Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

New Hotel Revenue Models

the surf office

 

First it was business meetings that moved to Starbuck’s away from breakfasts at hotel restaurants or inking deals in a hotel lobby lounge. Then it was inroom movies, supplanted by laptops with streaming video or DVDs. And what about the legendary “power lunch”? As was reported recently in the New York Times, many millennials are skipping lunch for “crumbs on the keyboard”, viewing it as a waste of time.

What’s a hotel to do? Certainly the “Grab n’Go” concept manages to capture some revenue, provide a service, and appeal to a Starbucks budget and time-strapped business executives. In entertainment. Oz Eleonara,chief revenue officer for interactive content and connectivity provider Sonifi Solutions said there’s a greater movement in hospitality to combine entertainment, information and service to create new scenarios for digital interaction between hotels and guests.” In other words, turn a negative – movement away from current inroom entertainment models — to a positive – enabling hotels to connect with guests via technology. But, in the same article in Hotel Management, Scott Hansen, Director of Guest Technology for Marriott International said the company is looking it as a service and not a main revenue driver.

And now we’re seeing the beginning of the traditional hotel business/resort model under fire by offshoots of co-working spaces. In exotic locations worldwide, the countryside near urban centers, and beach destinations, properties are cropping up that offer communal work spaces, accommodations, and the opportunity to network, have fun and instant companionship.

What need does this address? Liz Elam founder of Link Coworking and executive producer of the Global Coworking Unconference said ,”More young people want work-life balance and maybe vacations completely unconnected are not feasible anymore; maybe people won’t take traditional vacations. But they can go to work in paradise for two months.” New centers described in the New York Times’ “A Desk in Paradise” have cropped up in Gran Canaria (The Surf Office), Turkey, and towns driving distance from Paris and Berlin. Right now they’re small in number and rooms and limited in facilities, but the appeal, especially to the Millennials is strong. They’re truly a new breed of “lifestyle” hotels.

The opportunity is there to expand the formula with new locations, more facilities, and ultimately, an upscale version of the concept. Let’s see who gets there first.

Baby Boomers and Retirement Niches

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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.

Culinary Tourism Trends: What’s In and Out

Eat With ; Hummus Brunch with Naama Shefi & Noam Bonnie ; Photo By: Eilon Paz

Make no mistake about it, culinary tourism is booming. It’s now a mature special interest category which brings with it higher expectations for novelty, creativity, and innovative offerings. Cooking and mixology classes, food and wine pairings, and food festivals seem so, well, yesterday. Here’s a look at what was and what’s now.

 

THEN NOW
Cooking classes Behind the scenes with the chef
Wine tastings Hot sauce or other specialty food tastings
Eating local Eating with locals in their homes or outside venues (e.g. mama cooks, eat with a local)
Group food tours Personalized dining itineraries based on food preferences, traveling configurations, budget
World’s Fair with Food Courts Food themed world’s fair (Milan Expo 2015)
Chef driven menus Crowd sourced menus
Dining as party Dining and conversation (“silence is the new luxury”)

 

And in the category of dining trends, it’s important to not leave out gluten free. Any major restaurant has to cater to the needs of gluten free diners. Not only is it expected, but the absence of sensitivity to these special needs loses business and also makes a statement about service.

It’s interesting that in two restaurant visits in Miami in the past 45 days, one to a multi million dollar upscale restaurant operated by an international group, there were only two items on a multi page menu for gluten free. I was with a group of 8 and the diner walked out. In another case, another high-end restaurant, the waiter and kitchen staff had obviously not been trained about this special needs group. Take note!

Photo courtesy of Travel and Leisure

 

Restaurant Trends: Experiences

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The golden word in the travel and hospitality industry these days is “experience” with hotels, tour operators and travel agents touting their special offerings.  Why the interest in “experiences”? Because they evoke powerful sentiments – the stuff that memories are made from, landmark celebrations, and, most importantly, the promise of involvement.

Experiences in the form of  interactivity are hitting the restaurant industry in a big way in innovative directions.  Many of these have the added benefit of more social interaction and the promise of making new friends. Underground dining, where a chef cooks a gourmet meal in his or her home or unusual venue for a prix fixe has been around for a number of years. Here in Miami several prominent foodies started a club where you sign up for a pricey mystery dinner at an undisclosed location and it is often oversubscribed.  Then there’s an extension of the cooking class with not only a market tour to choose ingredients for the class, but also, foraging in fields and streams for special herbs, vegetables or fish.

The latest twist is Dinner Lab which operates popup restaurants across the US.  Emerging chefs prepare a high end prix fixe dinner ($50 to $80  a meal, drinks and tips included) for members who rate each dish’s creativity and taste and each drink pairing as well as whether the course was “restaurant worthy”. Communal tables, guests talking about the dinner as they fill out the rating forms, family style service, and chefs chatting up diners all contribute to the social interaction.

Meals are also presented as a performance, with each getting a name from the chef. And even the setting is different from the usual – dinners are held in large open spaces like the roofop of a parking garage or at a motorcycle dealership.

Dinner Lab’s plan is to operate in 40 cities including international ones and to sell the data at events for anyone looking to overhaul or create a menu.

Photo courtesy of www.forbes.com