Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

New Twist on “Grab and Go” Hotel F & B

grab and go

Vending machine at Mondrian Hotel South Beach

“Grab and go” luxury products? You got it right. A pioneer in this was the Mondrian Hotel in South Beach which opened with a full wall of the lobby taken up by a Semi-Automatic, purple vending machine that helped put it on the hipsters’ map. Some go-to items: a feather vest ($400), a $28 T-shirt emblazoned with the word recession, and even 24-karat-gold handcuffs ($350). You could even buy a nearby condo, or rent a 1953 Cadillac DeVille convertible. Prices ranged from $10 to $1.2 million.

The vending machine phenomenon is accelerating, embracing even luxury food and beverage products. Here’s a rundown of some of the newest, latest and greatest brought to my attention by Chicago based Farmer’s Fridge which could have some interesting applications for the hotel industry with the burgeoning “Grab and Go” food and beverage concept:

Let’s Pizza .Let’s Pizza kneads the dough, forms a round, adds tomato sauce, layers toppings and then bakes it all in front of every customer in 3 minutes. Let’s Pizza is basically a mini-pizzeria that’s open 24 hours a day!

Moët & Chandon Champagne Vending Machine (UK): Located in the Selfridge’s department store in London, this Champagne vending machine holds 200 milliliter bottles for $29 each. Each bottle is decorated with Swarovski crystals and the machine uses robotic arms to deliver the Champagne safely to the customer.

Corner Chips (BE): Outside of Brussels, Belgium, this unique vending machine is a diet-breaker. For €2.50, hot fries are delivered in 95 seconds with your choice of condiment including ketchup and mayo. Built with high-tech technology such as remote-management that lets its operator know when it’s almost out of potatoes.

Beverly Hills Caviar (US): From $5 to $600, customers in Beverly Hills, CA now have access to the delicacy of caviar from a vending machine. The caviar is dispensed in a glass jar and has an expiration date of 365 days.

 

ABOUT FARMER’S FRIDGE

Farmer’s Fridge, a new healthy vending machine concept, delivers delicious gourmet salads and snacks to customers via automated kiosks around the Chicagoland area.  The idea to provide nutritious meals came from Founder Luke Saunders’ realization that health-conscious people were struggling to find nutritious meals and snacks that were easily accessible.  Building on that belief, Saunders drew on his background in manufacturing to create an automated kiosk that could dispense healthy food options.  Farmer’s Fridge offers people healthy, nutritious foods that are delicious and satisfying in a state-of-the art, innovative automated kiosk.  The salads and snacks are made from fresh ingredients available from local produce vendors.  Farmer’s Fridge salads and snacks are handcrafted each morning in a local Chicago kitchen and are stocked daily by 10 a.m.  The company also provides catering to businesses in downtown Chicago. For more information, please visit www.farmersfridge.com.

 

 

EDM Festivals, Big New Money Makers

edm festivals

Ultra Music Festival Miami 2014

Food festivals have been an effective destination marketing tool for a long time, attracting an affluent demographic, generating buzz and filling up hotels. So too, music festivals before them – classical, rock, and more recently, jazz. Now, Las Vegas that’s often ahead of the pack in identifying major market opportunities, is onto a big visitor builder for millennials : electronic dance music, the EDM festivals. Building on the success they’ve enjoyed with their promotions of DJ events, lounges, and parties (the New Yorker reported that a club with a DJ can rake in as much as $1 million just for one night and it’s worth it), they just announced they’re hosting Rock in Rio in May 2015.  This will be the first stateside edition of the event, founded in 1985, that has featured acts ranging from Bon Jovi and Beyonce to Bruce Springsteen, Shakira and Paul McCartney. Last year’s festival in Rio sold out all 600,000 tickets in four hours.

The organizers call it “more than a music festival, an extensive promotional platform with a broad mix of radio, digital, mobile, print, cinema, cable TV and trade & entertainment magazines”. Partners include iHeart Radio, Clear Channel and NCM Network with cinemas across the USA.

Calling itself the “City of Rock”, Las Vegas expects 80,000 people a day. It will feature five stages, streetscapes representing Brazil, USA and UK; amusement park rides and a VIP area said to celebrate the global flavors of music, food, drink, art and more.

