Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Solo Travel, a Market Ripe with Opportunity

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Solo travel is a market ripe with opportunities with the industry just starting to get on board with special product and pricing.  The facts are clear. There are a lot more singles in the USA. Why? With the divorce rate hitting 53% and people living longer, which means more widows and widowers, people are spending more of their lives single. And then there are those who, though part of a couple, choose to go it alone because a partner doesn’t want an exotic trip, can’t get away at the desired dates, or needs a last minute break from a stressful job. In a Visa Global Travel Intentions Survey, in 2015 24 percent of people had traveled alone on their most recent overseas leisure vacation, up from 15 percent in 2013. With first time travelers, the numbers are even bigger – 37% in 2015 compared with 16 percent in 2013.

With these growing numbers, the travel industry is starting to take notice, and do something about it. Afar magazine devoted an entire issue to the topic and described companies that are getting on the “singles” bandwagon. Following Norwegian Cruises lead of offering studios and social lounges for solo guests without charging extra fees, small river cruise lines including Viking and AmaWaterways also got on board. Overseas Adventure Travel offers 50 no supplement tours and perks like roommate matching, making a serious statement about a commitment to single travel. And it has paid off – 40 percent of their guests come alone.

With a hint of whimsy, Four Seasons Safari Lodge in Tanzania has a Lone Ranger package that features working safaris and game drives with other solo travelers .

Probably the area where more hotels are catering to solos is in dining, with everything from a dinner -for -one menu and more communal style tables to special seating complete with reading material on request.

There’s so much more, though, that could be offered. How about hotel rooms designed for singles much as the cruise lines are doing? Or designating a month of traditionally low occupancy “solo” month where the supplement is waived? If you know of any other novel ideas, love to hear from you. Write me, Escalera@kwepr.com.

6 Things to Know About Mobile Consumers in 2016

mobile consumers 2016

 

One of the better articles I’ve read lately about the mobile consumer and some powerful statistics was in Adweek. Entitled “Dialing into Mobile Consumers 2016”, here are the article’s 6 major takeaways:

 

  • Mobile purchasing decisions are now heavily influenced by content that users generate and others read, primarily through product reviews and social media
  • Consumers are spending more time in apps than watching TV. In 2015 US smartphone and tablet users spent an average of 3 hours and 5 minutes a day using mobile apps, up from 2 hours and 51 minutes in 2014
  • 60% of buyers use mobile devices to research their purchases
  • If you combine Android and Apple stores there are over 2 million apps for consumers to download
  • According to a Pew report, 90 % of American adults own a mobile phone, 32 % an e reader and 42 % a tablet computer so a multi device approach to mobile purchasing is key
  • Building trust and having authentic content are essential

 

The author of the article on mobile consumers 2016 is Andrew Paradise, founder and CEO of Skillz, a mobile E-Sports company.

Photo courtesy of www.martechadvisor.com

Director of Happiness and Travel

happiness

 

Dubai, the Persian Gulf nation known in the travel world for the towering Burj al Arab hotel, the world’s biggest indoor ski slope, and an island that looks like a palm tree, is innovating once again with a newly announced Minister of State for Happiness. Though it’s more directed to its citizens, there’s no reason why it couldn’t set another precedent with a Director of Happiness for tourism. Think of the possibilities for destination marketing. From what I read, it would be the first.

I never heard about a Director of Happiness so went on a Google search to see what I could find in hospitality, travel, or in the business world in general. Surprise.  There are Directors of Happiness for employees, customers, and clients. And one site had a chart with the average salary for the job at $72K.  I even found a coach who specializes in happiness whose clients have included the likes of luxury brands Mont Blanc and Jaeger Le Coultre.

But let’s get back to travel and the opportunities there. I could see a destination naming a Director of Happiness as the centerpiece of a campaign to promote the idea that they go the extra mile to welcome travelers. It’d be a good publicity generator as well, provided that it’s part of a larger program that will show concrete results. Like what? First step would be  research to see what visitors would most appreciate. Friendlier locals? Meet the people type programs? More information kiosks? More public restrooms (that’d make a funny commentary)?  And think of the interview potential!

I was surprised in doing research that only one hotel has a happiness concierge – the Waidringer Hof in the Austrian Alps.
The job is described as a part concierge, guest attendant, and hiking guide. The mission: “Your pleasure is the centre of our strategy”.An admirable initiative, but needs to be more substantive.

So colleagues, you have an opportunity. And, finally, just in terms of interesting additional information, Dubai also named the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs as also having a new responsibility for “The Future”. I’d say the Director of Happiness should also be in charge of The Future wouldn’t you?

