Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

It’s the Little Things That Count

“It’s the little things that count”. That was the tent card in my room at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Gurgaon, India. I couldn’t agree with them more – especially since they delivered on their promise. The hotel was my last stop on a several week trip to India staying at one of the better hotels in each destination which sometimes was barely three star. So the details on my final stop were especially welcome – from Dead Sea Salts for my bath and every other bath and toilet amenity you can think of to preparing a boxed breakfast to go since my departure was before the restaurant opened.

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

During my trip I experienced other notable and original touches and amenities that will surely remain top of mind long after I’ve departed which should be every hotel’s goal. In the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai it was the manicure kit complete with nail polish remover, nail clipper,  emory board and cream and oil delivered on a tray with rose petals and a hammered brass bowl.

When the laundry was returned, a sachet bag graced the top of the linen cover.

taj mahal palace hotel

Then in New Delhi on the club floor at the Taj Palace Hotel they sent a mini-facial treatment kit.

Even a three star hotel in a rural village, the Dera Village Retreat, staged a dance presentation complete with popcorn and saris on loan for the women and a turban for the men.

dera village retreat

These kind of details and hotel amenities go a long way not only in making memories for guests and giving value add, but creating long term fans plus generating word of mouth and oftentimes press coverage. So Crowne Plaza. It IS all about the details.

Butlers and The Travel Industry

 

sandcastle butler

Sandcastle butler

 

Butlers, concierges, they’ve been marketed by the travel industry for years, from hotels to more recently cruise ships (Viking river cruises) as evidence of going the extra mile in service. They can be a true value proposition – as in a baby concierge offered by our client Velas Resorts, or a public relations tactic to generate press. In fact, one of our all time great press generators was when we announced the butlers as a service at an Intercontinental Hotel, talking about how the butler would even iron the newspaper to avoid the guests’ having ink stained hands. Over the years we’ve read about everything from pillow, recovery (as in from a hangover) and suntan concierges to fragrance, camping and barbecue butlers . Interestingly enough, this kind of news, falling into the category of unusual hotel services,  continues to be a media darling.

And speaking about what’s happening in the hospitality industry and “butlerdom”, I thought I’d share these interesting thoughts and updates from Steven Ferry, Chairman of the International Institute of World Butlers . It appeared in his recent newsletter which always makes for good reading.

“An interesting article about the lengths butlers go to in hotels to service their guests—although the author has taken it upon herself to pronounce that “butlering is a dying art.”

Some entrepreneurs have created a company called “Hello Alfred” (referring to Batman’s butler)  that offers “butler service” for $25 a week—the duties basically being running errands and managing small projects for which the clients do not have time. As the company already employs 100 butlers (stay-at-home mums and artists) so far in New York and Boston, they are obviously much in demand by busy executives and no doubt appreciated by those looking to boost their income.

If the above is a bit of a stretch, then how about Sandcastle Butlers, the latest hijacking of our profession to boost image? The picture (from the Hertfordshire Mercury) says it all.

Hot on the heels of the Japanese cafe culture with butlers and maids, we now find Glasgow, Scotland offering the same: a cafe with maids and butlers. Used to be a time when one went to a cafe to enjoy a simple coffee and scintillating chat.

Not sure if we have covered the “Stock Butler” before—software that analyzes and rates a person’s stock portfolio. (Karen’s note: idea for a city hotel?)

The first hotel in the world has opened with service almost exclusively carried out by robots—done to save money on wages and downtime, such as days off, and to create “the most efficient hotel in the world.” Um…. Let’s see: “Hospitality,” basic definition being “friendly.”  “Friend” comes from an Indo-European root word meaning “love.” Met any friendly robots recently, ones who express their heartfelt love for you? (Perhaps that should read “programmed love”?). Somewhere, someone, or a lot of someones, are missing the point.

And while “scientists” are busy trying to make robots human, and humans unnecessary, they are also busy making humans into robots: witness the University of California, Berkeley breakthrough (also reported in the Wall Street Journal) in creating neural dust that is so small, it can be implanted into the cerebral cortex (front of the brain) without the knowledge of the individual and run forever, collecting information and controlling people’s thoughts and emotions (and presumably, ultimately, their actions).”

A Brilliant Promotion: Miami Beach

kwe blog miami beach promotion

 

An ideal promotion that’s a homerun has several elements:

  • It enables consumer sampling
  • It’s a public service
  • The appeal is to all ages and demographics
  • It’s low cost or no cost and is self sustaining

And so, one of the best promotions I’ve heard about of late is between Miami Beach tourism, the Mount Sinai Medical Center and Destination Brands.