Promotion just started last month.  Miami, too, just closed its Ultra Music Festival, a spin off of the World Music Festival. Ultra drew 165,000 people to Bayfront Park. It was tough to find a hotel room even in outlying areas, and hotels racked up extra revenue with satellite events such as the Gale Hotel’s elite Red Bull guest House, a music showcase for the energy drink and the W Hotel’s Music Lounge.

Besides tapping into what is estimated at a $4.5 Billion market, EDM festivals reach Millennials with money (tickets aren’t cheap) and an opportunity to expose them to a new destination.  Plus, as Cynthia Sexton who handles brand partnerships for leading music labels was quoted as saying in the Miami Herald, “Big brands, whether car companies or alcohol, have been watching the lifestyle and seeing that this genre is no longer a niche on the sidelines”.The only caveat is that , as you may have read about with the trampling of a security guard at the Ultra Festival, special care has to be given to security and crowd control.

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Service, Small Business and CRM

No one doubts the effectiveness of CRM systems and loyalty programs though for small businesses, the costs of implementation in dollars and human resources can be a challenge. So what’s a small business – be it hotel, restaurant, service provider to do? Here are two examples of the right way and wrong way based on my recent experiences, and then a look at the takeaway.

Two hair salons. Both I’ve been going to for several years. Salon 1: Oribe in South Beach. When the hair stylist is running late they let me know. If there’s a big traffic tie up they give a call. And the best yet, this week I called to make an appointment. First, and unbelieve, the receptionist recognized my voice ( I go every 6 weeks). Then, she asked if I’d like an appointment in the morning, remembering my preferred time. Whenever I walk in, she makes me feel as if I’m coming home.

Salon 2. They have all of the tech stuff – as soon as I make an appointment I get a text confirming it. Then, a day before I get another text and a call (overkill). The problem. When I call they always ask me for my phone number which is in the computer, act as if this is my first time at the salon, and have me spell my name more than once.

Now which salon will I recommend? What’s the takeaway? It’s so important in a service company to have a good receptionist and do whatever to keep him/her so there’s longevity and he/she gets to know the client. Tech goes just so far.

Madigan Pratt, President of MP & A Digital and Advertising who has serious credentials in CRM summed it up. “Today CRM software allows companies with a culture of great customer service to move up to another level. When they do they can achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

Problem arises when companies think office automation software is the answer to their customer service problems. Staff may know how to push buttons, but do they really know how to empathize a customer? More often than not, the answer is no.

“CRM with a human touch just may be the answer”, he concluded.

Budget Luxury

luxury budget

Flying a private jet doesn’t sound “budget” to me but new European jet carrier Wijet bills itself as “budget luxury”, charging $3,000 an hour for a Cessna Citation Mustang 510 that accommodates four people. As quoted in the New York Times, Alexandre Azoulay, owner, says the “budget” comes in since there’s no need to buy a minimum number of hours.

I guess if you’re an exec that has to get someplace in a hurry and millions or billions of dollars or Euros are at stake – or if you’re a billionaire, then $3,000 an hour is a “deal.” More apt, though, would be to call the service “value” luxury.

All of this prompted my thinking about what luxury means in today’s travel world.

The term “affordable or budget luxury” has been around for a number of years, meaning you’ll have a “luxury like” experience that’s within many travelers’ grasp. The expression packed some punch at the time it was first used, but now – with overuse – it has become almost meaningless.

Today, three-and-a-half star hotels and resorts are claiming to offer luxury – not in terms of service or expensive millwork, but with other elements such as top-of-the-line mattresses, designer linens, marble bathroom countertops or rainfall showerheads.

“It’s a challenging time for anyone who wants to cater to upscale consumers, regardless of their price point,” said Barbara DeLollis, the former USA TODAY hotels reporter. “Why? Younger generations who have vastly different expectations and needs than their parents are forcing new definitions of luxury.“

So this begs the question, what qualifies a hotel or resort as offering total luxury and how do consumers substantiate the claim? Prestigious awards certainly help. Invoking brand names of products used – from suites conceived  by fashion designers to luxury branded amenities and facilities. Not easy. And interesting that another word has not arisen to take the place of “luxury” so I guess we’re still stuck with it.

Images for Blogs: Branding and Photography

images for blogs

Just as all employees need to be trained on the importance of how to deal with online reviews, an equal amount of attention needs to be paid to training them on catering to bloggers’ photography needs. As we all know, images affect branding – especially in luxury. But the fact is, we can try to direct, but cannot control, bloggers’ output. And the best way to maximize your visual coverage is to train staff in effective ways to deal with bloggers’ photography and video needs.

Here are four tips:

1. Don’t ban photography.

By doing that, you risk having media decide not to feature you and/or it will create a bad impression. Case in point – I saw a handbag in a Madison Avenue storefront that I wanted to feature on my personal blog. Since images without glass photograph better, I walked inside the store and asked to see the handbag to photograph it. They said corporate policy prohibits photography in the store and that I’d have to call the PR department to waive the policy. The upshot of this? I used the photo taken through the window, not the best quality, so I could post it immediately. This inconveniences a reporter who is  probably on deadline and used to taking pictures — and sharing them with friends — whenever they want.

Besides taking the risk of not being featured in a publication, you also run the risk of missing a captivating image that you hadn’t thought to take. A case in point: as she recently told me, when former USA TODAY hotels reporter Barbara DeLollis took a hard-hat tour of the Capella Washington D.C. with Capella CEO Horst Shulze a year ago, she looked at the large, circular bathtub in the luxury boutique hotel’s premier suite and asked its size so she could tell readers about it. Before someone could respond, she stepped inside the tub and asked GM Alex Obertop to take her picture sitting inside it – in, of course, her suit and heels.

“The tub was so sumptuous that simply stating its dimensions wouldn’t give readers the whole story,” said DeLollis (soon to launch the travel site barbdelollis.com). “Showing them a photo of someone they know sitting inside it was worth 10,000 words. That picture, by the way, generated a lot of comments on social media.”

2. Make it quick and easy for bloggers to obtain images.

Have the staff know where to retrieve images for blogs (ideally online without a password) or, better yet, have them offer to get a particular image the blogger wants sent to him/her. If you know that a writer is on deadline, it would be wise to ask them if they would like you to email them a particular image to save them time. Or, at the least, have business cards for the PR contact/agency ready to be handed out by staff/employees or the list of contacts available at easy access to give to bloggers on the spot.

3. Create USB memory sticks with property or product images for blogs.

If they like the images, they’ll tend to use them rather than take their own. One caveat: Others will insist on taking their own images as they’ll want to express their own voice or take their own pictures because they’re more “real” than generic, touched up images.

4. Plan ahead.

When a press visit is confirmed, be sure that the person – before they arrive – receives a few relevant images (spa, food and beverage, sports, etc., depending on their interests) along with the link to the image gallery. Ideally they’ll have a look before their trip.

6 Things to Know to Attract the Same-Sex Wedding Market

same-sex wedding same-sex wedding

By Steve Deitsch

With marriage equality seemingly sweeping the country, more and more same-sex couples will be tying the knot in the coming months and years.  To date, well over 75,000 same-sex marriages have been performed in the U.S. and that number will only grow.  There are about 650,000 same-sex couples in the U.S.  so there is huge economic potential.  In fact, the U.S. Congressional Budget Office estimates an additional $1 Billion in revenue from same-sex weddings  if it were legalized across the U.S.

How can your property get a piece of the pie?  Here  are some things to consider:

1.  Become relevant before you relate
76% of same-sex couples want to work with LGBT-friendly properties and vendors. In 28 U.S. states and many countries, it’s perfectly legal for vendors to refuse to work with LGBT couples.  That means you need to vet your vendors, train your staff, and even update your forms so they don’t say “Bride” and “Groom” but “Spouse” and “Spouse,” for example.  72% of LGBT couples want vendors who use inclusive language and 69% want vendors to show inclusive photos.

2.  Location matters
The economic opportunity for those states in the U.S. or the 17 countries that offer same-sex wedding is enormous.  If same-sex marriage is legal in your location, research shows that same-sex couples will spend up to three times more on their wedding than in locations where only a civil union or domestic partnership is legal. Many couples also opt for destination weddings, so if you are in a desirable location in a state in the U.S. or a country where same-sex weddings are legal, cast a wide geographic marketing net.

