Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

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.

Budget Luxury

luxury budget

Flying a private jet doesn’t sound “budget” to me but new European jet carrier Wijet bills itself as “budget luxury”, charging $3,000 an hour for a Cessna Citation Mustang 510 that accommodates four people. As quoted in the New York Times, Alexandre Azoulay, owner, says the “budget” comes in since there’s no need to buy a minimum number of hours.

I guess if you’re an exec that has to get someplace in a hurry and millions or billions of dollars or Euros are at stake – or if you’re a billionaire, then $3,000 an hour is a “deal.” More apt, though, would be to call the service “value” luxury.

All of this prompted my thinking about what luxury means in today’s travel world.

The term “affordable or budget luxury” has been around for a number of years, meaning you’ll have a “luxury like” experience that’s within many travelers’ grasp. The expression packed some punch at the time it was first used, but now – with overuse – it has become almost meaningless.

Today, three-and-a-half star hotels and resorts are claiming to offer luxury – not in terms of service or expensive millwork, but with other elements such as top-of-the-line mattresses, designer linens, marble bathroom countertops or rainfall showerheads.

“It’s a challenging time for anyone who wants to cater to upscale consumers, regardless of their price point,” said Barbara DeLollis, the former USA TODAY hotels reporter. “Why? Younger generations who have vastly different expectations and needs than their parents are forcing new definitions of luxury.“

So this begs the question, what qualifies a hotel or resort as offering total luxury and how do consumers substantiate the claim? Prestigious awards certainly help. Invoking brand names of products used – from suites conceived  by fashion designers to luxury branded amenities and facilities. Not easy. And interesting that another word has not arisen to take the place of “luxury” so I guess we’re still stuck with it.

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:

New Twists on Eating Local


Erik Andrus explains The Vermont Sail Freight Project in their Kickstarter video

Erik Andrus explains The Vermont Sail Freight Project in their Kickstarter video

The eating of eating locally grown food continues to gain steam with new variations on water, land and sea, and novel ones at that.  Road warriors weary of the all too prevalent chain restaurants in airports and on interstate highways, will be delighted to hear that airports across the country are turning to leading hometown chefs for new eateries on the casual side. As reported in the New York Times,  at LAX airport, Michael Voltaggio of Ink and Ink Sack is opening an upscale sandwich shop and Suzanne Goin of the highly regarded Lucques will open a high end deli next month. Chicago’s Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill), Houston’s Bryan Caswell (Reef) and Denver’s Justin Cucci (Root Down) also have new dining spots on tap with extensive menu items to go.  Approaching local from a sustainable transportation model, Vermont farmer Erik Andrus launched the Vermont Sail Freight Project , a low tech approach to both food and energy,that features a 39 foot sailing barge, Ceres, that plies the Hudson River with produce from 30 new England farms. Produce is destined for sale in port towns from Hudson to Yonkers – farmers markets, dinners and parties. In an earlier post on the new phenomenon of the “hobby farmer’ we wrote about urbanites having their own chicken coops for fresh eggs. In the latest twist, a company started a business called “rent a chicken”. For $350 customers can rent a pair of egg laying hens, a supply of food, coop and water dish for a several month period to try it out. All the rewards of backyard chickens for much less responsibility. Sounds like an intriguing idea, but what do you do when you travel? How about a new business idea, hen sitters!?

Digital Strategies for Luxury Brands #1 of 9

It’s no surprise that a brand’s digital presence (its website, its social media – especially Pinterest and Facebook) contributes a great deal to the way customers perceive brands and, if done successfully, will influence sales. Yet many marketers struggle with the way to do it, understandably wary of diluting the luxury brand’s mystique and trying to meet the digital expectations of different affluent age groups. Here’s the first of eight top strategies for bridging the divide and telling your luxury story. Stay tuned this week for one a day through Friday, resuming next Monday until we run all nine.

 How to Best Tell a Luxury Story?

1.Communicate the vision, the dream of the luxury brand by articulating what the brand is passionate about. Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica used its Facebook presence and social media influencers to get the word out about its environmental and philanthropic programs. The effort helped raise $140,000 in donations. Loro Piana is credited for saving the endangered Vicuna, their passion, from extinction in Peru to produce blankets, sweaters and pieces for the affluent.

Conspicuous consumption is back

No surprise hyper luxury is here in a big way, but now we’re realizing a big difference. The world’s richest elite seems to have adopted Beyoncé’s “If you got it, flaunt it” lead and companies are making sure they do precisely that. Here’s a snapshot of recent offerings of extravagant experiences that big money can buy.

After two previous sold out trips, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts teamed up with jet provider TCS & Starquest Expeditions to offer the jet setter’s dream with the third all-inclusive world tour package stopping in Seattle; Tokyo; Hangzhou, China; Shanghai; the Maldive islands; Istanbul; St. Petersburg;  Marrakech; and New York aboard a private jet. Amenities include planning personalized excursions at each destination with the help of expedition managers and an on-board Four Seasons Concierge.

Does a 22 day golfing vacation in Fiji pique your interest? What about playing 12 rounds of golf over 22 days, departing from Maui, teeing off in Fiji, and continuing play over five continents all while flying on a customized Boeing 757? A trip like that carries a $74,450 price tag and already they’ve sold out all 78 slots with 21 hopeful people on the waiting list.

If golf isn’t your thing, Crystal Cruises recently announced an opulent option for those travelling aboard their Rome to Istanbul voyage. A group of 12 guests can enjoy the Ultimate Vintage Room Dinner, a seven-course meal prepared by Matsuhisa, co-owner of Nobu restaurants, at $1,000 per person. Matsuhisa is also offering cooking classes aboard the ship.


Post by Natalie Baj



Visit Barbados & Rihanna: A Match Made in Social Media

On December 17th, Visit Barbados launched Rihanna’s 2013 Barbados Tourism campaign: Are you a Tourist or Traveler? to the world – well, the social media world. The online-only campaign, running mid-December through February, began with a video on Facebook of the award-winning pop singer in her native homeland.


Dabbling in social media while on vacation

A survey developed by KWE group for Casa Velas Hotel Boutique in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico indicated that 70% of their guests were interested in learning to put their best profile forward on Facebook, establish a Twitter account, upload videos and the like. Happy to oblige, the hotel is offering twice weekly workshops, free to guests.


The €30 Martini

It has been widely reported that the recession has dampened the popularity of splurging on high ticket items (or at least openly boasting about such purchases) and many affluents believe that the best way to weather the global recession is to indulge in life’s little luxuries (see our earlier blog item about mini-indulgences). And so it appears that the affluent are still spending…but on what?


Stress-Busting Vacations

There’s no escaping bad news – from dismal employment figures to the economy or the swine flu – and as a result, we’re stressed. And when deep breaths or a relaxing spa vacation just won’t cut it, look to Aggro-Tourism to truly vent and cure what ails you.