Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Using Art to Sell Real Estate

faena development miami

The latest luxury real estate trend: high end condo developers have found the perfect new amenity — art, and they’re using it to generate buzz, separate themselves from the competition, and for community relations, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.  New York and Miami developers are leading the pack in this innovation.One of the more creative uses of art is to make friends in the neighborhood before the building’s opening by holding a monthly tour of area galleries.  For instance, the lobby turns into an art gallery every six weeks at 350 Bleecker in New York’s West Village, complete with an opening party for 50 to 75 people and actual sales of the art. An invite to a potential client becomes a social event and time for bonding.

Probably the boldest initiative is from Argentine hotel and real estate developer Alan Faena (hotels in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro) who is building a $100 million exhibition space called Faena Arts Center by starchitect Rem Koolhaas that will make the development (pictured here), which includes a hotel, a cultural destination. It will feature art exhibits and dinners with visiting artists. The Faena Group also sponsors an annual art award with $75,000 in prize money ,and commissions original work as well. Also in Miami, the new Oceana Bal Harbour has commissioned $14 million in art from mega artist Jeff Koons. After five years, the art can be sold upon an 80% majority vote of homeowners. Similarly, at the Ritz Carlton Residences in Chicago, buyers of apartments selling for $1 to $11 million will get a share of a half million dollar art collection. They can choose to change it or sell it and split the proceeds. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out as, though it’s a noble effort, if you’re ever been on a condo board you know how contentious even the smallest thing can be.

Rent a Slum Dwelling, the Newest Hospitality Niche



The favela of Rocinho in Rio de Janeiro

The favela of Rocinho in Rio de Janeiro

We’ve written about tourism microniches from danger and grief to scandal and slum tourism. But all of that was about visiting sites – an in and out kind of thing. Now a new company is offering a chance to get up close and personal with Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, promising “cultural immersion, stunning views, and an alternative to expensive and boring hotels”. Fueled by the scarcity of rooms projected during the upcoming World Cup, a new start up called Favela Experience begun by an American is promising “affordable World Cup accommodations” in Rio’s slums. This can range from bunk beds to a private room or entire apartment. Many of the accommodations have WiFi and large screen TV as well as the promise of a favela tour by the owner, and rooftop terraces. Plus, they talk of an opportunity to do good as in helping to supplement the income of the favela dwellers. Part of the profits go to fund a DJ school for neighborhood youth. It’s very easy to believe that we could see the beginning of the gentrification of the favelas, already being snapped up  by investors who see the potential in the dramatic views commanded from the hilltop locations.

Keeping up with the Crawleys (of Downton Abbey)

More and more consumers these days want to live the Manor Life. Call it the Downton Abbey Effect: demand for the well-staffed home is on the rise, according to agencies and house managers alike. Clients are calling for live-in couples, live-out housekeepers, flight attendants for private jets, stewards for the yachts and chefs for the summer house.


Psychographics and Hotel Lifestyle Branding Part 2

Using psychographics rather than demographics (see Part 1) what are the options and new directions in hotel lifestyle branding for the hospitality and cruise industries?

The oldest lifestyle branding route is still through a celebrity recognized in a specific category, primarily food/chefs (Daniel Boulud), golf (Jack Nicklaus), and architecture/design (Philippe Starck).

Major hotel brands like Starwood Hotels and Resorts and IHG are segmenting by special interests. Starwood has been a leader in this over several decades, with its fashion brand (W), wellness (Westin) and the newest, eco-luxury (1Hotel) and entertainment (Aloft). At the same time, they continue to build their straight luxury portfolios, with high end appeal (The Luxury Collection and St. Regis).

Lifestyle brands especially from the fashion world – Versace, Armani, Bulgari, Missoni and others – are creating immersive hotel brand experiences at the high end. In a very interesting development, at the other budget end of the spectrum, Marriott is doing a partnership with IKEA. My prediction: always one to watch, LVMH will use its hotel acquisitions to showcase its full range of lifestyle product lines. Imagine this: you walk into their hotel and are greeted by runway models, offered a glass of Moet et Chandon. Want more? Visit the Moet et Chandon Ice Lounge (already in existence). Choose your fashion suite – Celine, Donna Karan, Fendi, Pucci maybe with Acqua di Parma bath amenities. It’s dinner time and you’re hungry? Head down to the restaurant through the lobby fragrant with the newest perfume from Dior, order a lobster and a glass of Chateau d’Yquem. And before heading home, stop off in the hotel shop and pick up a Bulgari or Chaumet watch as a memento of your stay.

And finally, the newest option is to brand by a niche, special interest category. Examples include the Food Hotel, Divorce Hotel, Women Only Hotel, and the Pet Hotel.  Interestingly enough, most of these have come out of Europe. Marketing associations with a niche such as Design Hotels are yet another choice, also a European invention.

Post by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist

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

Five “Must Do’s” for Luxury Brands


One of the better articles I’ve read of late was on five “must do’s”, marketing for luxury brands by Steve Kraus. It succinctly focused on what practical messaging and product features make for success. Here’s a recap:

  • Communicate excellence throughout the brand experience—from materials and craftsmanship to the service. (my addition – if possible, let consumers see first hand the process of creation and, better yet, offer a bespoke option. For instance, Louis Vuitton just opened an in store atelier at their shop in New York’s SoHo where consumers can have their leather goods personalized and see it happening).
  • Motivate purchases with emotional engagement and quality.
  • Use the new luxury vocabulary of the times that most resonates with affluents: words like unique and rare that connote scarcity and authenticity (my addition – note that unique is a superlative so do not say “most unique”).
  • Offer multi-layered benefits, these can be anything from utilitarian benefits  to solid value and top design.
  • Connect with the next generation, who he described as “the emerging alpha affluents” (love that term). They’re a unique breed with a totally new approach to luxury. Read what we’ve said about them in one of our Luxury Trends newsletters.

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and 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.

New Real Estate Model: “Post Luxury Ranch”

It’s no surprise that economic hard times, plus new environmental and social values, are key factors in the death of the McMansion craze. You can almost hear the sigh of relief from some.


5 Things We Love about Miami

The 14th Annual International Real Estate Congress at the Biltmore Hotel last week garnered some good news on the real estate front – at long last. It was very hopeful to hear the experts tell us that things are finally on the move again and that inventory is shrinking.


Survival Strategies in Today’s Real Estate Market

In a real estate world that sometimes seems a bit like Oz, developers are utilizing creative strategies to survive the current market. The goal is to create some cash flow and to reduce inventory, with the added long range benefit of stabilizing prices in a sector still in free-fall.