Fashion and Travel Branding

fashion and travel branding

Fashion has been used for some time  as an upscale or luxury branding tool in travel, especially for hotels and airlines. But in a new twist, we see an effective example of what it can do for a destination with Shinola and Detroit.

Big name designers have been leaving their mark on uniforms for years with airlines and hotels. Luxury designers from Armani to Versace and Missoni brand hotels and spearhead all aspects of design and sometimes even dining. Then we have had fashions made exclusively for resorts such as the  Christian Louboutin espadrilles for One & Only Palmilla , fashion popups to generate buzz and new customers, and boutiques that are destinations in themselves.  Interestingly enough, cruise lines have been slow to embrace this marketing and sales opportunity for some reason (any ideas why?).

fashion and travel branding

Now, hello fashion and destination marketing. Shinola which makes watches, high end bikes (think $2950 for a city bike) and classic design leather goods, has an advertising program that touts its Made in Detroit  roots. It plays on authenticity and a cool factor that also works to be a symbol of Detroit’s renaissance.  The graphic design of the ad campaign is sleek, classic contemporary, and pops.

fashion and travel branding

In Miami, home of its newest store, ad agency Partners & Spade opted for large placements as in full page ads, digital advertising and wall ads you could see from the highway. Photography is by the iconic Bruce Weber.  And the Miami shop was very well chosen to be in the hip artist district of Wynwood, best known for its street art. The bottom line: it’s effective in branding Detroit, heralding its rebirth, and imparting an image that’s at the same time classic and hip.  With revenues of $60 million in 2014, Shinola has also contributed jobs to the city’s rebirth. A win win for all. For more about Shinola, check out this article in the New York Times, “Detroit Cool Hits the Road”.

Millennial Slang to Know for 2016

Working with millennials or trying to reach them? Here’s a guide to millennial slang for 2016 so you can navigate the new lingo . And love to hear if you have anything to add.

1. Bae – short for babe, meaning your significant other
2. Crushing – doing it full steam
2. On Fleek – being “on fleek” means to be on point. In a business context, it means something was well executed and is worthy of acknowledgement.
3. Kill it – do something really well or with a lot of energy
4. Turn up – getting excited…Get Hyped, Wild, energetic”
5. Bootleg – not genuine, fake..Also it can be something not to the level expected or wanted
6. Basic – unoriginal or mainstream
7.  Throwing Shade –  the act of the underhanded insult being delivered. “Sarah threw shade at Melissa last night.”
8. Squad – group of close friends
9. Sick – something is awesome or really fun.
10. Fire – if something is good (usually food/beverage) then it’s fire.

BONUS:  ¯\_(?)_/¯” is the new emoji which is a man shrugging their shoulders signifying “I dunno” or not my fault.

Reprinted from MiamiCurated

Key Takeaways from Travel Blogger Exchange ’15

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Key takeaways from the recent TBEX(Travel Blogger Exchange) North America 2015 Conference in Fort Lauderdale. Attracting an international group of travel bloggers, writers, new media content creators, and social media savvy travel industry professionals, TBEX  is the world’s largest conference and networking event for online travel journalists and travel industry companies. Facts, figures, and tips to keep in mind:

Key Takeaways

  • Why Travel Brands Must Embrace Visual Storytelling
    • Data shows that 71% of travelers search for a destination on YouTube before booking to see the visual appeal
    • Good examples of brands using the tools of video and photography to their advantage:
      • Marriott created a GoPro rental package and encouraged guests to videotape their trip
      • The 1888 Hotel in Sydney allowed for anyone with over 50,000 Instagram followers to have a free night (because they have such a large visual following.)
  • Have brand hashtags readily available for guests to access (no longer than 15 characters)
  • Less than 10% of travel brands have videos on their Facebook – this is a huge opportunity for brands to expand upon
  • Platforms to utilize social media:
    • Socialbakers monitors how the competition promotes their content, how it performs, and start reaching bigger audience on social
    • Periscope is an emerging video social platform brands should begin utilizing

 

Working with Travel Bloggers from a Company Perspective

  • Pin articles to a brand’s Pinterest account to expand their reach
  • Airlines will very rarely comp flights because of the margin
  • Bloggers want evergreen content that will continue to generate impressions (a win/win for a company because they will generate sales)
  • Blogs are the third most influential digital resources (31%) when making overall purchases, behind retail sites (56%) and brand sites (34%) according to Technorati
  • “Nearly half of travelers have changed or decided upon a trip because of what they read on social media” – WTTC

 

