Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Director of Happiness and Travel

happiness

 

Dubai, the Persian Gulf nation known in the travel world for the towering Burj al Arab hotel, the world’s biggest indoor ski slope, and an island that looks like a palm tree, is innovating once again with a newly announced Minister of State for Happiness. Though it’s more directed to its citizens, there’s no reason why it couldn’t set another precedent with a Director of Happiness for tourism. Think of the possibilities for destination marketing. From what I read, it would be the first.

I never heard about a Director of Happiness so went on a Google search to see what I could find in hospitality, travel, or in the business world in general. Surprise.  There are Directors of Happiness for employees, customers, and clients. And one site had a chart with the average salary for the job at $72K.  I even found a coach who specializes in happiness whose clients have included the likes of luxury brands Mont Blanc and Jaeger Le Coultre.

But let’s get back to travel and the opportunities there. I could see a destination naming a Director of Happiness as the centerpiece of a campaign to promote the idea that they go the extra mile to welcome travelers. It’d be a good publicity generator as well, provided that it’s part of a larger program that will show concrete results. Like what? First step would be  research to see what visitors would most appreciate. Friendlier locals? Meet the people type programs? More information kiosks? More public restrooms (that’d make a funny commentary)?  And think of the interview potential!

I was surprised in doing research that only one hotel has a happiness concierge – the Waidringer Hof in the Austrian Alps.
The job is described as a part concierge, guest attendant, and hiking guide. The mission: “Your pleasure is the centre of our strategy”.An admirable initiative, but needs to be more substantive.

So colleagues, you have an opportunity. And, finally, just in terms of interesting additional information, Dubai also named the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs as also having a new responsibility for “The Future”. I’d say the Director of Happiness should also be in charge of The Future wouldn’t you?

Key Takeaways from Travel Blogger Exchange ’15

tbex

Key takeaways from the recent TBEX(Travel Blogger Exchange) North America 2015 Conference in Fort Lauderdale. Attracting an international group of travel bloggers, writers, new media content creators, and social media savvy travel industry professionals, TBEX  is the world’s largest conference and networking event for online travel journalists and travel industry companies. Facts, figures, and tips to keep in mind:

Key Takeaways

  • Why Travel Brands Must Embrace Visual Storytelling
    • Data shows that 71% of travelers search for a destination on YouTube before booking to see the visual appeal
    • Good examples of brands using the tools of video and photography to their advantage:
      • Marriott created a GoPro rental package and encouraged guests to videotape their trip
      • The 1888 Hotel in Sydney allowed for anyone with over 50,000 Instagram followers to have a free night (because they have such a large visual following.)
  • Have brand hashtags readily available for guests to access (no longer than 15 characters)
  • Less than 10% of travel brands have videos on their Facebook – this is a huge opportunity for brands to expand upon
  • Platforms to utilize social media:
    • Socialbakers monitors how the competition promotes their content, how it performs, and start reaching bigger audience on social
    • Periscope is an emerging video social platform brands should begin utilizing

 

Working with Travel Bloggers from a Company Perspective

  • Pin articles to a brand’s Pinterest account to expand their reach
  • Airlines will very rarely comp flights because of the margin
  • Bloggers want evergreen content that will continue to generate impressions (a win/win for a company because they will generate sales)
  • Blogs are the third most influential digital resources (31%) when making overall purchases, behind retail sites (56%) and brand sites (34%) according to Technorati
  • “Nearly half of travelers have changed or decided upon a trip because of what they read on social media” – WTTC

 

Travel Reviews

  • Everything is based on a review in this day and age
  • We live in a review culture (i.e. someone looks to their favorite travel blog for hotel recommendations)
  • Credibility is the number one factor of bloggers gaining readers, developing their voice and showing their professionalism
  • As part of a blogger’s editing checklist, they want to be a correct resource (i.e. it’s OK as a brand/PR representative to ask them to correct a story if the information is out of date)

Photo courtesy of www.fathomaway.com

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.

Insatiable Luxury in China

luxury in china

Peninsula Shanghai image from www.sienacharles.com

Post by Karen Weiner Escalera

We’ve all read about the boom in sales of luxury products in China. But nothing prepared me for the reality — the quantity and size of stores of the big names in luxury brands. Staying at The Peninsula Beijing, within two blocks there were several Chanel stores, one larger than the next. Within the hotel itself, besides the entrance being flanked by Chanel and Louis Vuitton shops, there’s a two story arcade exclusively with all the big brands. And this is repeated throughout the city.  Curiously, walking past the shops there was seldom anyone inside. Why? Our guide said that wealthy clients get the brochure of the new collection (or see it online), call the shop, and have the item or items sent to their residences much as mere mortals would order take out food.

