Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

What’s a Boutique Hotel in 2017?

boutique hotel trends, boutique hotels history, kwe partners

 

What are boutique hotel trends 2017? A look at  the origin of the term, what it means today, and all of its variations. Plus, what’s next. First off, as with the words luxury and gourmet, the meaning of boutique hotel has greatly changed from when it was originally used in the 80’s. Any hotel owner or manager thinking of using the word would do well to understand its first meaning and how that has morphed from then to now.

 

The term “boutique hotel” was first coined in a major way by Design Hotels in the 90’s (though if you speak about a one off “boutique”, others credit Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager in the 80’s). It was used to imply small hotels of up to 100 rooms with personalized service, upscale ( 4 ½ to 5 stars), and one of a kind. Most important to its meaning was the idea of personality through design and décor. Since then, its meaning has been diluted, which so often happens with a “mature” category. The concept has broken up into niches, and the industry giants have moved in.

 

This being said, there still are groups of boutique hotels and one offs that adhere to the original definition, such as we see in Small Leading Hotels, a group within Preferred and Leading Hotels of the World, and Design Hotels.

 

Now we’re seeing “boutiques” on the lower end of four star, and even “budget boutique” which is  widely used. How about size? One thousand room hotels are calling themselves “boutiques”. In these properties, service is no longer a defining point.

 

What most “boutiques” still seem to have in common is the original idea of hotels with personality and/or offering a lodging experience. Then we see niche boutiques themed around art (21c Museum Hotels); décor (West Elm, Restoration Hardware);  fashion (Armani, Bulgari, Missoni); and wellness (Even).

 

Major chains, Marriott/Starwood, IHG and Hilton continue to enter with various boutique brands – Autograph, Tribute, Edition, and more. At the other end are those of smaller companies like Joie de Vivre and others  in Asia.

 

What’s next in boutique hotel trends?  Companies will start to (and it’s already happening) move away from the word “boutique”, as its meaning becomes increasingly diluted so as to be almost meaningless, much as has happened with the words gourmet and luxury. What’s the next big thing?  Some might say “Lifestyle” hotels which we’re already seeing. In my opinion, the term is too vague to be meaningful. Most likely there won’t be one strong concept, but many more new niches. For instance, there’s already a Pet Hotel, Divorce Hotel, Women Hotel. With backing from a major brand in each of these categories, I can see ripe opportunities for the taking.

Interested in more travel trends 2017? Click here for another recent blogpost.

 

Luxury Travel Trends 2017

luxury travel trends

Walking the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage route in Spain, is an example of transformative travel

As we hit the half way point in 2017, what are the luxury travel trends that are shaping up? Some are a continuation of those of the past few years though with a new twist, and others are simply new. Here’s our list of the top six:

 

  • Personalization and customization. Butlers and personal concierges are expected at a top luxury hotel or resort. Their role is primarily reactive. A truly luxury experience is considered one where a resort finds out guests’ passions and special interests in advance of a stay and proactively suggests and plans activities and experiences that address those interests. Case in point: a Four Seasons Resort in the Caribbean sends a guest questionnaire in advance and designs a suggested program of resort and destination activities based on those needs.

 

  • Desire for authenticity. Everything from spa treatments and food to beverage, decor and selections in the hotel’s boutique should reflect the local culture and traditions, and give guests an opportunity to interact with that culture.

 

  • Giving back to society. Cause related marketing and the social responsibility of brands have been around for a decade or more including sustainability, recycling, voluntourism programs, and enlightened labor practices. Now, expect food waste to become a growing issue. With growing inequaiity in the world and media accounts of food shortages and starving populaces, consumers are looking at how their retail and hospitality brands are addressing this issue through food donations, upcycling and the like.

 

  • Making travel easier, from airport arrival to airport departure. With the entire process of traveling becoming more complicated and uncomfortable, hotels that can deliver a seamless door to door service, going beyond the strict hotel experience ,will build loyalty. Think airport greeters; alliances with luggage shipment companies; personal shopper to “stock” a hotel closet with clothes for a weekend getaway, eliminating the need to pack a suitcase; and a  waiting lounge for hotel guests in the airport. (this isn’t new but expect it to be more common).

