Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Men Circa 2015 and the Travel Industry

domenico vacca club

Domenico Vacca’s new club

Remember when “metrosexual” was news, defined as” an urban heterosexual male given to enhancing his personal appearance by fastidious grooming, beauty treatments, and fashionable clothes”? That was in the early 2000’s . In a little over a decade businesses are finally starting to go all out with products and services to meet the interest and need. And men are more comfortable showing their “metrosexual” side. There are major implications here for new products and marketing, and some savvy retailers – but not as yet the travel and hotel business – are getting on the bandwagon.

Let’s speak first about the settings for the delivery of these goods and services. Traditionally you’ve had men’s social, athletic and university clubs, but they’re about socializing and possibly networking, though some have accommodations that are pretty basic. Little or nothing in retail, grooming or heaven forbid pampering services. Enter opportunity.

This fall in New York Italian fashion designer Domenico Vacca is opening a 12 story luxury lifestyle destination that New York Racked called “a Carnival for the one percent”. Not only will it have a flagship retail store for men and women, but a barber shop, gym, long stay residences, Italian café, and a social club/lounge you can belong to for $20K a year. Though there are facilities for women too, the pitch as seen in the images and décor is very much directed to men. I heard there’s another strictly men’s luxury destination on the way from a publisher no less. Stay tuned.

All too often men’s pampering and fashion offerings are done as an afterthought, not getting “equal time” or thought out as those for women. It takes a mindset – to look at everything directed to women buyers and travelers and say what’s the outtake for men. For instance, two years ago we launched a handbag bar at our all inclusive client Casa Velas in Puerto Vallarta. Designer handbags are offered on loan to guests for the evening. It was a big hit, and we decided to expand it this year and are offering a “Murse” – men’s purse, MontBlanc no less (it’s a luxury resort). A small thing, but it makes a statement.

So many luxury hotels and cruise ships have spas with beauty salons but how many have barber shops or pitch men’s grooming? And spa treatments for men can be found on menus, but they almost seem like lip service. Or how about men’s getaways? Aren’t there more creative possibilities than golf and boating?

You men out there, what do you think? What would you like to see?

Is the Term PR Dead?

The term “public relations” may be on its way out according to an article in O’Dwyer’s, a leading PR industry publication. Of 103 members in the PR Council, one of the leading organizations of prominent firms across the US, only eight use PR In their titles. And at the 2014 conference of the PR Society last October, only 11% of the 1450 registrants used PR as a part of their title. The word “communications”, however, was used by 386 or 26% of the registrants. One of the problems with this name change is, in this age of twitter and other social media, communications takes up too much real estate!

I never really liked the term PR. It might be because I always have to explain it. Most people don’t know what it means, many taking its literal meaning — dealing with the public as in  guest relations, customer relations or giving events. I remember years ago in walking around a tony area of Madrid I saw a sign, courses in public relations and learning to be an airline stewardess. Today, it’s not that bad but it’s still not understood.

“Communications” is certainly a clearer term, but it doesn’t begin to cover the breadth of what PR can be, especially in today’s business world, where the discipline has some overlap with strategic marketing and branding. “Communications” also seems a kind of passive term to me, not reflecting the creativity and proactivity of the job. An expanded role in all aspects of content management is becoming an increasingly part of PR’s role, but it also wouldn’t suit as a title.

So, you’re probably asking me what term do I like? I wish I had an answer. Any ideas on your end?

 

 

Travel Awards Inflation and Marketing

Are travel awards still an effective branding tool and if so, how? Magazines, professional organizations, tour operators and more are giving awards on a regular basis. Some companies exist only for their award programs as a stand alone business, reaping revenues from entry fees. All of this has resulted in award inflation. And where they’re so prevalent, they’re less meaningful in the eyes of the consumer.

So what is their value? To the entity giving the award it’s an effective way to make new friends and reinforce relationships. Plus, in this age of social media, lists of Top 10 and Best of always rate high in views.   Award recipients undoubtedly appreciate the recognition, getting their name out there, and being in  rarefied company as in you’re known by the company you keep.

But how about their effectiveness for branding, and how to promote them through public relations? Here are  do’s and don’t’s:

First the “don’ts”:

Too often the knee jerk reaction is let’s do a press release. If an award is given by a media property, other magazines or newspapers won’t be interested – that’s the competition.