I asked the same guide why there weren’t more top Chinese fashion designers. She said why would anyone buy a local fashion brand and pay a lot for a name no one knows. Anyone in the luxury business should not miss a visit to the “knock off” multi-leveled emporiums – the Silk Market in Beijing and several in Shanghai. It’s fascinating to see what brands are being counterfeited besides the obvious – Hermes, LVMH, Prada, etc. Beats headphones and speakers seem to be “hot” items. No wonder Apple recently announced a possible purchase of Beats. It was also interesting to see how luxury brands have to quickly come out with new lines to stay ahead of the counterfeiters. Of course new models help fuel purchases but you can’t help thinking that in any case, this counterfeiting greatly debases the brand.

Speaking of luxury and hotels, I also had a chance to see the latest in hotel technology in action by the master, Peninsula. At the hotel in Shanghai, here are some of the picks for top features:

  • Built in “nail dryer” in the dressing room
  • VOIP for free international calls
  • Humidity control for the guest rooms
  • Preset internet radio channels
  • A Yamaha speaker built into a lacquered cabinet, totally unobtrusive
  • And then the bathtub that even they have taken up a notch: luxuriate in the tub watching tv, having a conference call by speaker phone, choosing your favorite spa music, and more

All this being said I kept asking if and when the bubble will burst. As someone said, throughout the country there are thousands and thousands of unoccupied apartments bought for speculation (said one friend, in China the crane is the national bird). Makes for an unstable situation, no?

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.

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>

Using Art to Market Hotels

the betsy

Hotels have been using art to appeal to the affluent market for years. I remember when we launched Ritz Carlton Hotels years ago, art in the public areas was promoted as a major amenity, as it would become with many other hotel groups and individual properties. Artists in residence, experiences with art such as the Peninsula Academy’s class in Chinese brush painting, art tours, and even one with the word “museum” in its name (21C Museum Hotel), have all been part of the appeal. But now, especially at the recent Art Basel in Miami, it has been taken to the next level, both in uses in marketing and in reaching out to new audiences.

And that’s not just travel products, but lifestyle in general, brands ranging from American Apparel and Fiat to Maserati, Harper’s Bazaar and Samsung. Publishing, apparel, automotive, beverage, food, they’re all jumping on the bandwagon and in a major way. According to a recent New York Times article, “In Marketing, Art’s the Thing”, they’re using art to reach consumers in their 20’s and 30’s who are already making art part of their lives, as a differentiator in the luxury category, and as a point of reference for relating to the beautiful and artisanal.  Miami hotels chose to wave their flag during Art Basel with popups – from The Newstand at the Standard Spa Miami and all night dining at The Raleigh to cultural events at The Betsy. The Betsy’s tie-ins were especially notable, featuring exhibits in its dedicated visual arts space, programming inviting guests to interact with the artists, and a cause related marketing initiative. Percentage of all works sold is contributed to the Zara Center for AIDS Impacted Youth in Zimbabwe.

Restaurants and bars got into the act with special themed menus like Red Steakhouse’s “Red Basel” and cocktail bar The Broken Shaker serving up drinks with their companion art. Pamela Drucker Mann, publisher of Bon Appetit cited food and art coming together, giving examples of restaurants designed to look like art galleries and “tablescaping”, designing table arrangements or centerpieces. Indeed, art sells.

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President & Chief Strategist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Next Step in Farm to Table

Round Hill Hotel & Villas, Jamaica photo: modernfarmer.com

Hotels That Farm: Round Hill Hotel & Villas, Jamaica
photo: modernfarmer.com

Fairmont Hotels has its rooftop beehives, more hotels and restaurants their herb and vegetable gardens and buy local, and spas their herb gardens to use in treatments. It’s all part of the rapidly growing farm-to-table movement you’ve read about. Consumers, too, are doing their thing with urban chicken farming, gardening and beekeeping  proliferating across the country. In fact, this has raised issues for municipalities who are relooking zoning. The consumer phenomenon is called the “hobby farmer”, you could say a logical next step in the farm-to-table movement that has fueled a growth in farmers’ markets, community sponsored agriculture and young people going back to the land. To reach out to the market segment of “foodies”, the passionate about farm to table, and would be young farmers, there’s an intriguing new website and magazine  — Modern Farmer. Out since April, it already has a global following in Europe and Australia. I can see why. There are highly original, fascinating articles not covered by any other publication. Former President Bill Clinton contributed an article about the work his foundation is doing with farmers globally, and his memories of helping on his uncle’s farm in Alabama. Categories include food, travel, plants and animals and culture among others. Other articles have included everything from Hotels that Farm and  Farmers’ Market Etiquette to the Boston Design Center getting a 55K square foot rooftop garden, and probably more than you’d ever want to know about goats (a “hot” menu item now….the new lamb?).

Reprinted from www.miamicurated.com