Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

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?

Insatiable Luxury in China

luxury in china

Peninsula Shanghai image from www.sienacharles.com

Post by Karen Weiner Escalera

We’ve all read about the boom in sales of luxury products in China. But nothing prepared me for the reality — the quantity and size of stores of the big names in luxury brands. Staying at The Peninsula Beijing, within two blocks there were several Chanel stores, one larger than the next. Within the hotel itself, besides the entrance being flanked by Chanel and Louis Vuitton shops, there’s a two story arcade exclusively with all the big brands. And this is repeated throughout the city.  Curiously, walking past the shops there was seldom anyone inside. Why? Our guide said that wealthy clients get the brochure of the new collection (or see it online), call the shop, and have the item or items sent to their residences much as mere mortals would order take out food.

I asked the same guide why there weren’t more top Chinese fashion designers. She said why would anyone buy a local fashion brand and pay a lot for a name no one knows. Anyone in the luxury business should not miss a visit to the “knock off” multi-leveled emporiums – the Silk Market in Beijing and several in Shanghai. It’s fascinating to see what brands are being counterfeited besides the obvious – Hermes, LVMH, Prada, etc. Beats headphones and speakers seem to be “hot” items. No wonder Apple recently announced a possible purchase of Beats. It was also interesting to see how luxury brands have to quickly come out with new lines to stay ahead of the counterfeiters. Of course new models help fuel purchases but you can’t help thinking that in any case, this counterfeiting greatly debases the brand.

Speaking of luxury and hotels, I also had a chance to see the latest in hotel technology in action by the master, Peninsula. At the hotel in Shanghai, here are some of the picks for top features:

  • Built in “nail dryer” in the dressing room
  • VOIP for free international calls
  • Humidity control for the guest rooms
  • Preset internet radio channels
  • A Yamaha speaker built into a lacquered cabinet, totally unobtrusive
  • And then the bathtub that even they have taken up a notch: luxuriate in the tub watching tv, having a conference call by speaker phone, choosing your favorite spa music, and more

All this being said I kept asking if and when the bubble will burst. As someone said, throughout the country there are thousands and thousands of unoccupied apartments bought for speculation (said one friend, in China the crane is the national bird). Makes for an unstable situation, no?

No More Hotel Exterior Images Please

Why do so many hotels show a total view of the exterior as the signature shot? I can understand showing a façade in itself if it’s striking in design – a landmark design by a starchitect; a treehouse, tent camp or eco lodge; over the top villas, or something else unusual. Recently on an outdoor advertisement I saw the image of a new island resort with a tag line about the “American Riviera”. The image was of an undistinguished high rise. Wouldn’t it be better to show images that conjure up the glamour implied by the Riviera? How about very fashionably dressed couples lunching at the beach served by waiters wearing  crisp white starched jackets serving champagne as they do on the French and Italian Rivieras? The interior of a glamorous casino that could be out of a James Bond film with the men in tuxes? Or better yet, a collage of images that appeal to powerful visual sensibilities in this age of Pinterest. Tell the story visually. Showcase what’s unique. Focus on the details. That will capture attention.

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.

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/

Vetting Bloggers and Social Media Influencers

blogger outreach success

Much has been written about evaluating social media influencers in general and bloggers,  in particular. With good reason. For travel public relations professionals, vetting influencers  is one of the more time consuming activities, especially when they ask for comp hospitality.One of the better discussions about the topic was in an article by Daniel Edward Craig, a colleague for whom I have great respect, who compiled his input and comments from a webinar on the topic (see below). Here’s one of the highlights:

“How to find and vet social media influencers? Resources like Klout, Twiangulate, WeFollow, Twellow and TBEX will help, but they only tell part of the story. During the webinar, panelist Liz Borod Wright, who teaches social media at Columbia Journalism School and is founder of Travelogged.com, recommended looking beyond the number of followers to quality of content.

Another way of measuring social media influencers and blogger outreach success is by looking at the ratio of followers to following and how engaged they are. Are they sharing and commenting on content – or is it an endless stream of updates that most have tuned out?

Qualifying bloggers

Another challenge for hotels is deciding which bloggers to host. One of our listeners, Sarah, remarked that hotels are often misled by bloggers who either don’t have the audience they claim and don’t produce the posts they promise.

How to avoid this? In addition to evaluating the blogger’s audience, engagement and content quality, you can check traffic stats on sites like Alexa and Compete. However, Borod Wright cautioned that this data isn’t always reliable. An option is to ask the blogger for a screen shot of visitor stats from Google Analytics. But “only if it’s a borderline case, because some may be offended,” she said. And you certainly don’t want a snarky blogger on property.people can skip over.”insider tips.”

