Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Travel Awards Inflation and Marketing

Are travel awards still an effective branding tool and if so, how? Magazines, professional organizations, tour operators and more are giving awards on a regular basis. Some companies exist only for their award programs as a stand alone business, reaping revenues from entry fees. All of this has resulted in award inflation. And where they’re so prevalent, they’re less meaningful in the eyes of the consumer.

So what is their value? To the entity giving the award it’s an effective way to make new friends and reinforce relationships. Plus, in this age of social media, lists of Top 10 and Best of always rate high in views.   Award recipients undoubtedly appreciate the recognition, getting their name out there, and being in  rarefied company as in you’re known by the company you keep.

But how about their effectiveness for branding, and how to promote them through public relations? Here are  do’s and don’t’s:

First the “don’ts”:

Too often the knee jerk reaction is let’s do a press release. If an award is given by a media property, other magazines or newspapers won’t be interested – that’s the competition.

It’s important not to send too many award releases to the same media or run the risk of  overkill and their not opening your email after a while.

Think twice about how significant the award is. If it’s not from a well recognized organization, promoting the award can look as if the recipient is desperate to get a distinction and it won’t reflect positively on your brand.

Then the ‘do’s:

Think paid distribution channels as in online industry media (e.g.Hotels Online, HNET) as a vehicle to get the award news out. That helps build recognition within the industry and also helps SEO.

Send the award releases to past press guests who have visited your hotel(s), taken a cruise, whatever. It is a good way to keep in touch and reinforces the fact that you’re maintaining a quality product.

Social media which has an appetite for constant content is a perfect distribution channel for news of awards.

If the award is not from a media property, do consider sending it out to a wider distribution if it’s truly impressive, as in your being in the top 10, 25 or even 100 (e.g.Virtuoso’s bests, Expedia’s Insider Select).

And outside of PR, there are numerous ways to get the word out, especially if the award is impressive, from adding it to your signature and sending an eblast to your internal database, to highlighting it on your website, collateral,  and more.

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.

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.

 

 

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>

Media trends 2014: celebs and content

Everything seems to constantly change – except the public’s appetite for celebrities. Sometimes it’s just too much, especially when it comes to Justin Bieber these days. But back to the point at hand…..

Celebs images, even “B” list it seems, are front and center in the media who chronicle their every step and, ideally in their eyes, misstep. But that’s nothing new. And now, it seems we’re getting the benefits of their wisdom as magazine columnists as the printed product in particular struggles to keep front and center in the public eye. As recounted in Adweek in article “It’s Written in the Stars”, this month kicked off A list celebs picking up the pen for magazines from Brides and Vanity Fair to Redbook, InStyle and Glamour. 

The lineup includes Drew Barrymore on beauty for Brides, Pippa Middleton on a guide to watching rugby for Vanity Fair, Alison Sweeney for Redbook, Q &A for InStyle with Diane von Furstenberg, and Girls’ Zosia Mamet for Glamour.  Does it build readership? The jury is still out but results are promising. Actress Olivia Wilde’s “The Dos and Don’ts of Turning 30” was among the top 10 most shared stories of 2013 on Glamour.com.

 

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Using Art to Market Hotels

the betsy

Hotels have been using art to appeal to the affluent market for years. I remember when we launched Ritz Carlton Hotels years ago, art in the public areas was promoted as a major amenity, as it would become with many other hotel groups and individual properties. Artists in residence, experiences with art such as the Peninsula Academy’s class in Chinese brush painting, art tours, and even one with the word “museum” in its name (21C Museum Hotel), have all been part of the appeal. But now, especially at the recent Art Basel in Miami, it has been taken to the next level, both in uses in marketing and in reaching out to new audiences.

And that’s not just travel products, but lifestyle in general, brands ranging from American Apparel and Fiat to Maserati, Harper’s Bazaar and Samsung. Publishing, apparel, automotive, beverage, food, they’re all jumping on the bandwagon and in a major way. According to a recent New York Times article, “In Marketing, Art’s the Thing”, they’re using art to reach consumers in their 20’s and 30’s who are already making art part of their lives, as a differentiator in the luxury category, and as a point of reference for relating to the beautiful and artisanal.  Miami hotels chose to wave their flag during Art Basel with popups – from The Newstand at the Standard Spa Miami and all night dining at The Raleigh to cultural events at The Betsy. The Betsy’s tie-ins were especially notable, featuring exhibits in its dedicated visual arts space, programming inviting guests to interact with the artists, and a cause related marketing initiative. Percentage of all works sold is contributed to the Zara Center for AIDS Impacted Youth in Zimbabwe.

Restaurants and bars got into the act with special themed menus like Red Steakhouse’s “Red Basel” and cocktail bar The Broken Shaker serving up drinks with their companion art. Pamela Drucker Mann, publisher of Bon Appetit cited food and art coming together, giving examples of restaurants designed to look like art galleries and “tablescaping”, designing table arrangements or centerpieces. Indeed, art sells.

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President & Chief Strategist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psychographics and Hotel Lifestyle Branding Part 2

Using psychographics rather than demographics (see Part 1) what are the options and new directions in hotel lifestyle branding for the hospitality and cruise industries?

