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?

Men Circa 2015 and the Travel Industry

domenico vacca club

Domenico Vacca’s new club

Remember when “metrosexual” was news, defined as” an urban heterosexual male given to enhancing his personal appearance by fastidious grooming, beauty treatments, and fashionable clothes”? That was in the early 2000’s . In a little over a decade businesses are finally starting to go all out with products and services to meet the interest and need. And men are more comfortable showing their “metrosexual” side. There are major implications here for new products and marketing, and some savvy retailers – but not as yet the travel and hotel business – are getting on the bandwagon.

Let’s speak first about the settings for the delivery of these goods and services. Traditionally you’ve had men’s social, athletic and university clubs, but they’re about socializing and possibly networking, though some have accommodations that are pretty basic. Little or nothing in retail, grooming or heaven forbid pampering services. Enter opportunity.

This fall in New York Italian fashion designer Domenico Vacca is opening a 12 story luxury lifestyle destination that New York Racked called “a Carnival for the one percent”. Not only will it have a flagship retail store for men and women, but a barber shop, gym, long stay residences, Italian café, and a social club/lounge you can belong to for $20K a year. Though there are facilities for women too, the pitch as seen in the images and décor is very much directed to men. I heard there’s another strictly men’s luxury destination on the way from a publisher no less. Stay tuned.

All too often men’s pampering and fashion offerings are done as an afterthought, not getting “equal time” or thought out as those for women. It takes a mindset – to look at everything directed to women buyers and travelers and say what’s the outtake for men. For instance, two years ago we launched a handbag bar at our all inclusive client Casa Velas in Puerto Vallarta. Designer handbags are offered on loan to guests for the evening. It was a big hit, and we decided to expand it this year and are offering a “Murse” – men’s purse, MontBlanc no less (it’s a luxury resort). A small thing, but it makes a statement.

So many luxury hotels and cruise ships have spas with beauty salons but how many have barber shops or pitch men’s grooming? And spa treatments for men can be found on menus, but they almost seem like lip service. Or how about men’s getaways? Aren’t there more creative possibilities than golf and boating?

You men out there, what do you think? What would you like to see?

Instagram and ROI

instagram

Instagram has over 300 million users, about the same as Twitter, give or take a few million. Instagram marketing is the new darling of social media, in the news for its impact (or lack of) on sales of art, beauty and fashion products.  All about images, it certainly lends itself to travel and hotels. The question being asked is how effective is it in branding and sales?

I use both to promote my personal blog, www.miamicurated.com  on food, fashion and culture (and some travel) in Miami, though am newer to Instagram.  Twitter has been one of the top drivers of traffic to the blog, but the jury is still out on Instagram.  Its effectiveness in driving traffic to a blog or website was a subject of discussion in one of the travel blogger forums. I asked one  of the members who amassed 5000 followers about the benefits and her answer is that conversions to subscribers or increasing blog visitors is minimal.

So what’s the benefit? Here are recent excerpts from an excellent article in Digiday where beauty and fashion brands, among the top users and boosters, are quoted as saying they are betting their social marketing dollars and resources on Instagram over any other platform. 98 percent of L2’s top fashion brands are on Instagram as of this month, and 95 percent of beauty brands are on the platform — up from 75 percent and 78 percent in October 2013.

For beauty and fashion brands, engagement and interactions are higher on Instagram compared to any other platform. As of the second quarter of the year, of the 67 top fashion brands on social media, engagement is up 77 percent, while frequency of posting has shot up from just over 8 posts a week to 10 posts a week.

While Facebook still attracts the lion’s share of paid advertising (82 percent of marketers surveyed by Forrester say they currently pay for ads on the site), brands are increasingly flocking to Instagram. About 46 percent of brands say they do or plan to pay money to get on Instagram in the next 12 months — the highest rate of growth compared with other platforms.

High-end fashion brands are among the prolific on Instagram. For example, Christian Louboutin in January launched #louboutinworld, a photo gallery displayed on its homepage that goes directly to its Instagram page. Its followers there have grown 80 percent in the last year, while Facebook likes have grown only 8 percent.

What about a direct path to purchase? While Instagram introduced clickable ads via its “carousel” platform back in March, brands are hoping that a more direct path to purchase (a “shop now” button, or a click to buy capability) will eventually be introduced. But until then, Instagram still makes more sense for brands that want engagement and inspiration.

Bottom line: wait and see.

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.

Building brand awareness through film

And were not just talking product placement. Film is emerging as the latest, creative awareness tool for brands looking to stand out, attract a newer audience, and make a statement. The Roma Cinema Etoile, a historical cinema in Rome that’s been closed for over twenty years, has reinvented the space as as a Louis Vuitton store complete with an in-house screening room.

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KWE’s thoughts on Louis Vuitton’s latest campaign

“Luxury brand marketers are in the storytelling business and the Core Values campaign is about travel and adventure stories that tie in with the spokesperson,” said Chelsea Orth, principal and general manager of KWE Partners, Miami.

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Conspicuous consumption re-emerging?

Is subdued behavior of the recession fading? There are hints that conspicuous consumption is back. Not surprising since the wealthiest consumers are regaining confidence and luxury retail is gaining momentum. According to the latest survey by American Express and the Harrison Group, consumer spending is expected to increase 8% this year to $359 billion excluding travel and cars.

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Airport lounges continue to evolve

Travel these days can be cumbersome –crowded airports, long lines and rude people, all as airlines are cutting back on amenities for coach travelers. At the same time, airlines are shelling out big bucks to upgrade first-class service experiences – there are new seats with more entertainment options and larger lounges to pamper customers paying top dollar for their flights. These travelers have higher expectations and expect a higher level of personalized service for their sky high fares. In fact, some airplanes and airport lounges are so impressive, rivaling some world class hotels, so much so that you may not want to leave.

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