Since starting my personal blog, MiamiCurated, where I’m the recipient of press release material, invites and pitches, I have both old and new perspectives on the subject. The old? The same problem all journalists have complained about over time — inappropriate, untargeted information.Especially for planning a blogger outreach, one has to take a good look at the market segment addressed. To be sure, numbers are important, but reaching a qualified audience  for the product is equally, if not more important. Is the audience affluent or mass? What kind of products do they cover? Am I in the right company? What’s the tone – positive or sarcastic? It’s also important to ask about whether they post on review sites, especially in food and beverage – sites like Yelp, Urbanspoon.  In addition, some bloggers are active in forums of other travel and food bloggers, so have more influence than meets the eye. And, a word of advice. If one can’t download images from the website (And I suggest you do allow images to be downloaded, if need be with a password), PR should either send a file of images or give them the images while on property. To be sure, the blogger may want to use his or her own images as part of their own voice. But others just use their own images because it’s quicker, and it often turns out they’re not the most flattering to the property. And, as for asking a blogger for a screen shot, I wouldn’t recommend it as many would take serious offense. To listen to the entire webinar, here’s the link:

Related Link: ReviewPro’s free webinar on “How to Leverage Social Media for Public Relations” (free registration) <http://resources.reviewpro.com/webinar-pr?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=socialmedia&utm_campaign=webinar-pr>

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.

Next Step in Farm to Table

Round Hill Hotel & Villas, Jamaica photo: modernfarmer.com

Hotels That Farm: Round Hill Hotel & Villas, Jamaica
photo: modernfarmer.com

Fairmont Hotels has its rooftop beehives, more hotels and restaurants their herb and vegetable gardens and buy local, and spas their herb gardens to use in treatments. It’s all part of the rapidly growing farm-to-table movement you’ve read about. Consumers, too, are doing their thing with urban chicken farming, gardening and beekeeping  proliferating across the country. In fact, this has raised issues for municipalities who are relooking zoning. The consumer phenomenon is called the “hobby farmer”, you could say a logical next step in the farm-to-table movement that has fueled a growth in farmers’ markets, community sponsored agriculture and young people going back to the land. To reach out to the market segment of “foodies”, the passionate about farm to table, and would be young farmers, there’s an intriguing new website and magazine  — Modern Farmer. Out since April, it already has a global following in Europe and Australia. I can see why. There are highly original, fascinating articles not covered by any other publication. Former President Bill Clinton contributed an article about the work his foundation is doing with farmers globally, and his memories of helping on his uncle’s farm in Alabama. Categories include food, travel, plants and animals and culture among others. Other articles have included everything from Hotels that Farm and  Farmers’ Market Etiquette to the Boston Design Center getting a 55K square foot rooftop garden, and probably more than you’d ever want to know about goats (a “hot” menu item now….the new lamb?).

Reprinted from www.miamicurated.com

Young Foodies, your Devoted Customers-to-Be

Mikey Robins, 15, is the youngest champion of the Food Network's "Chopped".

Mikey Robins, 15, is the youngest champion of the Food Network’s “Chopped”.

More on millennials marketing. Remember you read it here first – teenagers and offspring of affluent parents will be a food focused generation. All of the signs are there. Teens favoriting the Food Network and other foodie shows, then trying out what they see in the kitchen. Even toddlers have become adventurous eaters and think nothing of eating sushi, sashimi and “Babe-a-ccinos” (a coffee free cappuccino).  We are, indeed, a food obsessed population. Look not only at the proliferation of cooking schools, growth of culinary tourism, tourist board food and wine festivals, but social networking sites, blogs, and review sites. Youngsters are eager to join their parents in cooking classes at the pricier resorts around the world. I have a 13 year old niece whose best friend gave her a ring that was inscribed with the words “kale” in honor of her obsession with the dark green leafy vegetable. Where does this come from? Their parents’ foodie culture.

Now we’re seeing exhibits honoring the world’s leading chefs: early next year will be an exhibit of the drawings and diagrams of master Spanish chef Ferran Adrià at the Drawing Center in New York.  And then there’s the Food Hotel which we’ve written about before. What does this all mean to marketers? Capturing the imagination and interest of these young foodies can create indelible memories that can translate into a devoted customer-to-be.

 

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist

Whom do We Trust?

Whom do we trust? Egyptians aren’t the only ones these days who hold the military in high esteem. The results of a new survey by the Pew Research Center reveals the military tops the list of ten occupational groups the public respects. This is followed closely by teachers, medical doctors, scientists and engineeers. Next comes business executives and journalists, with lawyers at the bottom. Though not part of the survey, we know where politicians rank — the U.S. Congress just racked up their lowest approval rating in decades. Trust factor of the traditional media continues to fall, but the leading ones are still important as influencers, not only of consumers, but also of other offline and online media. See what I had to say on our YouTube channel: