbeat, quirkier and titillating, the better. That’s what I think we have here.

Standish also talked about push back in deeply embedded conservative roots among the older demographic. But, she ended, “their kids, meanwhile are sending naked pictures of themselves to their boyfriends”.

Restaurant Trends: Experiences

DinnerLab_expansion

The golden word in the travel and hospitality industry these days is “experience” with hotels, tour operators and travel agents touting their special offerings.  Why the interest in “experiences”? Because they evoke powerful sentiments – the stuff that memories are made from, landmark celebrations, and, most importantly, the promise of involvement.

Experiences in the form of  interactivity are hitting the restaurant industry in a big way in innovative directions.  Many of these have the added benefit of more social interaction and the promise of making new friends. Underground dining, where a chef cooks a gourmet meal in his or her home or unusual venue for a prix fixe has been around for a number of years. Here in Miami several prominent foodies started a club where you sign up for a pricey mystery dinner at an undisclosed location and it is often oversubscribed.  Then there’s an extension of the cooking class with not only a market tour to choose ingredients for the class, but also, foraging in fields and streams for special herbs, vegetables or fish.

The latest twist is Dinner Lab which operates popup restaurants across the US.  Emerging chefs prepare a high end prix fixe dinner ($50 to $80  a meal, drinks and tips included) for members who rate each dish’s creativity and taste and each drink pairing as well as whether the course was “restaurant worthy”. Communal tables, guests talking about the dinner as they fill out the rating forms, family style service, and chefs chatting up diners all contribute to the social interaction.

Meals are also presented as a performance, with each getting a name from the chef. And even the setting is different from the usual – dinners are held in large open spaces like the roofop of a parking garage or at a motorcycle dealership.

Dinner Lab’s plan is to operate in 40 cities including international ones and to sell the data at events for anyone looking to overhaul or create a menu.

Photo courtesy of www.forbes.com