Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

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 Whether it’s the “coveted” 18-34 males or moms from 25-44, this is an outdated way to target for many reasons.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

Hotel Websites Gone Wrong



Four Seasons Weddings Website

Four Seasons Weddings Website

Since starting this blog and newsletter on luxury travel and lifestyle trends in 2005, we have always focused on what’s next and new opportunities in travel and lifestyle – all positive. For once we’re making a departure – and writing about something gone wrong. Hotel websites. Granted, we haven’t seen all of the websites in existence, but we’ve seen hundreds. And the overwhelming majority are boring and have obviously used website templates. Speaking about the luxury segment  (the universe of hotels is too large to opine on), most websites have no personality, no point of view, are weak on compelling content, and don’t say “luxury”. So, you say – and are correct to say – what do we think are effective, aspirational websites? Here are some of our current favorites and why:

A special hats off to Four Seasons Hotels for its weddings website. The site reads like an online publication, rich in interesting content, with feeds from various social media channels and a section promoting gift cards.

Peninsula  Hotels – they do contemporary classic and luxury so well: gorgeous images, clean, and with a point of view. Their current campaign is “Glamour Redefined” and the site conveys that.

Standard Hotels – leave it up to Andre Balaz and his team to have a point of view – in t heir case, cool, now, and with its own culture. In fact, “culture” and community are their rallying point.

Le Cheval Blanc – In thinking of whose website to go to, who is always right there on the touch point of luxury lifestyle – LVMH. Sure enough, their website for their two Le Cheval Blanc hotels is stunning. Two full screen images pack an emotional punch as well as the strong  design element and sense of texture. Fabulous.

For an individual hotel, effective for its destination and audience, The Puli in Shanghai’s site gets high marks for sophistication, style, and classic contemporary luxury.

Which hotel websites get your vote?



Hotels Accelerate Innovation in F & B

Four Seasons Food Truck

Four Seasons Food Truck

kwe blog four seasons food truck 2

Over the years, first at my alma mater Hilton International and later
representing hotels and resorts, I frequently heard hotel GMs complain that
guests were bringing in pizza and fried chicken from the outside to their guest
rooms. This was particularly true in the off-season at resorts when the bargain
crowd moved in. Now, hotels have decided if you can’t fight them, join them.

As reported in the New York Times, the Amway Grand Plaza
hotel has created its own pizza delivery service .Convenient ‘grab-and-go’
restaurants with selections of sandwiches, salads and beverages  are
becoming more commonplace. The Westin Diplomat is one of several Westins that
created their own take on the concept with restaurants called ‘Ingredients, Some
Assembly Required’ in their lobbies. In some, but not all cases, these are in
addition to traditional room service offerings. For guests it’s a money/time
saving choice. For the hotels, it’s a way to capture some additional revenue
that would have otherwise gone elsewhere

With the high cost of running a food and beverage operation, hotels are looking
for more ways to capture revenue both in volume and by increasing the average
cover. In the luxury end, culinary experiences are increasingly more common which
offer the added benefit of reinforcing luxury branding. We’re also seeing
more hotels developing dedicated websites to highlight themselves as food
destinations. And, in one of the more exciting innovations, Four Seasons Hotels
has launched a food truck that is traveling to a number of its West Coast properties.

Young Foodies, your Devoted Customers-to-Be

Mikey Robins, 15, is the youngest champion of the Food Network's "Chopped".

Mikey Robins, 15, is the youngest champion of the Food Network’s “Chopped”.

More on millennials marketing. Remember you read it here first – teenagers and offspring of affluent parents will be a food focused generation. All of the signs are there. Teens favoriting the Food Network and other foodie shows, then trying out what they see in the kitchen. Even toddlers have become adventurous eaters and think nothing of eating sushi, sashimi and “Babe-a-ccinos” (a coffee free cappuccino).  We are, indeed, a food obsessed population. Look not only at the proliferation of cooking schools, growth of culinary tourism, tourist board food and wine festivals, but social networking sites, blogs, and review sites. Youngsters are eager to join their parents in cooking classes at the pricier resorts around the world. I have a 13 year old niece whose best friend gave her a ring that was inscribed with the words “kale” in honor of her obsession with the dark green leafy vegetable. Where does this come from? Their parents’ foodie culture.

Now we’re seeing exhibits honoring the world’s leading chefs: early next year will be an exhibit of the drawings and diagrams of master Spanish chef Ferran Adrià at the Drawing Center in New York.  And then there’s the Food Hotel which we’ve written about before. What does this all mean to marketers? Capturing the imagination and interest of these young foodies can create indelible memories that can translate into a devoted customer-to-be.


Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist

The Next Step in Green Tourism


Sims Municipal Recycling Facility

Sims Municipal Recycling Facility


We’ve come a long way in our growing awareness of green tourism and other sustainable business practices. Next up? Expect to see more consumer education in “behind the scenes” green programs. A recent New York Times article caught my attention, “Architecture in Tune with the Climate”. Most interesting was the description of a new state-of-the-art processing center, Sims Municipal Recycling Facility, due to open in October in Brooklyn, New York. The facility processes all the plastic, metal and glass collected by the New York City Sanitation Department. But what’s novel is the building is by an architect who usually designs museums and art galleries. Her goal for the 11 acre site? To make a place that does its processing job, but that’s also architecturally significant. And more interesting still, there will be an information center where tours will be offered including a chance to see sanitation workers sort through the plastic, glass and metal. At one of our clients, we’re going to launch a behind-the-scenes tour designed for families, which explains and demonstrates our sustainability practices, serving the added benefit of reinforcing our commitment to the environment.

