Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Solo Travelers, an Evolving Market

Solo travelers

 

The phenomenon of solo travelers has evolved. It’s no longer just the “single” — unmarried, widowed or divorced. And not only is this market segment growing, but it represents a large, untapped potential.

Solo travelers make up about 23% of all leisure travelers according to the U.S. Travel Association. And almost 40% of total travelers replied they would take a vacation by themselves if they had the opportunity, in a survey by MMGY Global.  So who is this new vacationer who is going alone? Men and women. With work schedules more demanding than ever, couples are having a harder time coordinating travel schedules. And in this age of special interest travel, often one member of a couple wants to go on perhaps a wellness holiday or go trekking in Bhutan and the other prefers to go golfing. With the tremendous number of tour offerings, finding a group, a price point and departure that suits, is easier than ever. And then there’s the traditional market of solo travelers — the unmarried, the widowed or divorced. With people marrying later, more getting divorced, and living longer, the numbers in these categories have soared.

All of this has major implications for hotels. As we all know, single supplements are a sore point among this group. What can be done? Why can’t hotels build more single rooms or I can see the potential in a hotel chain just with studio rooms — 3.5 or 4 star? Then there are new challenges in restaurants. As reported in an article in the Wall Street Journal, “ Your Dream Vacation: a Table for One and a Selfie”, Jason Moskal, vice president of lifestyle brands for InterContinental Hotels group and Hotel Indigo said the number of solo guests has risen by a double digit rate in the past 18 months. He said staffers are paying more attention to being up to date on local hot spots since independent travelers count more on the concierge desk.  How about dining? Solo travelers are no longer resigned to just ordering room service because they don’t want to go into a fine restaurant alone. So there also needs to be sensitivity training in how to treat a single diner — some like to engage with wait staff, chatting, and others prefer quiet time  .Founding Fathers restaurants in Washington D.C. coaches staff to convey ease to solo diners when they arrive, never pity. “We look for the personality in their eyes — someone who is there to engage will give you those clues,” said Dan Simons, a co-owner. They also sometimes offer free samples of popular appetizers and cocktails, showing they value their business.  Bar seating for restaurant meals works well, a personal favorite of mine as you can choose to engage with a fellow diner or not.

There also needs to be sensitivity to language. The word “single” doesn’t work since, as mentioned, many are not “single” in the traditional sense of the word. Tour operators, too, have made changes in wording of promotional literature. Country Walkers avoids using “romantic” to describe its soft adventure trips and the article reported that Norwegian Cruise Line never uses “single” to describe new studio rooms or private lounges to cater to travelers boarding alone.

Finally, speaking about dining, especially interesting is a recent statistic from Open Table the online restaurant reservation service — dinner reservations for one are the fastest growing party size, up 62% in two years. The most dramatic gains are in Dallas, Miami and Denver.

Photo courtesy of www.cyclicx.com

A Destination That Does It Right

red inclusive card

You’ve read here about destinations that do it right – social media campaigns (Swedish Tourist Board), advertising concept (Amsterdam Tourist Board) and the UK does an especially good job of capitalizing on country milestones and cultural events. That these destinations are cutting edge probably isn’t very surprising. But would you believe The Black Forest Highlands in Southwestern Germany (Hochschwarzwald) is right up there with some innovative product offerings that show their understanding of what today’s travelers want: product with a sense of place, technology, superior value and experiences.

Let’s start with value. Travelers who stay for two nights or more at any one of over 300 holiday accommodations get a Red Inclusive Card free. Often destination value cards have a lot of features but most of them are of little interest. This is a notable exception. The card with a clever tag line of “experiences included” features not only the usual free admissions to numerous attractions and cultural offerings, but also, free local transportation anywhere in the region, guided electric bike tours, golf, spas, rental of cross country ski equipment, and, most impressive, use of a BMW i3 to discover the Black Forest landscape with climate neutral transportation. Besides the value appeal, the features encourage travelers to immerse themselves in the destination, making for a richer, more memorable holiday.

And then there are the unique accommodations, Black Forest Highland Design Apartments dubbed with the clever name of “cuckoosnests”. With their wood and rock faces, tree stumps for bedside tables and specially designed furniture, they appeal to the growing number of travelers who want to stay in lodging that offers a sense of place.

Is this all working? According to Thorsten Rudolph, CEO of the Black Forest Highlands,   the cards have increased tourism to the area from 2010 to 2014 by 27.5%. Each year about 245,000 cards are given out and since 2010, more than two million cards have been used registered. Especially valued and used are the free entrances to the various activities and highlights including Ski Tickets to the Feldberg, Spa Paradise Blackforest, boat trips on the Titisee. When the Black Forest Highlands Card started in 2010 there were 180 participating hotels and now there are 345. Sounds like a success by any measure.

The New Hotel Grab n’ Go, Food Courts?

imanol-gourmet-experience-6

Food courts are a whole new breed these days, even in airports. I just returned from Europe with flights through Rome’s Fiumicino and Lisbon’s International airports and, to my delight, found appealing options in the food courts . People like them – the variety, speedy service for our time pressed society, the ability to see exactly what you’re getting, and the modest price point.