It’s important not to send too many award releases to the same media or run the risk of  overkill and their not opening your email after a while.

Think twice about how significant the award is. If it’s not from a well recognized organization, promoting the award can look as if the recipient is desperate to get a distinction and it won’t reflect positively on your brand.

Then the ‘do’s:

Think paid distribution channels as in online industry media (e.g.Hotels Online, HNET) as a vehicle to get the award news out. That helps build recognition within the industry and also helps SEO.

Send the award releases to past press guests who have visited your hotel(s), taken a cruise, whatever. It is a good way to keep in touch and reinforces the fact that you’re maintaining a quality product.

Social media which has an appetite for constant content is a perfect distribution channel for news of awards.

If the award is not from a media property, do consider sending it out to a wider distribution if it’s truly impressive, as in your being in the top 10, 25 or even 100 (e.g.Virtuoso’s bests, Expedia’s Insider Select).

And outside of PR, there are numerous ways to get the word out, especially if the award is impressive, from adding it to your signature and sending an eblast to your internal database, to highlighting it on your website, collateral,  and more.

No More Hotel Exterior Images Please

Why do so many hotels show a total view of the exterior as the signature shot? I can understand showing a façade in itself if it’s striking in design – a landmark design by a starchitect; a treehouse, tent camp or eco lodge; over the top villas, or something else unusual. Recently on an outdoor advertisement I saw the image of a new island resort with a tag line about the “American Riviera”. The image was of an undistinguished high rise. Wouldn’t it be better to show images that conjure up the glamour implied by the Riviera? How about very fashionably dressed couples lunching at the beach served by waiters wearing  crisp white starched jackets serving champagne as they do on the French and Italian Rivieras? The interior of a glamorous casino that could be out of a James Bond film with the men in tuxes? Or better yet, a collage of images that appeal to powerful visual sensibilities in this age of Pinterest. Tell the story visually. Showcase what’s unique. Focus on the details. That will capture attention.

6 Things to Know to Attract the Same-Sex Wedding Market

same-sex wedding same-sex wedding

By Steve Deitsch

With marriage equality seemingly sweeping the country, more and more same-sex couples will be tying the knot in the coming months and years.  To date, well over 75,000 same-sex marriages have been performed in the U.S. and that number will only grow.  There are about 650,000 same-sex couples in the U.S.  so there is huge economic potential.  In fact, the U.S. Congressional Budget Office estimates an additional $1 Billion in revenue from same-sex weddings  if it were legalized across the U.S.

How can your property get a piece of the pie?  Here  are some things to consider:

1.  Become relevant before you relate
76% of same-sex couples want to work with LGBT-friendly properties and vendors. In 28 U.S. states and many countries, it’s perfectly legal for vendors to refuse to work with LGBT couples.  That means you need to vet your vendors, train your staff, and even update your forms so they don’t say “Bride” and “Groom” but “Spouse” and “Spouse,” for example.  72% of LGBT couples want vendors who use inclusive language and 69% want vendors to show inclusive photos.

2.  Location matters
The economic opportunity for those states in the U.S. or the 17 countries that offer same-sex wedding is enormous.  If same-sex marriage is legal in your location, research shows that same-sex couples will spend up to three times more on their wedding than in locations where only a civil union or domestic partnership is legal. Many couples also opt for destination weddings, so if you are in a desirable location in a state in the U.S. or a country where same-sex weddings are legal, cast a wide geographic marketing net.

3.  There is a difference between weddings between men and weddings between women 
Lesbians spend up to 15% more on their weddings than gay men  For example, 66% of lesbians bought an engagement ring, vs. only 19% of gay men. The women also tend to stick more traditional aspects of the wedding ceremony and reception.

4.  Be open to non-traditional and creative approaches to the ceremony and reception – especially for gay men
Because same–sex couples don’t necessarily follow wedding tradition, they are often interested in doing things beyond the ordinary to make it more personal.

5.  Same-sex weddings tend to be smaller and more casual, but more expensive 
Same-sex couples spend slightly more on their weddings and more per guest than the $28,400 the average straight couple spends. Because many of the same-sex couples have been together a longer time, they are often older and their parents don’t invite their friends and distant relations.  Also, most same-sex couples  pay for the weddings themselves.