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist

House Calls Spread to Other Retail, Service Areas

kwe goat2


Just when one thinks s/he has heard or read everything, how about this one — rent a goat, or rather, up to 800 goats. In the latest in ‘house calls”, Travel and Leisure describes a new Washington-based business that rents goats for brush removal . The animals are said to be able to eat two dump trucks’ worth of debris. The cost? $325. There are also podiatrists, car mechanics who fix your problem in your driveway, vets and even a nonprofit that sells medical marijuana to patients in San Francisco (prescription required). Next up in the hospitality industry? Rent a chef for dinner parties or room service (rather, house service) beyond the hotel doors.

Novel Way to Communicate Quality Message

kwe lecole3


Luxury retailers are turning to offering apprenticeships for a day or less in a new twist on communicating quality, artisanry and detail that goes into making the pricey goods, one of the new luxury retail trends. Two of the more innovative programs include Van Cleef & Arpels’ L’Ecole in their 18th century mansion in Paris. They offer classes in three areas: History of Art, Universe of Gemstones and Le Savoir Faire. In the latter series, “Admiring Uniqueness and Team Craftsmanship”, participants create a mock up by painting a design in gouache, cut wax to make a model and practice ways of working with metal for the setting. Sessions start at $800 for four hours depending on the class. Patek Philippe in its New York office offers half day classes by invitation only, including insights into the craft of watchmaking and hands on instruciton. For instance, students put the Tiffany & Co logo on Patek dials using an antique stamping machine. Then they look through high tech microsopes to look at the inside of a Patek Grand Complications. It’d be interesting to know how many pieces of jewelry and watches are sold to participants after the classes.



PR Director: the new Director of Content?

In this time where content is king, where is the responsibility for content best placed?This was the topic of a provocative article in Digiday on “PR Nudges Its Way to the Content Table.” My contention is that we’re not nudging our way, we’re already in the game. Whether identified as such or not, public relations pros who are at the top of their game are evolving into “Directors of Content”, responsible not only for developing ideas, but also, for creatively distributing the information in different iterations through varied distribution channels.  For example, let’s say xyz hotel launches a new restaurant. The first channel is obviously the PR “evergreen” – a news announcement to the media. The same information can go out as a consumer piece – as a recipe, and in an e newsletter to the hotel’s mailing list. Putting the chef’s or food and beverage director’s byline with an opinion piece on how to make your operation environmentally sustainable – “best practices” – makes it a shoe in for any number of blogs – from hotel industry and Slow Food to those dealing with the environment. And then there’s the whole area of social media where the slant is engagement and conversation, certainly a forte of any PR professional. In a article mentioned, they also referred to “native” advertising, in other words, the world of sponsored posts which are more editorially oriented (less flowery copy) than advertorials. To be sure, the space is purchased, so then it might follow that advertising will do the copy. For PR professionals, this native advertising is just another name for articles we call “service” pieces. And then there’s another perspective expressed in the Digiday article from an ad exec:

“Creating content is still a line item on an invoice, whether that’s for PR agencies or ad agencies. What experts say, however, is that owning content-creation will come down to one thing: execution. PR has just as good an opportunity as any other industry to be in a strong position to own this stuff and play a leading role helping brands,” said Rick Liebling, creative culturalist at Y&R. It comes down to: Do you have chops or don’t you?”

To be sure, the challenge is that PR especially in hotels often has responsibilities other than “content”. Sometimes it’s special events, other times crisis communications, counsel, guest relations, and more. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. For sure you’ll be reading more about this in future blogposts.

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist

The Restaurant Industry’s Latest Social Media Trend

While cell phones can be an annoyance to fine dining connoisseurs, leading establishments are now encouraging Instagram users to snap shots mid-meal, tag the restaurant’s feed mid-meal, use a specific hash tag relating back to a topic or dish and even offer special perks to influencers with many followers.

According to The Wall Street Journal, a new Chicago start up, Popular Pays, works with a dozen local restaurants to reward free food to influential Instagram users with 500-1,000+ followers. Fine dining restaurants even offer off-the menu perks for a mid-course photo shoot. Posh Italian Restaurant on NYC’s Upper East Side, dubbed 83 1/2, now offers a free attogato pop- a hazelnut-and-espresso ice pop that isn’t on the menu- to customers who post a photo from inside the restaurant and tag the manager’s feed.

Not only do these picture-crazy customers serve as “brand ambassadors”, they drive traffic to the restaurant’s own Instagram feed. Restaurants use instagram to showcase photos of mouth-watering signature dishes, inform users of specials, and share behind-the-scene glimpses of the kitchen.. This February, while Instagram announced its nearly 100 million monthly users, social media marketing platform MomentFeed released the first-ever “Best Instagram Practices for Restaurants”.

Blogpost by Becca Tash

Digital Strategies for Luxury Brands #8

This is the eighth of nine digital strategies for luxury brands.

Encourage interactivity with gamification/competition. (socially savvy Marc Jacobs includes its consumers in brand activities. Its ‘World of Marc’ social video contest asks consumers to create YouTube video and submit it via Twitter to enter to win an exclusive photo shoot with photographer Brian Bowen Smith in Los Angeles).