Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends
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.
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, [email protected]
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?
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.
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.
The term “public relations” may be on its way out according to an article in O’Dwyer’s, a leading PR industry publication. Of 103 members in the PR Council, one of the leading organizations of prominent firms across the US, only eight use PR In their titles. And at the 2014 conference of the PR Society last October, only 11% of the 1450 registrants used PR as a part of their title. The word “communications”, however, was used by 386 or 26% of the registrants. One of the problems with this name change is, in this age of twitter and other social media, communications takes up too much real estate!
I never really liked the term PR. It might be because I always have to explain it. Most people don’t know what it means, many taking its literal meaning — dealing with the public as in guest relations, customer relations or giving events. I remember years ago in walking around a tony area of Madrid I saw a sign, courses in public relations and learning to be an airline stewardess. Today, it’s not that bad but it’s still not understood.
“Communications” is certainly a clearer term, but it doesn’t begin to cover the breadth of what PR can be, especially in today’s business world, where the discipline has some overlap with strategic marketing and branding. “Communications” also seems a kind of passive term to me, not reflecting the creativity and proactivity of the job. An expanded role in all aspects of content management is becoming an increasingly part of PR’s role, but it also wouldn’t suit as a title.
So, you’re probably asking me what term do I like? I wish I had an answer. Any ideas on your end?
Arguably the most well traveled generation in American history, Baby Boomers, used to the new and different weren’t content with the same old, same old. They helped propel the niche economy, facilitated by technology. We’ve seen everything from special interest cruises and tours to dating sites and ever more niche culinary sensations which we’ve written about over the years. It’s no surprise, then, that in their retirement, boomers are looking for senior-oriented communities to pursue their special interests with the like minded and to be more active in body, mind and soul. And their numbers and healthy assets are propelling a growth in this newest niche.
True, some sports oriented communities like golf and polo have been around for decades. The differences now are that interests are a function of everything from sexual orientation to a wide range of passions and hobbies. Think LGBT focused communities and university based enclaves where residents take classes and have access to skilled nursing care. Others are devoted to the arts such as the NoHo Senior artists Colony apartments in North Hollywood, California with classes in collage construction, creative dance and screenwriting. Probably one of the most unusual is Escapees Care Center in Livingston, Texas, for those with an interest in recreational vehicles and onsite medical treatment.
But don’t think these come cheap. At one multi generational community called NewBridge on the Charles entrance fee for independent living apartments range from $600,000 to $1.3 million besides monthly expenses. The fee is 90 percent refundable but it’s still a major outlay and isn’t risk free.
With the market potential in numbers and price tag, it’s a sure bet to conclude these kind of communities will grow. What’s the next niche?
In an article in the New York Times, Max Greenberg, a senior living adviser and senior real estate specialist in Palo Alto, California predicts we’ll see ones run by large national fraternities and sororities “allowing seniors to once again experience the partying, socialization and spirit of frat life they had in collage. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Grateful Dead oriented community sprout up in the Bay Area, “he concluded.
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
It’s natural to think, who would be interested in a behind the scenes look at the engine room of a cruise ship? Or a look at the housekeeping department of a hotel? The answer, a lot of people. One of the favorite pastimes of cruise ship passengers at Carnival is the engine room tour.
In this day and age when all surveys point to an interest in travel experiences, certainly up there at the top are opportunities to see what is happening behind the scenes. This works not only for travelers, but also, for luxury brands in particular. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate craftsmanship, artisanry, expertise. A company that really gets the value of this is LVMH. And when they get behind a concept, they go all the way.
Case in point, in 2011 they launched what they called Open Days in which 25 of their brands from Dior to Dom Perignon opened their usually closed ateliers to the public. Tickets were free, but reservations were necessary. As reported in the New York Times, in year one 6,000 spaces allotted for Louis Vuitton’s workshop in Asnieres were taken within 90 seconds of release; for the Christian Dior Couture atelier it took 3 minutes to fill. They wrote, “From Paris to Poland, where Belvedere vodka is based, some 100,000 people attended the first open atelier weekend. Last year, the total was 120,000 and a third weekend is planned for 2015.”
This is obviously a low cost/no cost initiative and one most products and services could be able to do. Love to hear any behind the scenes offerings you do at your firm.
Photo courtesy of www.nytimes.com
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.