The oldest lifestyle branding route is still through a celebrity recognized in a specific category, primarily food/chefs (Daniel Boulud), golf (Jack Nicklaus), and architecture/design (Philippe Starck).

Major hotel brands like Starwood Hotels and Resorts and IHG are segmenting by special interests. Starwood has been a leader in this over several decades, with its fashion brand (W), wellness (Westin) and the newest, eco-luxury (1Hotel) and entertainment (Aloft). At the same time, they continue to build their straight luxury portfolios, with high end appeal (The Luxury Collection and St. Regis).

Lifestyle brands especially from the fashion world – Versace, Armani, Bulgari, Missoni and others – are creating immersive hotel brand experiences at the high end. In a very interesting development, at the other budget end of the spectrum, Marriott is doing a partnership with IKEA. My prediction: always one to watch, LVMH will use its hotel acquisitions to showcase its full range of lifestyle product lines. Imagine this: you walk into their hotel and are greeted by runway models, offered a glass of Moet et Chandon. Want more? Visit the Moet et Chandon Ice Lounge (already in existence). Choose your fashion suite – Celine, Donna Karan, Fendi, Pucci maybe with Acqua di Parma bath amenities. It’s dinner time and you’re hungry? Head down to the restaurant through the lobby fragrant with the newest perfume from Dior, order a lobster and a glass of Chateau d’Yquem. And before heading home, stop off in the hotel shop and pick up a Bulgari or Chaumet watch as a memento of your stay.

And finally, the newest option is to brand by a niche, special interest category. Examples include the Food Hotel, Divorce Hotel, Women Only Hotel, and the Pet Hotel.  Interestingly enough, most of these have come out of Europe. Marketing associations with a niche such as Design Hotels are yet another choice, also a European invention.

Post by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist

Psychographics and Hotel Lifestyle Branding Part 1

Branding

Special interests and passions are driving travel decisions more and more, from themed weeks at hotels and cruise ships and tour operator offerings to learning vacations and now, hotel brands. Drivers in travel buying decisions are increasingly about psychographics – behavior rather than demographic determinants.

Let’s take a look first at the traditional “big four” of demographics: gender, age, geography and income and their influence today:

  • Gender lines continue to blur with women taking on more of the traditional role of men and vice versa, and the advent of same sex marriage.
  • Age is also less important. Whether it’s the “coveted” 18-34 males or moms from 25-44, this is an outdated way to target for many reasons. First, people are age shifting and not living lives based on their chronological age. Second, the top end of a demographic (34) has almost nothing in common with the low end (18). Also, age demos leave out influencers and others for whom a message may be relevant. Finally, focusing on age can take you away from emotional or other relevant benefits.
  •  Then we have geography. In this global, highly mobile world, people often spend their lives in multiple cities.
  • Of the four determinants, the only one that is still very important is income, especially at the two ends of the spectrum: budget and high end.  Price will trump passion if you’re on a budget and at the high-end, travelers are reluctant to compromise their comforts and service.

However, these traditional measurements don’t tell you “why they buy”- why consumers would choose one brand over another. Psychographics, or lifestyle and behavioral information are playing a larger role in hotel branding, which was my topic as a panelist for the Urban Land Institute, Southeast Florida/Caribbean chapter, last month. What are some of these options and new directions for the hospitality and cruise industries? Check out the answer in Part 2 tomorrow.

By Karen Weiner Escalera, President & Chief Strategist

Managing Your Personal Reputation Online

 

Newsle.com Home Page

Newsle.com Home Page

The other day I was reading a sad tale of woe in the New York Times about a college student who was charged with a felony but not convicted, and how his mug shot ended up on numerous for-profit internet sites such as Busted Mugshots, Just Mugshots, and Mugshots. The sites obtain photos from public record and keep them online until people pay anywhere from $30 to $400 to have them removed (or in a few cases, sites will allow people to prove they were judged not guilty and the photo is removed).  As you’ve probably heard often, the internet can be your best friend or your worst enemy if you’re not careful. One of the better articles out there which had a solid list of tips was “Tending your Image in an Age of Online Permanence”. The main point of the article was how to push the “good stuff’ about you to the top of Google search.  Here are the highlights:

  • Get on as many online platforms as possible and links as well. Articles, videos on lectures, anything that says “authority” is the best. All this helps your ranking and if there is something negative, pushes down the negative.
  • Buy your name. That includes not just buy yourfirstnamelastname.com, but also .net and .org, and populate each with different content. On .net include your academic history and extracurricular activities and on .org your writings on business or career related subjects.
  • Sent up two accounts to monitor your name: Google Alerts, and  Newsle.com . They’re both free.
  • And once you’ve done this, take the next step to proactively build your reputation by populating these profile sites with the latest information and activities you’re proud of — i.e. a new job, professional accomplishments, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, etc. This will help you professionally in everything from getting a job offer and engagements as an industry panelist to being called upon to be quoted as an authority or source.

For more tips, on getting known as an industry authority, check out our article .

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President & Chief Strategist