6.  Show you care
Gays and lesbians are a lucrative audience, and tend to influence the general population and be extremely loyal to a brand or company that supports them.  So if you are new to marketing to the LGBT community, it’s important to establish that you not only want their money, but that you genuinely support the LGBT community.   This can be accomplished a number of different ways:  provide equal benefits and protections to LGBT employees; sponsor local (or national) LGBT charities; and offer products or services or packages that would be of special interest to the LGBT audience.

Sources:  Community Marketing Inc., TheKnot.com <http://TheKnot.com> ,  Pew Research, U.S. Congressional Budget Office, 14 Stories

Steve Deitsch is President of Reverberate! Marketing Communications. The company specializes in reaching the LGBT market.  

Push-Pull on Websites: Brand Identity and Conversion

brand identity

Puli Hotel, Shanghai

My advice to everyone is when developing a new website make sure you have two points of view at the table: representatives from the Branding perspective and the other from Sales/E commerce. You may think that’s obvious, but it isn’t. With so much emphasis now on analytics and ROI, too often brand identity takes a back seat. And, to some extent it’s understandable. A sales message can be immediately measured with clickthroughs, not so branding. What is often forgotten is that everyone who comes to a website isn’t necessarily a buyer. Many have to be “sold” on the product, motivated and inspired enough to want to buy. And how do you do this? Here’s a list of my web brand identity do’s and don’ts:

  • Play up your unique selling propositions. For instance, instead of just showing a sample guest room or suite show the details that make it special, separate it from the pack – the shower, an espresso machine in suite, unusual selection of mini bar items, or even the makeup lighting (e.g. in the Peninsula in Bangkok it’s a wow, never forgot it), etc.
  • Don’t clutter the homepage with too many calls to action on sales or those promotional boxes that scream out for attention (and thus distract the consumer from any emotional response to the images, graphics).
  • No to stock photos. They’ll make you look like everyone else. Plus, we’re living in a time when authenticity is paramount, so make it real and “you”.
  • Give specifics in copy, rather than overloading it with keywords. For instance, list the water sports you offer if you have a resort, nifty things to do that are nearby. And combine that with story telling.
  • To be sure sales conversion is important. You have to make it easy and quick for the traveler to buy so except for maybe a very small, exclusive hotel or resort, the outcome should be a compromise, not a one sided street.

For more on websites, check out my earlier post.

Tactics to Drive Direct Bookings Vs. OTAs

hotel direct booking

With OTAs (Online Travel Agents) driving over 20 percent of total room bookings, taking commission fees ranging from 10-25 percent, what can a hotel do to drive direct bookings to its website? A survey of 2500 consumers by Software Advice, a source for hospitality system reviews, revealed perks hotels can offer to get direct bookings. Here are the  results of their findings:

Main Takeaways to Drive Direct Bookings

1. A free Room Upgrade
It is the top incentive that will convince customers to book directly. This can be as simple as a better view, balcony or kitchenette.

2. Free Meals Top the List of In-Room Perks
When asked which in-room perk would convince respondents to book directly, 43 percent said they could be swayed with a free room-service meal. Tied for second was an in-room massage and free access to the minibar and snacks (19 percent), followed by free movies on demand (16 percent).

3. Free Food and Drinks Also Outrank Other Amenities
When asked which on-site amenity would convince guests to use direct booking through a hotel website, a vast majority (55 percent) chose free food and drinks.

For many hotels, offering a free meal isn’t new. Incentives like this already exist, and many hotels likely understand their effectiveness. The second most convincing amenity was a free spa package, at 23 percent. Trailing behind are a free fitness class (11 percent) and free golf or tennis reservations (7 percent).

4. A Restaurant Gift Card Is the Most Popular Offsite Perk

45 percent of respondents said they would be convinced to book directly if they received a gift card to a popular restaurant as an incentive over other types of gift cards. Far behind are free tickets to a popular event and free transportation services.