The proposition: 50 dispensers to distribute sunscreen lotion will be installed at different Miami Beach public pools, parks and beach access points near lifeguard stands. The sunscreen is free for anyone visiting the beach. The specific brand is MB Miami Beach SPF  30 Triple Aciton Sea Kelp lotion. This Miami Beach brand of lotion was launched last year by Destination Brands to capitalize on the Beach’s brand and tie in with the city’s Centennial celebration this year. The product, part of a line, is also sold in retail shops in Miami Beach and  in some markets abroad.

Mount Sinai invested $25,000 to fund the dispensers. Destination Brands funds the sunscreen through revenues from the MB lotion sales.

The Beach gests a percentage of the sales revenue from this year.  “It’s an opportunity for us to increase our brand awareness and generate some revenue,” said Max Sklar, director of the Beach’s tourism, culture and economic development in an article in the Miami Herald.

Sounds like a win-win-win for everyone.

 

Photo courtesy of miamiherald.com

Spirits Tourism

Kentucky Bourbon Road Trip

Kentucky Bourbon Road Trip

Wine tourism has been around for decades – tours of vineyards, wine hotels, and wine trails, from California and New York to New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the southern tier of South America and more. Of late, thanks to craft breweries we’re seeing a growing number of craft beer festivals and museum like brewery tours. The newest link in the chain, not surprising given the celebrity status of mixologists and interest in new beverage taste sensations, is spirits (as in liquor) tourism. Spirits tourism is following what is a major growth in spirits revenue nationwide. Excluding wine and beer it has doubled to over $50 billion from 2000. Its appeal is also based on an interest in local products and history and, similar to craft beers, the boom in craft liquors. A recent google search revealed a surprising number of states – Delaware, Washington, Oregon, New York, that have gotten on the bandwagon with spirits trails, sometimes combining them with wineries and breweries.

Not only distillers, but also state and local governments see this as a new source of tax revenue and jobs, as well as a new tourism niche. Kentucky, in particular, is getting in on the act, enjoying a special upswing from bourbon, with new distilleries being built, complete with a tasting room for sipping bourbon and looking at the local scenery. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a collection of distilleries on a scenic route, attracts thousands of visitors annually. Distilleries offer behind the scenes tours where one can watch vats of yeast bubbling and workmen rolling barrels of whiskey as they’ve done for decades. In downtown Louisville, Whiskey Row is being revived with a new distillery for Old Forester, the country’s first bottled bourbon. Another producer, Wild Turkey, has paid double in taxes this year, twice what it paid in 2010 thanks to robust sales. For hotels and restaurants, craft spirits are a new avenue for public relations, with the media devoting more space to everything from drink recipes and signature cocktails to star mixologists. One of the more clever outtakes is the bar at the new Traymore restaurant at the Metropolitan by COMO. It has a gin bar boasting 40 different kinds of gin and the Apotheker at the Shelbourne Wyndham Grand South Beach, a riff on bar as pharmacy.

Photo courtesy of NationalGeographic.com

Restaurant Trends: Experiences

DinnerLab_expansion

The golden word in the travel and hospitality industry these days is “experience” with hotels, tour operators and travel agents touting their special offerings.  Why the interest in “experiences”? Because they evoke powerful sentiments – the stuff that memories are made from, landmark celebrations, and, most importantly, the promise of involvement.

Experiences in the form of  interactivity are hitting the restaurant industry in a big way in innovative directions.  Many of these have the added benefit of more social interaction and the promise of making new friends. Underground dining, where a chef cooks a gourmet meal in his or her home or unusual venue for a prix fixe has been around for a number of years. Here in Miami several prominent foodies started a club where you sign up for a pricey mystery dinner at an undisclosed location and it is often oversubscribed.  Then there’s an extension of the cooking class with not only a market tour to choose ingredients for the class, but also, foraging in fields and streams for special herbs, vegetables or fish.

The latest twist is Dinner Lab which operates popup restaurants across the US.  Emerging chefs prepare a high end prix fixe dinner ($50 to $80  a meal, drinks and tips included) for members who rate each dish’s creativity and taste and each drink pairing as well as whether the course was “restaurant worthy”. Communal tables, guests talking about the dinner as they fill out the rating forms, family style service, and chefs chatting up diners all contribute to the social interaction.

Meals are also presented as a performance, with each getting a name from the chef. And even the setting is different from the usual – dinners are held in large open spaces like the roofop of a parking garage or at a motorcycle dealership.

Dinner Lab’s plan is to operate in 40 cities including international ones and to sell the data at events for anyone looking to overhaul or create a menu.

Photo courtesy of www.forbes.com