3.  There is a difference between weddings between men and weddings between women 
Lesbians spend up to 15% more on their weddings than gay men  For example, 66% of lesbians bought an engagement ring, vs. only 19% of gay men. The women also tend to stick more traditional aspects of the wedding ceremony and reception.

4.  Be open to non-traditional and creative approaches to the ceremony and reception – especially for gay men
Because same–sex couples don’t necessarily follow wedding tradition, they are often interested in doing things beyond the ordinary to make it more personal.

5.  Same-sex weddings tend to be smaller and more casual, but more expensive 
Same-sex couples spend slightly more on their weddings and more per guest than the $28,400 the average straight couple spends. Because many of the same-sex couples have been together a longer time, they are often older and their parents don’t invite their friends and distant relations.  Also, most same-sex couples  pay for the weddings themselves.

6.  Show you care
Gays and lesbians are a lucrative audience, and tend to influence the general population and be extremely loyal to a brand or company that supports them.  So if you are new to marketing to the LGBT community, it’s important to establish that you not only want their money, but that you genuinely support the LGBT community.   This can be accomplished a number of different ways:  provide equal benefits and protections to LGBT employees; sponsor local (or national) LGBT charities; and offer products or services or packages that would be of special interest to the LGBT audience.

Sources:  Community Marketing Inc., TheKnot.com <http://TheKnot.com> ,  Pew Research, U.S. Congressional Budget Office, 14 Stories

Steve Deitsch is President of Reverberate! Marketing Communications. The company specializes in reaching the LGBT market.  

Push-Pull on Websites: Brand Identity and Conversion

brand identity

Puli Hotel, Shanghai

My advice to everyone is when developing a new website make sure you have two points of view at the table: representatives from the Branding perspective and the other from Sales/E commerce. You may think that’s obvious, but it isn’t. With so much emphasis now on analytics and ROI, too often brand identity takes a back seat. And, to some extent it’s understandable. A sales message can be immediately measured with clickthroughs, not so branding. What is often forgotten is that everyone who comes to a website isn’t necessarily a buyer. Many have to be “sold” on the product, motivated and inspired enough to want to buy. And how do you do this? Here’s a list of my web brand identity do’s and don’ts:

  • Play up your unique selling propositions. For instance, instead of just showing a sample guest room or suite show the details that make it special, separate it from the pack – the shower, an espresso machine in suite, unusual selection of mini bar items, or even the makeup lighting (e.g. in the Peninsula in Bangkok it’s a wow, never forgot it), etc.
  • Don’t clutter the homepage with too many calls to action on sales or those promotional boxes that scream out for attention (and thus distract the consumer from any emotional response to the images, graphics).
  • No to stock photos. They’ll make you look like everyone else. Plus, we’re living in a time when authenticity is paramount, so make it real and “you”.
  • Give specifics in copy, rather than overloading it with keywords. For instance, list the water sports you offer if you have a resort, nifty things to do that are nearby. And combine that with story telling.
  • To be sure sales conversion is important. You have to make it easy and quick for the traveler to buy so except for maybe a very small, exclusive hotel or resort, the outcome should be a compromise, not a one sided street.

For more on websites, check out my earlier post.

Tactics to Drive Direct Bookings Vs. OTAs

hotel direct booking

With OTAs (Online Travel Agents) driving over 20 percent of total room bookings, taking commission fees ranging from 10-25 percent, what can a hotel do to drive direct bookings to its website? A survey of 2500 consumers by Software Advice, a source for hospitality system reviews, revealed perks hotels can offer to get direct bookings. Here are the  results of their findings:

Main Takeaways to Drive Direct Bookings

1. A free Room Upgrade
It is the top incentive that will convince customers to book directly. This can be as simple as a better view, balcony or kitchenette.

2. Free Meals Top the List of In-Room Perks
When asked which in-room perk would convince respondents to book directly, 43 percent said they could be swayed with a free room-service meal. Tied for second was an in-room massage and free access to the minibar and snacks (19 percent), followed by free movies on demand (16 percent).

