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.

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

How to Increase the Average Length of Stay

Flower cottage of the Relais Borgo Santo Pietro

Flower cottage of the Relais Borgo Santo Pietro

 

How to increase the average length of stay? This was a question posed to me by one of our clients, a city hotel in Asia. The common tactic is to give an extra room night free based on a minimum length of stay –as in stay for 3 nights and get the 4th night free. But there are two other solid ideas. The first is to team up a city stay, adding on an extra night to the average length of stay, with two or three nights in a complementary destination, a several hour drive or an hour to an hour and a half  flight away (e.g. Bangkok with Chiang Mai or Phuket). To the guest, the benefit is that the work of packaging two destination highlights is done, and then you make it worth their while financially by giving a break in the total price or giving some value add. Besides gaining an additional night’’s revenue, there’s the advantage to the hotels of additional marketing support from another hotel or hotel group and use of a new customer database from a non competitive property.

An even better tactic is to offer exciting compelling activities on site and nearby that make a longer stay desirable. Probably one of the best examples I’ve seen (and experienced) is from the 16 room Relais Borgo Santo Pietro in Tuscany, Italy. The Relais, off of the beaten tourist track, though convenient to Florence and Rome, offers exciting activities that not only tap into  its competitive advantages, but also, a sense of place. They also offer guests an opportunity to learn new skills. In house there’s a resident florist who gives floral arranging classes from a cottage amidst an antique rose garden and does double duty making all of the arrangements for the hotel; an inhouse artisan  — a painter when I was there – who gives classes from her own cottage overlooking a lake; the Borgo Cooking school offers a myriad of classes for adults and children; garden walks; and wine tasting  . Venturing further afield, they offer everything from falconry and sightseeing from a two person plane with private pilot to truffle hunting, hot air ballooning, basket weaving, and novel sightseeing trips.

Rafael Ruiz – Front Office Manager says the Concierge program, which was launched in 2014 enjoys a 50% participation rate by guests and that since beginning the program, average length of stay from overseas guests has increased from 3 to 5 days. A final benefit is that guests leave the hotel wanting to come back and experience the other activities as well as the marvels of a superb resort and stunning setting. A winning formula in luxury hotel marketing ideas.

 

Gen Z and Media Habits

genz

 

They’re called Gen Z, the Centennials and the Homeland Generation (not sure why this name). They’re under 14 years old and their media habits and attitude toward content are the next logical steps in the world of digital media. Before reading an article on the topic by Scott Hess in Adweek, “Post Gen will Remake Our Media”, having seen the way this age group uses their phones and electronic toys, I anticipated some of these trends but was surprised by others. Here are the shifts:

 

  • With the ubiquitousness of advertising, one would think Gen Z would tune out, immune to their messages. Not necessarily so. They’re not immune if they’re not bored. They view advertising as another form of content. May the most interesting content win. The prize? Their attention.

 

  • Video, video, video. They’re highly visual and demand content be short.

 

  • In the competition for their attention, he who compels views now wins. The challenge is to motivate them to tune in, read, act right away or you’ve lost them. It’s all about urgency.

 

  • This one’s a surprise. They look to their Gen X parents to guide them in their content choices and consumption times. As Hess wrote, “Under 14 and under the tutelage of Gen X parents who themselves are massively adept at calendaring and multitasking, these Post Gen kids have given over the planning rei,ns entirely content to reside nose first in their devices until someone tells them otherwise.

 

  • It’s all about being real and being real means multicultural. “Post Gen won’t settle for a whitewashing”.

 

Photo courtesy of www.studenthousing.com

 

New Hotel Revenue Models

the surf office

 

First it was business meetings that moved to Starbuck’s away from breakfasts at hotel restaurants or inking deals in a hotel lobby lounge. Then it was inroom movies, supplanted by laptops with streaming video or DVDs. And what about the legendary “power lunch”? As was reported recently in the New York Times, many millennials are skipping lunch for “crumbs on the keyboard”, viewing it as a waste of time.

What’s a hotel to do? Certainly the “Grab n’Go” concept manages to capture some revenue, provide a service, and appeal to a Starbucks budget and time-strapped business executives. In entertainment. Oz Eleonara,chief revenue officer for interactive content and connectivity provider Sonifi Solutions said there’s a greater movement in hospitality to combine entertainment, information and service to create new scenarios for digital interaction between hotels and guests.” In other words, turn a negative – movement away from current inroom entertainment models — to a positive – enabling hotels to connect with guests via technology. But, in the same article in Hotel Management, Scott Hansen, Director of Guest Technology for Marriott International said the company is looking it as a service and not a main revenue driver.

And now we’re seeing the beginning of the traditional hotel business/resort model under fire by offshoots of co-working spaces. In exotic locations worldwide, the countryside near urban centers, and beach destinations, properties are cropping up that offer communal work spaces, accommodations, and the opportunity to network, have fun and instant companionship.

What need does this address? Liz Elam founder of Link Coworking and executive producer of the Global Coworking Unconference said ,”More young people want work-life balance and maybe vacations completely unconnected are not feasible anymore; maybe people won’t take traditional vacations. But they can go to work in paradise for two months.” New centers described in the New York Times’ “A Desk in Paradise” have cropped up in Gran Canaria (The Surf Office), Turkey, and towns driving distance from Paris and Berlin. Right now they’re small in number and rooms and limited in facilities, but the appeal, especially to the Millennials is strong. They’re truly a new breed of “lifestyle” hotels.

