Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

What’s a Boutique Hotel in 2017?

boutique hotel trends, boutique hotels history, kwe partners

 

What are boutique hotel trends 2017? A look at  the origin of the term, what it means today, and all of its variations. Plus, what’s next. First off, as with the words luxury and gourmet, the meaning of boutique hotel has greatly changed from when it was originally used in the 80’s. Any hotel owner or manager thinking of using the word would do well to understand its first meaning and how that has morphed from then to now.

 

The term “boutique hotel” was first coined in a major way by Design Hotels in the 90’s (though if you speak about a one off “boutique”, others credit Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager in the 80’s). It was used to imply small hotels of up to 100 rooms with personalized service, upscale ( 4 ½ to 5 stars), and one of a kind. Most important to its meaning was the idea of personality through design and décor. Since then, its meaning has been diluted, which so often happens with a “mature” category. The concept has broken up into niches, and the industry giants have moved in.

 

This being said, there still are groups of boutique hotels and one offs that adhere to the original definition, such as we see in Small Leading Hotels, a group within Preferred and Leading Hotels of the World, and Design Hotels.

 

Now we’re seeing “boutiques” on the lower end of four star, and even “budget boutique” which is  widely used. How about size? One thousand room hotels are calling themselves “boutiques”. In these properties, service is no longer a defining point.

 

What most “boutiques” still seem to have in common is the original idea of hotels with personality and/or offering a lodging experience. Then we see niche boutiques themed around art (21c Museum Hotels); décor (West Elm, Restoration Hardware);  fashion (Armani, Bulgari, Missoni); and wellness (Even).

 

Major chains, Marriott/Starwood, IHG and Hilton continue to enter with various boutique brands – Autograph, Tribute, Edition, and more. At the other end are those of smaller companies like Joie de Vivre and others  in Asia.

 

What’s next in boutique hotel trends?  Companies will start to (and it’s already happening) move away from the word “boutique”, as its meaning becomes increasingly diluted so as to be almost meaningless, much as has happened with the words gourmet and luxury. What’s the next big thing?  Some might say “Lifestyle” hotels which we’re already seeing. In my opinion, the term is too vague to be meaningful. Most likely there won’t be one strong concept, but many more new niches. For instance, there’s already a Pet Hotel, Divorce Hotel, Women Hotel. With backing from a major brand in each of these categories, I can see ripe opportunities for the taking.

Interested in more travel trends 2017? Click here for another recent blogpost.

 

Arts Organizations: Reaching New Gens

Arts Organizations Reaching Next Gens

PNC-initiated Look!Reflect!Connect!: Art Explorations for Young Children at the Barnes Foundation


 
If you go to the opera, symphony, and possibly less so ballet in the US, most of the patrons are over 50. Arts and cultural organizations have realized they have to reach out to younger generations, especially Millennials, but also Gen Z. So no surprise museums are hosting admission free evenings with a DJ or live music. Social groups with names like “Young Contemporaries” have special programming that allows for socializing as well as cultural content. Special concerts are designed to appeal to families. Museum restaurants do themed dinners, reaching out to “foodies”. The goal? To make this demographic feel comfortable and at home, build attendance and loyalty.
One of the more comprehensive programs I’ve come across that has a community relations component as well is the PNC-initiated Look!Reflect!Connect!: Art Explorations for Young Children at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. The program is aimed at bringing the arts into the lives of underserved three to five year olds. It’s a combination of interactive classroom experience and gallery visits to the Barnes. Another important element is professional development for pre-K teachers and a family event.
Seven schools participated last year representing 400 participating students. “The Barnes is committed to building greater ties with the community and serving an even broader audience, “said Tiffany Allen, Grow Up Great Coordinator of the Barnes Foundation. The Cleveland Museum of Art has a similar program.
Look! Reflect! Connect! at the Barnes was initiated as part of PNC’s Grow up Great program. Grow Up Great is a nationwide initiative at various cultural institutions in cities that PNC is present. Let’s hope other corporations and cultural institutions follow suit.

6 Things to Know About Mobile Consumers in 2016

mobile consumers 2016

 

One of the better articles I’ve read lately about the mobile consumer and some powerful statistics was in Adweek. Entitled “Dialing into Mobile Consumers 2016”, here are the article’s 6 major takeaways:

 

  • Mobile purchasing decisions are now heavily influenced by content that users generate and others read, primarily through product reviews and social media
  • Consumers are spending more time in apps than watching TV. In 2015 US smartphone and tablet users spent an average of 3 hours and 5 minutes a day using mobile apps, up from 2 hours and 51 minutes in 2014
  • 60% of buyers use mobile devices to research their purchases
  • If you combine Android and Apple stores there are over 2 million apps for consumers to download
  • According to a Pew report, 90 % of American adults own a mobile phone, 32 % an e reader and 42 % a tablet computer so a multi device approach to mobile purchasing is key
  • Building trust and having authentic content are essential

 

The author of the article on mobile consumers 2016 is Andrew Paradise, founder and CEO of Skillz, a mobile E-Sports company.