Travel Reviews

  • Everything is based on a review in this day and age
  • We live in a review culture (i.e. someone looks to their favorite travel blog for hotel recommendations)
  • Credibility is the number one factor of bloggers gaining readers, developing their voice and showing their professionalism
  • As part of a blogger’s editing checklist, they want to be a correct resource (i.e. it’s OK as a brand/PR representative to ask them to correct a story if the information is out of date)

Photo courtesy of www.fathomaway.com

It’s the Little Things That Count

“It’s the little things that count”. That was the tent card in my room at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Gurgaon, India. I couldn’t agree with them more – especially since they delivered on their promise. The hotel was my last stop on a several week trip to India staying at one of the better hotels in each destination which sometimes was barely three star. So the details on my final stop were especially welcome – from Dead Sea Salts for my bath and every other bath and toilet amenity you can think of to preparing a boxed breakfast to go since my departure was before the restaurant opened.

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

During my trip I experienced other notable and original touches and amenities that will surely remain top of mind long after I’ve departed which should be every hotel’s goal. In the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai it was the manicure kit complete with nail polish remover, nail clipper,  emory board and cream and oil delivered on a tray with rose petals and a hammered brass bowl.

When the laundry was returned, a sachet bag graced the top of the linen cover.

taj mahal palace hotel

Then in New Delhi on the club floor at the Taj Palace Hotel they sent a mini-facial treatment kit.

Even a three star hotel in a rural village, the Dera Village Retreat, staged a dance presentation complete with popcorn and saris on loan for the women and a turban for the men.

dera village retreat

These kind of details and hotel amenities go a long way not only in making memories for guests and giving value add, but creating long term fans plus generating word of mouth and oftentimes press coverage. So Crowne Plaza. It IS all about the details.

Solo Travelers, an Evolving Market

Solo travelers

 

The phenomenon of solo travelers has evolved. It’s no longer just the “single” — unmarried, widowed or divorced. And not only is this market segment growing, but it represents a large, untapped potential.

Solo travelers make up about 23% of all leisure travelers according to the U.S. Travel Association. And almost 40% of total travelers replied they would take a vacation by themselves if they had the opportunity, in a survey by MMGY Global.  So who is this new vacationer who is going alone? Men and women. With work schedules more demanding than ever, couples are having a harder time coordinating travel schedules. And in this age of special interest travel, often one member of a couple wants to go on perhaps a wellness holiday or go trekking in Bhutan and the other prefers to go golfing. With the tremendous number of tour offerings, finding a group, a price point and departure that suits, is easier than ever. And then there’s the traditional market of solo travelers — the unmarried, the widowed or divorced. With people marrying later, more getting divorced, and living longer, the numbers in these categories have soared.

All of this has major implications for hotels. As we all know, single supplements are a sore point among this group. What can be done? Why can’t hotels build more single rooms or I can see the potential in a hotel chain just with studio rooms — 3.5 or 4 star? Then there are new challenges in restaurants. As reported in an article in the Wall Street Journal, “ Your Dream Vacation: a Table for One and a Selfie”, Jason Moskal, vice president of lifestyle brands for InterContinental Hotels group and Hotel Indigo said the number of solo guests has risen by a double digit rate in the past 18 months. He said staffers are paying more attention to being up to date on local hot spots since independent travelers count more on the concierge desk.  How about dining? Solo travelers are no longer resigned to just ordering room service because they don’t want to go into a fine restaurant alone. So there also needs to be sensitivity training in how to treat a single diner — some like to engage with wait staff, chatting, and others prefer quiet time  .Founding Fathers restaurants in Washington D.C. coaches staff to convey ease to solo diners when they arrive, never pity. “We look for the personality in their eyes — someone who is there to engage will give you those clues,” said Dan Simons, a co-owner. They also sometimes offer free samples of popular appetizers and cocktails, showing they value their business.  Bar seating for restaurant meals works well, a personal favorite of mine as you can choose to engage with a fellow diner or not.

There also needs to be sensitivity to language. The word “single” doesn’t work since, as mentioned, many are not “single” in the traditional sense of the word. Tour operators, too, have made changes in wording of promotional literature. Country Walkers avoids using “romantic” to describe its soft adventure trips and the article reported that Norwegian Cruise Line never uses “single” to describe new studio rooms or private lounges to cater to travelers boarding alone.

Finally, speaking about dining, especially interesting is a recent statistic from Open Table the online restaurant reservation service — dinner reservations for one are the fastest growing party size, up 62% in two years. The most dramatic gains are in Dallas, Miami and Denver.

Photo courtesy of www.cyclicx.com

Is Aspirational Luxury Dead?

Ralph Lauren men's shop

Ralph Lauren men’s shop

 

Retailing and the world of luxury fashion is all aflutter with the appointment of Stefan Larsson as CEO of Ralph Lauren. Larsson came up through fast fashion giant H & M and then went on to get Old Navy back on track. As you know, Lauren built his business with fashion that called to mind Old Wealth which was personified in an upscale preppy way of dress and lifestyle. One could say he took the Brooks Brothers approach, added more of a fashion element, and marketed the fashion with Old World trappings. The price point wasn’t cheap, but it was accessible, compared with the look he imitated. Aspirational luxury. Is it here to stay in fashion, travel and lifestyle in general?

Now this new CEO has a totally different background in new -to- the- brand market segments and comes from the egalitarian Swedish society. One’s first reaction. Can he recreate this aura of luxury lifestyle, albeit updated, which Lauren obviously wanted to do by going with such a radical new hire? Or, as Barbara Thau wrote in Forbes.com, does this mean aspirational luxury is dead so he’s going to take a totally new approach to the brand?

She also ties that in with her contention that conspicuous consumption is a thing of the past. I don’t agree with either premise.

First, conspicuous consumption. As I’ve written about before, during the Great Recession, extravagance was seem as unseemly and, in the hotel business in particular, a serious negative. Companies couldn’t be seem as having luxury trips for executives when the public was suffering financially. But all of that has changed. The elite 1% has no compunctions about spending — the media is filled with stories about extravagance and over the top purchases reflecting the reality of what’s going on out there.

And as for aspirational luxury, I contend that it will always be with us. What will change is what is the desired luxury lifestyle to be emulated. There will always be a “luxury uniform” as Thau called it, though it will change. Instead of rich Mahogany paneled studies filled with antiques and Persian rugs, maybe there will be minimalist Italian furniture that cost five figures, and technology that’s in the same ballpark budget. The clothes? No gold buttoned blazer to be sure, or a fine Egyptian cotton bespoke shirt and custom trousers. How about a t-shirt made from some hard to get hi-tech fabric, a hoodie from the rarest of rare cashmere along with custom sneakers and  a Hermes Apple watch? And, a new turn is having fashion reflect one’s individuality and creativity — perhaps the ultimate luxury?

Hotels you say? Much less about baroque palaces from European nobility with Michelin star chefs in formal dining rooms. Think Richard Branson and the kind of hotels he builds and travel experiences   that personify the adventurous, innovative lifestyle. Things certainly are a changing. Lauren got that right as he has been so prescient with many other customer aspirations. It will be fascinating to watch.

Men Circa 2015 and the Travel Industry

domenico vacca club

Domenico Vacca’s new club

Remember when “metrosexual” was news, defined as” an urban heterosexual male given to enhancing his personal appearance by fastidious grooming, beauty treatments, and fashionable clothes”? That was in the early 2000’s . In a little over a decade businesses are finally starting to go all out with products and services to meet the interest and need. And men are more comfortable showing their “metrosexual” side. There are major implications here for new products and marketing, and some savvy retailers – but not as yet the travel and hotel business – are getting on the bandwagon.

Let’s speak first about the settings for the delivery of these goods and services. Traditionally you’ve had men’s social, athletic and university clubs, but they’re about socializing and possibly networking, though some have accommodations that are pretty basic. Little or nothing in retail, grooming or heaven forbid pampering services. Enter opportunity.

This fall in New York Italian fashion designer Domenico Vacca is opening a 12 story luxury lifestyle destination that New York Racked called “a Carnival for the one percent”. Not only will it have a flagship retail store for men and women, but a barber shop, gym, long stay residences, Italian café, and a social club/lounge you can belong to for $20K a year. Though there are facilities for women too, the pitch as seen in the images and décor is very much directed to men. I heard there’s another strictly men’s luxury destination on the way from a publisher no less. Stay tuned.

All too often men’s pampering and fashion offerings are done as an afterthought, not getting “equal time” or thought out as those for women. It takes a mindset – to look at everything directed to women buyers and travelers and say what’s the outtake for men. For instance, two years ago we launched a handbag bar at our all inclusive client Casa Velas in Puerto Vallarta. Designer handbags are offered on loan to guests for the evening. It was a big hit, and we decided to expand it this year and are offering a “Murse” – men’s purse, MontBlanc no less (it’s a luxury resort). A small thing, but it makes a statement.

So many luxury hotels and cruise ships have spas with beauty salons but how many have barber shops or pitch men’s grooming? And spa treatments for men can be found on menus, but they almost seem like lip service. Or how about men’s getaways? Aren’t there more creative possibilities than golf and boating?

You men out there, what do you think? What would you like to see?