The opportunity is there to expand the formula with new locations, more facilities, and ultimately, an upscale version of the concept. Let’s see who gets there first.

The Future of Print Magazines

What’s the future of print magazines? Are they doomed?  If a gauge of their influence is a function of how newsworthy they are (other than news reports about media groups from Hachette to Time Warner and Hearst being bought), then one could think they¹re hardly relevant. I recently met with Sara “Fifi” Castany, a legend in publishing, and former editor of big titles ranging from the Spanish language versions of Cosmopolitan and Ocean Drive, to luxury custom publications such as Bal Harbour and Fisher Island magazines.  Now owner of her own custom publishing company, Sareli Media Group, I asked her about the role of print magazines in the future.

“I think we are experiencing an important transformation in the publishing industry,” said Castany. “We can¹t deny the Internet has impacted our
business, but print is hardly dead, the playing field is just changing. Who will survive? The really great magazines will, the ones that have managed to be exciting and unique in a niche market, ” she continued.

What I found most interesting about what she had to say was how luxury brands are selling products by transforming their catalogues into quasi
lifestyle magazines. An early adopter of this marketing strategy was Williams Sonoma who started featuring recipes in their catalogues along with
carefully styled displays of tables set for the holidays with their dinnerware, linens and enticing meals.

“These product catalogs with integrated editorial content are called magalogs, and they are very effective in engaging the consumer and enhancing
the shopping experience,” said Castany. “Neiman Marcus started out by including fashion trends and unique gift guides. Today their catalogs are
must-haves for any fashion savvy customers,” she added.

In house hotel magazines have tended to be little more than advertising vehicles that have a branding benefit – association with other luxury brands and thick, glossy stock that makes a luxury statement.There’s a lot of room to adopt this new “magalog” formula to travel industry products and combine the best of both — what has existed with a new service orientation.

The days of the mass market magazine are just about over. For magazines, it’s about luxury and niche titles that are indulgences.  Nothing like going to the beach with a cool drink in hand and a stack of my favorite magazines.

Design and Fashion: What the Hotel Doctor Calls For

kwe blog AC by marriott

When even Apple, an icon of high technology, makes moves to become what tech analysis site Stratechery called a fashion house, you know there’s something major afoot in branding.  For those who haven’t read it, an important article, “Apple’s Team of Tastemakers” appeared in the New York Times recently about the company’s hires of tastemakers from Yves St.Laurent and  Burberry to the addition of Beats’ founders Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine for top management positions.  Their mandate is to remake the marketing strategy.

What is this about?  Design and fashon that are leading the lifestyle charge. We see this  across product categories and price points. If anything, expect it to accelerate with marketers’ attention turning increasingly to Millennials whom research has shown to  expect a major dose of style and good design,

This hasn’t been lost on the hotel industry as major groups continue to announce new lifestyle brands that they always bill as design forward, one of the latest being AC by Marriott. I couldn’t help but think will we soon see yet another new brand —  the hotel counterpart to a Zara or an H & M — low cost, big fashion statement,  and wildly successful? And then many of these same groups have new executive positions with serious titles who are like creative directors, helping ensure the brands continue to align with changing design and fashion values.

Travelers are seeing hotels with new eyes and new words to describe the hotel product.I  couldn’t help but think about the term “boutique hotel” which, when first deployed, implied a property with special style. Not so much anymore.With simple bed and breakfasts calling themselves boutiques, will this term become meaningless? I think so.

Amenities, even ones with a “wow” don’t seem enough to cut it these days. Travelers are going beyond that, looking for fresh new looks that excite and entertain.  A large dose of creativity is just what the hotel doctor calls for.

For more on hotels and fashion brands, click here to read a previous post on the topic.

 

 

Emotional Marketing and Music

You can’t help reading these days about emotional marketing —  forging an emotional connection with potential buyers or clients as a key to sales success. Story telling and appealing to the senses are touted as  effective ways (and I concur as you’ve read). In the case of the latter,  incorporating aromatherapy and visual candy (design, art, fashion) into the product and marketing are becoming a “given” with many hotels and lifestyle products. But what about the hearing sense? Some interesting information and data recently crossed my desk . Rightune makes music for websites, 1000 of them right now that are active, as well as online ads and applications. They claim this has increased business by 15 to 20%, the highside being in the hotel, travel and lifestyle industries. Here’s an example of what CEO Erez Perlmuter says is one of the more successful of the sites (click on the name to hear the music):

Europa Hotel 

How does this work?  They customize the music based on branding values, target audience, mood to be created and business goal (e.g.lead generation, purchase, staying time). The client then gets a code snippet to embed on their website which will give a user a playlist. The user’s behavior is tracked and music updated as needed. Clients get a dashboard where they can see what was played and its impact on website business performance. What kind of music works? Not surprisingly, soothing tunes in the morning and more upbeat works in the afternoon.

I asked the obvious question, how do they know how many people to the site don’t like the music? They said on average 4% of visitors mute or lower the volume and 96% stayed longer.  I have to say, I found the music on the Europa Hotel relaxing (he said the music increased their business by 50%). What do you think?

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.