You can read the full report here: http://overnight-success.softwareadvice.com/skip-ota-with-incentives-0214/

Vetting Bloggers and Social Media Influencers

blogger outreach success

Much has been written about evaluating social media influencers in general and bloggers,  in particular. With good reason. For travel public relations professionals, vetting influencers  is one of the more time consuming activities, especially when they ask for comp hospitality.One of the better discussions about the topic was in an article by Daniel Edward Craig, a colleague for whom I have great respect, who compiled his input and comments from a webinar on the topic (see below). Here’s one of the highlights:

“How to find and vet social media influencers? Resources like Klout, Twiangulate, WeFollow, Twellow and TBEX will help, but they only tell part of the story. During the webinar, panelist Liz Borod Wright, who teaches social media at Columbia Journalism School and is founder of Travelogged.com, recommended looking beyond the number of followers to quality of content.

Another way of measuring social media influencers and blogger outreach success is by looking at the ratio of followers to following and how engaged they are. Are they sharing and commenting on content – or is it an endless stream of updates that most have tuned out?

Qualifying bloggers

Another challenge for hotels is deciding which bloggers to host. One of our listeners, Sarah, remarked that hotels are often misled by bloggers who either don’t have the audience they claim and don’t produce the posts they promise.

How to avoid this? In addition to evaluating the blogger’s audience, engagement and content quality, you can check traffic stats on sites like Alexa and Compete. However, Borod Wright cautioned that this data isn’t always reliable. An option is to ask the blogger for a screen shot of visitor stats from Google Analytics. But “only if it’s a borderline case, because some may be offended,” she said. And you certainly don’t want a snarky blogger on property.people can skip over.”insider tips.”

Since starting my personal blog, MiamiCurated, where I’m the recipient of press release material, invites and pitches, I have both old and new perspectives on the subject. The old? The same problem all journalists have complained about over time — inappropriate, untargeted information.Especially for planning a blogger outreach, one has to take a good look at the market segment addressed. To be sure, numbers are important, but reaching a qualified audience  for the product is equally, if not more important. Is the audience affluent or mass? What kind of products do they cover? Am I in the right company? What’s the tone – positive or sarcastic? It’s also important to ask about whether they post on review sites, especially in food and beverage – sites like Yelp, Urbanspoon.  In addition, some bloggers are active in forums of other travel and food bloggers, so have more influence than meets the eye. And, a word of advice. If one can’t download images from the website (And I suggest you do allow images to be downloaded, if need be with a password), PR should either send a file of images or give them the images while on property. To be sure, the blogger may want to use his or her own images as part of their own voice. But others just use their own images because it’s quicker, and it often turns out they’re not the most flattering to the property. And, as for asking a blogger for a screen shot, I wouldn’t recommend it as many would take serious offense. To listen to the entire webinar, here’s the link:

Related Link: ReviewPro’s free webinar on “How to Leverage Social Media for Public Relations” (free registration) <http://resources.reviewpro.com/webinar-pr?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=socialmedia&utm_campaign=webinar-pr>

Latest Trends: Men, The Rich Opportunity for Luxury Segment

luxury latest trends

New Berluti Shop in New York

 

Most everything comes full circle at some point, so in that sense it’s not surprising that men, once far surpassing women in sales of luxury goods, are back as a major target. And nowhere is this more evident than in luxury retail. LVMH, whom we know is the lead to follow, is investing tens of millions of dollars in the male market segment. This week they’re opening the first New York store of Berluti, the maker of expensive men’s shoes that they’ve turned into a full apparel and accessories line and are showcasing this in their new outpost. This is part of a $137 million investment they’re making according to the Wall Street Journal. During the Great Recession many women who previously traded up become introduced to the likes of H & M, Zara, Forever 21 and others, and realized they could get knockoffs of the latest trends, such as an “it” bag or clothing items, for a lot less. And it’s unlikely they’ll return to shopping as before. Not so men, who, according to the article, are more loyal to brands and care less about the latest trends. Plus, according to Bain & Co., between 2009 and 2013 men’s luxury spending increased 55% compared with 37% for women. So the luxury heavyweights are opening men only stores. In the past year alone, for example, in Miami’s Design District, Dior and Christian Louboutin have opened shops for men only along with a Berluti store.  If fashion leads the way in luxury latest trends, then what can we expect to see  for men in other lifestyle categories like hotels and spas?  Sounds like a real business opportunity.

 

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.