3. Free Food and Drinks Also Outrank Other Amenities
When asked which on-site amenity would convince guests to use direct booking through a hotel website, a vast majority (55 percent) chose free food and drinks.

For many hotels, offering a free meal isn’t new. Incentives like this already exist, and many hotels likely understand their effectiveness. The second most convincing amenity was a free spa package, at 23 percent. Trailing behind are a free fitness class (11 percent) and free golf or tennis reservations (7 percent).

4. A Restaurant Gift Card Is the Most Popular Offsite Perk

45 percent of respondents said they would be convinced to book directly if they received a gift card to a popular restaurant as an incentive over other types of gift cards. Far behind are free tickets to a popular event and free transportation services.

You can read the full report here: http://overnight-success.softwareadvice.com/skip-ota-with-incentives-0214/

Is Instagram the new most powerful social platform?

instagram social media

According to reports by L2’s Intelligence and GlobalWebIndex it is. Both studies account that Instagram is growing faster than any other social media sites worldwide, with an active user base increase of 23 percent over the last six months.

L2, a retail analytics company based in New York, released a new data-driven research that offers insight into influential brands’ investments on Instagram and the platform’s e-commerce potential. GlobalWebIndex’s report, published in January, was based on responses from some 170,000 users across 32 countries.

Due to its extremely high user engagement, Instagram is becoming an important tool for brand marketers. As noted by survey performed by Pew Research – based on data from telephone interviews conducted on August and September last year – over half of users use the app daily, while 35 percent do so multiple times a day.

Instagram users are even interacting with brands that do not have an official presence on the platform. One example is Chanel, which has about 5 million photos posted by users with the hashtag #chanel.

The photo-sharing network’s revenue potential is being explored by many of the world’s top brands. Both luxury brands and mass-market retailers have been taking advantage of the app to generate interest and potential growth in sales. L2 predicts that it will generate $250 million to $400 million in revenue only this year.

Pau Sabria of Oliapic, a New York company that helps brands solicit and publish photos of their products taken by ordinary Instagram users, told the New York Times that by adding user-generated photos to a retail site the number of visitors who turn into buyers increased by 5 to 7 percent and the average order value rose by 2 percent. One of the reasons for the increase, according to him, is that clients can explore how a product looks “in real life” by Instagram users. He affirms that the platform is already generating real revenue for brands, such as some of his clients: American Eagle Outfitters, Lancôme, Coach and West Elm.

One of the reasons for the great success of Instagram might be thanks to the extensive use of mobile handsets for social networking services. Cellphones are now the most popular for access, with an average of 66 percent users compared to 64 percent for PCs and tablets.

Another advantage of Instagram, when compared to platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr, is its visual appeal. While text can be a little harder to absorb, a short video or a photo say it all in a few seconds.

Guest post by Bruna Indalecio

Estate Manager: New Career Path for Hoteliers

estate manager

Have a track record in hotel management and looking for a new career path? In reading an article about the new breed of estate manager for the world’s elite affluent, it occurred to me this could be a  career opportunity for a hotelier who wants a change. The management, leadership, diplomatic skills and versatility of a hotel GM could well fit the bill demanded for this new breed of estate manager. As described in the article in the New York Times, a job ad could read like this:

“Seeking an experienced Estate Manager to oversee the day to day function of multiple homes around the world. The ideal candidate must be comfortable working with a full range of home technology, managing a multi million dollar budget and overseeing a domestic staff of 20 including a curator, filmmaker and a flight attendant.”

The job is said to pay in the mid six figure range and come with what could include everything from a 401K plan to extra “hardship duty” pay and a generous bonus during the holidays.

Then there’s the opportunity of providing the Estate Managers. In the same article they referenced Mahler Private Staffing which started twenty years ago and now has offices in four cities serving 900 families, an increase from 300 seven years ago. And the potential can only increase given the tremendous growth in wealth of the 1%. Last year according to the Credit Suisse Wealth Report more than 45,000 Americans had a net worth of over $50 million, an increase from 38,000 in 2012 (they call these people “ultra high net worth individuals”). Sounds like another opportunity.

Image courtesy of bplanet / FreeDigitalPhotos.net