Tourism

Luxury Travel Trends 2017

luxury travel trends

Walking the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage route in Spain, is an example of transformative travel

As we hit the half way point in 2017, what are the luxury travel trends that are shaping up? Some are a continuation of those of the past few years though with a new twist, and others are simply new. Here’s our list of the top six:

 

  • Personalization and customization. Butlers and personal concierges are expected at a top luxury hotel or resort. Their role is primarily reactive. A truly luxury experience is considered one where a resort finds out guests’ passions and special interests in advance of a stay and proactively suggests and plans activities and experiences that address those interests. Case in point: a Four Seasons Resort in the Caribbean sends a guest questionnaire in advance and designs a suggested program of resort and destination activities based on those needs.

 

  • Desire for authenticity. Everything from spa treatments and food to beverage, decor and selections in the hotel’s boutique should reflect the local culture and traditions, and give guests an opportunity to interact with that culture.

 

  • Giving back to society. Cause related marketing and the social responsibility of brands have been around for a decade or more including sustainability, recycling, voluntourism programs, and enlightened labor practices. Now, expect food waste to become a growing issue. With growing inequaiity in the world and media accounts of food shortages and starving populaces, consumers are looking at how their retail and hospitality brands are addressing this issue through food donations, upcycling and the like.

 

  • Making travel easier, from airport arrival to airport departure. With the entire process of traveling becoming more complicated and uncomfortable, hotels that can deliver a seamless door to door service, going beyond the strict hotel experience ,will build loyalty. Think airport greeters; alliances with luggage shipment companies; personal shopper to “stock” a hotel closet with clothes for a weekend getaway, eliminating the need to pack a suitcase; and a  waiting lounge for hotel guests in the airport. (this isn’t new but expect it to be more common).

 

  • Experiences and more experiences. The more they involve interactivity and special access the better.

 

  • Transformative travel. What do you do after you’ve been to Paris, Shanghai, Tuscany, Macchu Pichu,, the Taj Mahal several times? You search for experiences that are transformative – your health (wellness vacations); your spirit (ashrams, religious pilgrimages like the Camino de Santiago), your creative side (painting weeks), your mind (trips with political and economic themes like the New York Times trip to Saudi Arabia to explore the petroleum industry).

 

 

A Destination That Does It Right

red inclusive card

You’ve read here about destinations that do it right – social media campaigns (Swedish Tourist Board), advertising concept (Amsterdam Tourist Board) and the UK does an especially good job of capitalizing on country milestones and cultural events. That these destinations are cutting edge probably isn’t very surprising. But would you believe The Black Forest Highlands in Southwestern Germany (Hochschwarzwald) is right up there with some innovative product offerings that show their understanding of what today’s travelers want: product with a sense of place, technology, superior value and experiences.

Let’s start with value. Travelers who stay for two nights or more at any one of over 300 holiday accommodations get a Red Inclusive Card free. Often destination value cards have a lot of features but most of them are of little interest. This is a notable exception. The card with a clever tag line of “experiences included” features not only the usual free admissions to numerous attractions and cultural offerings, but also, free local transportation anywhere in the region, guided electric bike tours, golf, spas, rental of cross country ski equipment, and, most impressive, use of a BMW i3 to discover the Black Forest landscape with climate neutral transportation. Besides the value appeal, the features encourage travelers to immerse themselves in the destination, making for a richer, more memorable holiday.

And then there are the unique accommodations, Black Forest Highland Design Apartments dubbed with the clever name of “cuckoosnests”. With their wood and rock faces, tree stumps for bedside tables and specially designed furniture, they appeal to the growing number of travelers who want to stay in lodging that offers a sense of place.

Is this all working? According to Thorsten Rudolph, CEO of the Black Forest Highlands,   the cards have increased tourism to the area from 2010 to 2014 by 27.5%. Each year about 245,000 cards are given out and since 2010, more than two million cards have been used registered. Especially valued and used are the free entrances to the various activities and highlights including Ski Tickets to the Feldberg, Spa Paradise Blackforest, boat trips on the Titisee. When the Black Forest Highlands Card started in 2010 there were 180 participating hotels and now there are 345. Sounds like a success by any measure.

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.

