Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Service, Small Business and CRM

No one doubts the effectiveness of CRM systems and loyalty programs though for small businesses, the costs of implementation in dollars and human resources can be a challenge. So what’s a small business – be it hotel, restaurant, service provider to do? Here are two examples of the right way and wrong way based on my recent experiences, and then a look at the takeaway.

Two hair salons. Both I’ve been going to for several years. Salon 1: Oribe in South Beach. When the hair stylist is running late they let me know. If there’s a big traffic tie up they give a call. And the best yet, this week I called to make an appointment. First, and unbelieve, the receptionist recognized my voice ( I go every 6 weeks). Then, she asked if I’d like an appointment in the morning, remembering my preferred time. Whenever I walk in, she makes me feel as if I’m coming home.

Salon 2. They have all of the tech stuff – as soon as I make an appointment I get a text confirming it. Then, a day before I get another text and a call (overkill). The problem. When I call they always ask me for my phone number which is in the computer, act as if this is my first time at the salon, and have me spell my name more than once.

Now which salon will I recommend? What’s the takeaway? It’s so important in a service company to have a good receptionist and do whatever to keep him/her so there’s longevity and he/she gets to know the client. Tech goes just so far.

Madigan Pratt, President of MP & A Digital and Advertising who has serious credentials in CRM summed it up. “Today CRM software allows companies with a culture of great customer service to move up to another level. When they do they can achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

Problem arises when companies think office automation software is the answer to their customer service problems. Staff may know how to push buttons, but do they really know how to empathize a customer? More often than not, the answer is no.

“CRM with a human touch just may be the answer”, he concluded.

Psychographics and Hotel Lifestyle Branding Part 1


Special interests and passions are driving travel decisions more and more, from themed weeks at hotels and cruise ships and tour operator offerings to learning vacations and now, hotel brands. Drivers in travel buying decisions are increasingly about psychographics – behavior rather than demographic determinants.

Let’s take a look first at the traditional “big four” of demographics: gender, age, geography and income and their influence today:

  • Gender lines continue to blur with women taking on more of the traditional role of men and vice versa, and the advent of same sex marriage.
  • Age is also less important. Whether it’s the “coveted” 18-34 males or moms from 25-44, this is an outdated way to target for many reasons. First, people are age shifting and not living lives based on their chronological age. Second, the top end of a demographic (34) has almost nothing in common with the low end (18). Also, age demos leave out influencers and others for whom a message may be relevant. Finally, focusing on age can take you away from emotional or other relevant benefits.
  •  Then we have geography. In this global, highly mobile world, people often spend their lives in multiple cities.
  • Of the four determinants, the only one that is still very important is income, especially at the two ends of the spectrum: budget and high end.  Price will trump passion if you’re on a budget and at the high-end, travelers are reluctant to compromise their comforts and service.

However, these traditional measurements don’t tell you “why they buy”- why consumers would choose one brand over another. Psychographics, or lifestyle and behavioral information are playing a larger role in hotel branding, which was my topic as a panelist for the Urban Land Institute, Southeast Florida/Caribbean chapter, last month. What are some of these options and new directions for the hospitality and cruise industries? Check out the answer in Part 2 tomorrow.

By Karen Weiner Escalera, President & Chief Strategist

Marketing to Teens: The Product

Real estate developers are joining homeowners in creating the new “must have” space in a luxury home – the Teen Suite or Teen Lounge. And, based on the trappings and amenities of these new designer spaces, “Go to your room” will no longer be a punishment for teens. To the contrary. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal described a 1,000 square foot teen suite in a Manhattan townhouse, built at a cost of $750,000 that has ping pong and billiard tables, a recording studio, kitchen, and theater for movies and videogames. Posher yet is a Michigan home with what they call a “kid zone” with two master suite size bedrooms, a movie theater, full kitchen, indoor basketball court, DJ mixing station and sleepover space with hanging bunk beds. In luxury condos, it seems it’s no longer enough to have a kids playroom. Now Miami condo Jade Signature will have a teen lounge complete with the latest motion sensor videogames, a computerized blackboard system and ping pong tables.

The travel industry, on the other hand, has been slow to successfully address the teen market, though there have been fitful attempts for over 20 years. Granted, it’s not an easy challenge as many have seen. Most hotels, when they have done something, settle for a lounge where teens can hang out, enjoying a game of ping pong and billiards, videogames and movies. Where hotels have met success (and increased revenue) is with teen spa and beauty treatments — for teens alone and mother/daughter and father/son offerings. Probably the travel industry segment that has done the best job are the major lines in the cruise industry. A good description of the programs is in www.thecruisecritic. Many divide their programs into “tweens” – 12 to 14 and “teens” 15-17. Besides a dedicated meeting space , they offer a full blown activity program ranging from parties and nightly disco to sports competitions, dance classes and even a take off on America’s Idols, “junior Star Seeker”. It helps, too, that the larger ships have a variety of sports facilities, like Royal Caribbean’s ice skating rink, rock climbing wall, mini golf, and basketball. These serve, too, for opportunities for parents to share activities with their kids, making for bonding, much sought after today. Special food options are offered as well, such as NCL’s teen passport where for $34.50 a teen can order 20 smoothies or other non alcoholic drinks.

Not only do teens have a voice In impacting travel choices, but also, today’s teens are tomorrow’s twenty something adults. So I say to colleagues in the travel industry, invite your creative minds to address this market. The opportunities are there for the taking.

Online Shopping of the Affluent

It’s no secret that consumers have increased their spending online. In 2009, comScore, a leader in measuring the digital world, reported holiday season retail e-commerce spending topped just $20 billion. Not too shabby until you compare it to this year’s report of $42 billion – a 110% increase.

A recent article on online spending had us thinking: Do the online shopping trends translate to the affluent consumer? YES! Perhaps even more so… According to the article in Luxury Daily, “Affluent consumers are 40 percent* more likely to make a purchase on a luxury retail Web site compared to non-affluent consumers.”

One of those websites catering to the extremely rich – The Billionaire Shop.


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.


Extravagance in the name of charity

As the luxury sector struggles to make gains (like everyone else), marketers are trying to put a positive spin on an unpopular topic – luxury. Quiet elegance is the mandate of the day and it’s a jungle out there trying to figure out how to market luxury tastefully. And who can argue when luxury is tied to a charitable cause?


Independent hotel reinvention via niches and micro niches

With so much hotel product in the market (with more to come), combined with the drop in occupancy worldwide, more and more hotels are going to need to reinvent themselves. Big global chains have been doing this for a few years now, rolling out new brands to serve additional market segments (Aloft, Andaz, Element, Indigo, etc). The competition has become so fierce that, as most of you have read, Starwood and Hilton are even going to court over alleged stealing of research and market intelligence by the latter.


How to Keep Your Customers Coming Back and Spending

When the going gets tough, the tough get creative. They’re not exactly offering bailouts, but everyone from travel companies to car manufacturers are doing their part to help those who have been laid off in an effort to keep customers spending and earn their loyalty, when things eventually turn around.


Eco-necessity for the hospitality industry

There is some worry that the recession may hold back some eco-initiatives, because in many cases, green travel choices are usually more expensive. For example: high speed rail, which is low in emissions but often more expensive than a low-cost flight.


African chic

Adventurers and in-the-know travelers have been beguiled by exotic Africa for centuries, but what is for sure is that Obama’s prominence and African origins will surely accelerate interest in African tourism, culture and style, and putting the continent firmly back on the chic list. It’s debatable whether the “O factor” will revive Hawaiian tourism the way Jimmy Carter did to Plains, Georgia or Bush to Crawford, Texas.