 

  • Experiences and more experiences. The more they involve interactivity and special access the better.

 

  • Transformative travel. What do you do after you’ve been to Paris, Shanghai, Tuscany, Macchu Pichu,, the Taj Mahal several times? You search for experiences that are transformative – your health (wellness vacations); your spirit (ashrams, religious pilgrimages like the Camino de Santiago), your creative side (painting weeks), your mind (trips with political and economic themes like the New York Times trip to Saudi Arabia to explore the petroleum industry).

 

 

How to Increase the Average Length of Stay

Flower cottage of the Relais Borgo Santo Pietro

Flower cottage of the Relais Borgo Santo Pietro

 

How to increase the average length of stay? This was a question posed to me by one of our clients, a city hotel in Asia. The common tactic is to give an extra room night free based on a minimum length of stay –as in stay for 3 nights and get the 4th night free. But there are two other solid ideas. The first is to team up a city stay, adding on an extra night to the average length of stay, with two or three nights in a complementary destination, a several hour drive or an hour to an hour and a half  flight away (e.g. Bangkok with Chiang Mai or Phuket). To the guest, the benefit is that the work of packaging two destination highlights is done, and then you make it worth their while financially by giving a break in the total price or giving some value add. Besides gaining an additional night’’s revenue, there’s the advantage to the hotels of additional marketing support from another hotel or hotel group and use of a new customer database from a non competitive property.

An even better tactic is to offer exciting compelling activities on site and nearby that make a longer stay desirable. Probably one of the best examples I’ve seen (and experienced) is from the 16 room Relais Borgo Santo Pietro in Tuscany, Italy. The Relais, off of the beaten tourist track, though convenient to Florence and Rome, offers exciting activities that not only tap into  its competitive advantages, but also, a sense of place. They also offer guests an opportunity to learn new skills. In house there’s a resident florist who gives floral arranging classes from a cottage amidst an antique rose garden and does double duty making all of the arrangements for the hotel; an inhouse artisan  — a painter when I was there – who gives classes from her own cottage overlooking a lake; the Borgo Cooking school offers a myriad of classes for adults and children; garden walks; and wine tasting  . Venturing further afield, they offer everything from falconry and sightseeing from a two person plane with private pilot to truffle hunting, hot air ballooning, basket weaving, and novel sightseeing trips.

Rafael Ruiz – Front Office Manager says the Concierge program, which was launched in 2014 enjoys a 50% participation rate by guests and that since beginning the program, average length of stay from overseas guests has increased from 3 to 5 days. A final benefit is that guests leave the hotel wanting to come back and experience the other activities as well as the marvels of a superb resort and stunning setting. A winning formula in luxury hotel marketing ideas.

 

Emojis and Icons, Future of Communication

Two billion smartphone users send over 6 billion emoticons or stickers each day around the world on mobile messaging apps according to Swyft Media. They offer the benefit of instantly understandable communication without the barriers of variable written  or spoken language. So it’s not hard to believe that this can be the future of communication.

Indeed, a few months ago I went to the opening of an exhibit by prominent Chinese artist Xu Bing at the Frost Art Museum in Miami. He did a series of works communicating a story entirely with icons, an idea which occurred to him while sitting in an airport and seeing the signs that were meant to communicate in a “global language”.

Getting back to emojis. They have already been discovered by select major brands as an opportunity to participate in a space that has been difficult to penetrate. Plus, as described by Evan Wray, co-founder of Swyft Media in a recent article in Adweek, they offer the benefit of not being viewed as advertising, but as self expression. Earlier this year Ikea launched 100 branded emoticons, or social stickers. Coca Cola in Puerto Rico created 30 they called “emoticoke” and GE, AT &T, Comedy Central and others are also on board.