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

 

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”.

Miami and the US Global Financial Triumverate

Brickell City Center

Brickell City Center

If you haven’t been to Miami in a year or more you won’t recognize it. The only other place that comes to mind with so many construction cranes is Shanghai where they call the crane the national bird.  Miami is a city of cities – Downtown, Aventura, Miami Beach, Design District, Coconut Grove, Wynwood,  and more. And many of them are enjoying the  boom that’s not just residential, but commercial construction.

Probably most impressive is the $1.05 billion mixed use development project of Swire Properties called Brickell City Center pictured here that seems to shoot up from one day to another, much like a teenager in growth spurt. Will this be another one of Miami’s boom and then bust cycles? The circumstances are different this time. As a Harvard educated, long time resident mover and shaker said to me,  Miami will be one of the three US global financial centers in the future. It’s Miami for Latin America and the Southeast US; New York for the East Coast and Europe; and Los Angeles for Asia and the Pacific Basin.

Miami is just growing into its new role. It will be a place on the marquis of global luxury brands – New York, London, Shanghai, Miami, etc, a place they need to be. We’re already seeing it. High end shopping centers including Bal Harbour Shops and Aventura Mall have major expansion plans, joining an expansion in the Design District and the new offering in Brickell City Center. Luxury hotel brands are all moving in or adding properties (a second Four Seasons and second SLS Hotel), refurbishings of Art Deco properties in particular happening at a quickening pace. Is there still room for more hotels beyond what is projected? I can’t call that one. But what is for sure is that any major player in travel and luxury lifestyle needs to give Miami a serious look at this exciting time by any measure.

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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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/

Our Favorite Travel and Lifestyle Details in 2013


They say it’s the little things that count. Luxury is in the details which don’t necessarily have to be expensive. They can save time, make one feel pampered, and/or lend an air of exclusivity. Starting the new year, we thought we’d look at the best details we’ve experienced or read about in travel and lifestyle over the last year (most have been featured in past posts):

ü Station to refill water bottles in La Guardia, courtesy of Delta Airlines

ü Get a loaner designer handbag for a special evening out,  part of the all inclusive rate developed by KWE for client Casa Velas Boutique Hotel in Puerto Vallarta

ü Return of tableside food preparation (guacamole, flambes, duck press, etc.)

ü Warby Parker sunglasses given to passengers on Andre Balazs air charter STND and also sold at his hotels

ü Closet stocked with clothing for a guest’s arrival by a personal shopper based on a questionnaire at the St.Regis Bal Harbour

ü Blackboard at a restaurant naming a “client of the week” with the name, hometown, occupation, and favorite eats

ü Farmers market at Jet Blue terminal at JFK

ü (An easy one), a glass of complimentary champagne to every guest at lunch and dinner

ü Gold leaf on pasta – even brownies! – at Gold and Pepper, Miami (it feels so extravagant)

ü A bottle of nail polish with a manicure or pedicure included in the price so you can do touchups at home from Marilyn Monroe Spas

 

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“Handbag Bar”  at Casa Velas Features Designer Bags on Loan Complimentary for a Special Evening

Rent a Slum Dwelling, the Newest Hospitality Niche

 

 

The favela of Rocinho in Rio de Janeiro

The favela of Rocinho in Rio de Janeiro

We’ve written about tourism microniches from danger and grief to scandal and slum tourism. But all of that was about visiting sites – an in and out kind of thing. Now a new company is offering a chance to get up close and personal with Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, promising “cultural immersion, stunning views, and an alternative to expensive and boring hotels”. Fueled by the scarcity of rooms projected during the upcoming World Cup, a new start up called Favela Experience begun by an American is promising “affordable World Cup accommodations” in Rio’s slums. This can range from bunk beds to a private room or entire apartment. Many of the accommodations have WiFi and large screen TV as well as the promise of a favela tour by the owner, and rooftop terraces. Plus, they talk of an opportunity to do good as in helping to supplement the income of the favela dwellers. Part of the profits go to fund a DJ school for neighborhood youth. It’s very easy to believe that we could see the beginning of the gentrification of the favelas, already being snapped up  by investors who see the potential in the dramatic views commanded from the hilltop locations.