Photo courtesy of www.martechadvisor.com

Is Aspirational Luxury Dead?

Ralph Lauren men's shop

Ralph Lauren men’s shop

 

Retailing and the world of luxury fashion is all aflutter with the appointment of Stefan Larsson as CEO of Ralph Lauren. Larsson came up through fast fashion giant H & M and then went on to get Old Navy back on track. As you know, Lauren built his business with fashion that called to mind Old Wealth which was personified in an upscale preppy way of dress and lifestyle. One could say he took the Brooks Brothers approach, added more of a fashion element, and marketed the fashion with Old World trappings. The price point wasn’t cheap, but it was accessible, compared with the look he imitated. Aspirational luxury. Is it here to stay in fashion, travel and lifestyle in general?

Now this new CEO has a totally different background in new -to- the- brand market segments and comes from the egalitarian Swedish society. One’s first reaction. Can he recreate this aura of luxury lifestyle, albeit updated, which Lauren obviously wanted to do by going with such a radical new hire? Or, as Barbara Thau wrote in Forbes.com, does this mean aspirational luxury is dead so he’s going to take a totally new approach to the brand?

She also ties that in with her contention that conspicuous consumption is a thing of the past. I don’t agree with either premise.

First, conspicuous consumption. As I’ve written about before, during the Great Recession, extravagance was seem as unseemly and, in the hotel business in particular, a serious negative. Companies couldn’t be seem as having luxury trips for executives when the public was suffering financially. But all of that has changed. The elite 1% has no compunctions about spending — the media is filled with stories about extravagance and over the top purchases reflecting the reality of what’s going on out there.

And as for aspirational luxury, I contend that it will always be with us. What will change is what is the desired luxury lifestyle to be emulated. There will always be a “luxury uniform” as Thau called it, though it will change. Instead of rich Mahogany paneled studies filled with antiques and Persian rugs, maybe there will be minimalist Italian furniture that cost five figures, and technology that’s in the same ballpark budget. The clothes? No gold buttoned blazer to be sure, or a fine Egyptian cotton bespoke shirt and custom trousers. How about a t-shirt made from some hard to get hi-tech fabric, a hoodie from the rarest of rare cashmere along with custom sneakers and  a Hermes Apple watch? And, a new turn is having fashion reflect one’s individuality and creativity — perhaps the ultimate luxury?

Hotels you say? Much less about baroque palaces from European nobility with Michelin star chefs in formal dining rooms. Think Richard Branson and the kind of hotels he builds and travel experiences   that personify the adventurous, innovative lifestyle. Things certainly are a changing. Lauren got that right as he has been so prescient with many other customer aspirations. It will be fascinating to watch.

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).”

PR and Hotel Trends, ROI

In case you missed it, here’s a podcast with agency President and Chief Strategist Karen Weiner Escalera on public relations trends, PR and ROI and travel trends including the niche economy. The interview appeared in www.hospitalitytimes.com.

The link to the 23 minute podcast, click here.

Super Rich, What are they Buying?

G650 Gulfstream, the jet of choice of the uber rich

G650 Gulfstream, the jet of choice of the uber rich

 

A colleague said she developed a high end cooking tour to Italy, 7 days with classes each day and stays in Renaissance palaces. The cost? $10K plus airfare. She said she was concerned that she might not be able to sell it at that price. My advice to her? Charge a lot more and you’ll sell it.

As Robert Frank, chronicler of the top 1% wrote, today there are the “haves and the have mores”. And what’s selling are products and services for the top one-hundredth of the 1 percent. While sales of the smaller, cheaper jets, and 150 to 200 foot yachts have dropped, sales of $65 G650 Gulfstream private jumbo jets and yachts over 250 feet are booming (the largest is now the 590 foot Azzam owned by the president of the United Arab Emirates). A recent article by Frank in the New York Times quoted Jim Taylor, a wealth specialist and managing partner of YouGov, a marketing research and survey firm who said, “ The very wealthy are often the ones pulling the trigger right now, and they have a very big trigger.”

How many are in this financial stratosphere and what’s their fortune? The 16,000 families in this category have fortunes of at least $111 million. And, parenthetically, they’re also buying double digit million dollar condos and houses and art. Not surprising the art world continues to break records. If these ultra rich have to fly commercial – pardon the expression – there are new facilities for them as well. Eithad Airways’ A380 has a $20,000 suite with three rooms and dedicated butler and within no time of its being announced,  its 10 initial flights were booked.

To be sure, this is a limited market in terms of the numbers. But then again, with the markups and commissions to be had, you sure don’t have to sell a lot to make a good chunk of change.

 

 

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