Then there are the fancy ones, like the new Gourmet Experience at Madrid’s Corte Ingles which touts the 7 Michelin stars the chefs have in their food court, or the new food hall in Paris’ Galeries Lafayette with outposts of food purveyors from Petrossian to 5 Jotas Spanish ham. To be sure, Berlin’s Ka Da We department store led the way a number of years ago with their full floor of grazing options, a destination in its own right. But what is different is the rapid expansion of the concept in number of venues, kinds of places they’re landing, and the ever rising bar on standards, even at the lowest common denominator (airports).

Now, real estate developers are putting them into renovated buildings as an amenity, betting on companies’ desire to attract millennial workers who grew up on food courts. Example: the owners of the 41-story glassy former home to AIG on 180 Maiden Lane, as part of a $100 million upgrade are putting in a high end food court and a lobby with picnic tables.

What is next in hotel food and beverage trends? I predict that midrange and/or convention hotels will turn to food courts both as a point of difference and to not only lower food costs, but also, as a new profit center coming from leasing the spaces.

What do you think?

Offline Retail Innovation: Trends

Maison & Objet

Maison & Objet

 

The Paris based Maison & Objet, which calls itself the “premiere arbiter of global luxury in the home market” is in Miami this week, the first time in the Americas for this prestigious multi-day event. The Show attracted 340 exhibitors and featured 20 conference topics with thought leaders in design and retailing.I attended one of the seminars on Offline Retail Innovation with panelists Davide Berruto, Founder and Creative Director of Environment and shelter half ;Fernanda Rezende and Cristina Rogozinski, founders of the Brazilian concept store, Amoreira, and moderator Richard Cook, Editorial Director of Wallpaper magazine.

Panelists shared their keys to success and “how to get customers to discover something they didn’t know they wanted”. Here are the highlights:

We’ve all been hearing that travel, retail, it’s all about the experience. LVMH and its brands have recently taken to setting up posh suites in shops for VIPs where they can relax, enjoy refreshment, and possibly meet up with friends so they feel at home. Panelist Berruto has taken the retail experience to a new level, creating a rental home furnished with his products in Venice, California where everything is for sale. The home can be rented by individuals and also for events. He firmly believes that offline retail has to give the feeling, touch, and sound of the product to customers, which is something online can’t offer. “We’re in the theater business,” he said . Does the rental drive a lot of product sales? No, but he has gotten terrific feedback about the positive experience and I’m sure it does wonders to create a “buzz” (he also gets inquiries about whether he can design their homes and I would think he gets guest feedback as well about ideas for product enhancements).

Amoreira’s successful approach in creating a destination store is about creating a slow shopping experience, one of calm, relaxation, and a place to decompress on the one hand, and on the other, creating events as reasons to visit — workshops with designers, popups, book readings. They also carry exclusive, one of a kind merchandise. When it sells out, they replace it, which often entails changing the layout in that specific area . So customers are regularly greeted by not only products that change, but also the layout. In line with their “natural” approach, they eschew ambient perfumed fragrances for the aroma of freshly brewed coffee which clients can enjoy with their home baked cakes.

I asked about service and how to set yourself apart from online retailers? They both emphasized how training is more important than ever, imbuing the team with the story of the product which they can relate to customers and projecting their passion.

Recently I read in Adweek about how Ikea in China had to stop people from sleeping in the their bedrooms in the store. Based on this panel discussion, maybe instead they should set up a sample room for sleeping albeit with a time limit on the snooze? What do you think?

 

 

 

 

Super Rich, What are they Buying?

G650 Gulfstream, the jet of choice of the uber rich

G650 Gulfstream, the jet of choice of the uber rich

 

A colleague said she developed a high end cooking tour to Italy, 7 days with classes each day and stays in Renaissance palaces. The cost? $10K plus airfare. She said she was concerned that she might not be able to sell it at that price. My advice to her? Charge a lot more and you’ll sell it.

As Robert Frank, chronicler of the top 1% wrote, today there are the “haves and the have mores”. And what’s selling are products and services for the top one-hundredth of the 1 percent. While sales of the smaller, cheaper jets, and 150 to 200 foot yachts have dropped, sales of $65 G650 Gulfstream private jumbo jets and yachts over 250 feet are booming (the largest is now the 590 foot Azzam owned by the president of the United Arab Emirates). A recent article by Frank in the New York Times quoted Jim Taylor, a wealth specialist and managing partner of YouGov, a marketing research and survey firm who said, “ The very wealthy are often the ones pulling the trigger right now, and they have a very big trigger.”

How many are in this financial stratosphere and what’s their fortune? The 16,000 families in this category have fortunes of at least $111 million. And, parenthetically, they’re also buying double digit million dollar condos and houses and art. Not surprising the art world continues to break records. If these ultra rich have to fly commercial – pardon the expression – there are new facilities for them as well. Eithad Airways’ A380 has a $20,000 suite with three rooms and dedicated butler and within no time of its being announced,  its 10 initial flights were booked.

To be sure, this is a limited market in terms of the numbers. But then again, with the markups and commissions to be had, you sure don’t have to sell a lot to make a good chunk of change.