How to do it? The emoji keyboard (emoticons are emojis expressing emotions), standard on many smartphones, has emojis approved by the Unicode Consortium which can be a difficult process to penetrate. Adweek suggested that brands who want to create their own emoticons and stickers need to make their own apps or partner with messaging apps like Kik, WhatsAPP and Facebook Messenger. Worth it? I definitely say so.

Are you getting on the bandwagon?

Spirits Tourism

Kentucky Bourbon Road Trip

Kentucky Bourbon Road Trip

Wine tourism has been around for decades – tours of vineyards, wine hotels, and wine trails, from California and New York to New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the southern tier of South America and more. Of late, thanks to craft breweries we’re seeing a growing number of craft beer festivals and museum like brewery tours. The newest link in the chain, not surprising given the celebrity status of mixologists and interest in new beverage taste sensations, is spirits (as in liquor) tourism. Spirits tourism is following what is a major growth in spirits revenue nationwide. Excluding wine and beer it has doubled to over $50 billion from 2000. Its appeal is also based on an interest in local products and history and, similar to craft beers, the boom in craft liquors. A recent google search revealed a surprising number of states – Delaware, Washington, Oregon, New York, that have gotten on the bandwagon with spirits trails, sometimes combining them with wineries and breweries.

Not only distillers, but also state and local governments see this as a new source of tax revenue and jobs, as well as a new tourism niche. Kentucky, in particular, is getting in on the act, enjoying a special upswing from bourbon, with new distilleries being built, complete with a tasting room for sipping bourbon and looking at the local scenery. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a collection of distilleries on a scenic route, attracts thousands of visitors annually. Distilleries offer behind the scenes tours where one can watch vats of yeast bubbling and workmen rolling barrels of whiskey as they’ve done for decades. In downtown Louisville, Whiskey Row is being revived with a new distillery for Old Forester, the country’s first bottled bourbon. Another producer, Wild Turkey, has paid double in taxes this year, twice what it paid in 2010 thanks to robust sales. For hotels and restaurants, craft spirits are a new avenue for public relations, with the media devoting more space to everything from drink recipes and signature cocktails to star mixologists. One of the more clever outtakes is the bar at the new Traymore restaurant at the Metropolitan by COMO. It has a gin bar boasting 40 different kinds of gin and the Apotheker at the Shelbourne Wyndham Grand South Beach, a riff on bar as pharmacy.

Photo courtesy of NationalGeographic.com

Behind the Scenes Travel Experiences

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It’s natural to think, who would be interested in a behind the scenes look at the engine room of a cruise ship? Or a look at the housekeeping department of a hotel? The answer, a lot of people. One of the favorite pastimes of cruise ship passengers at Carnival is the engine room tour.

In this day and age when all surveys point to an interest in travel experiences, certainly up there at the top are opportunities to see what is happening behind the scenes. This works not only for travelers, but also, for luxury brands in particular. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate craftsmanship, artisanry, expertise. A company that really gets the value of this is LVMH. And when they get behind a concept, they go all the way.

Case in point, in 2011 they launched what they called Open Days in which 25 of their brands from Dior to Dom Perignon opened their usually closed ateliers to the public. Tickets were free, but reservations were necessary. As reported in the New York Times, in year one 6,000 spaces allotted for Louis Vuitton’s workshop in Asnieres were taken within 90 seconds of release; for the Christian Dior Couture atelier it took 3 minutes to fill. They wrote, “From Paris to Poland, where Belvedere vodka is based, some 100,000 people attended the first open atelier weekend. Last year, the total was 120,000 and a third weekend is planned for 2015.”

This is obviously a low cost/no cost initiative and one most products and services could be able to do. Love to hear any behind the scenes offerings you do at your firm.

Photo courtesy of www.nytimes.com

Neo-Tribalism and Understanding the World

Understanding the world today is looking at it through the prism of neo-tribalism. It’s the macro and the micro, informing everything from politics and economics to lifestyle and marketing.  I wrote about it back in 2006 as an emerging trend in our Luxury Travel and Lifestyle Trends newsletter.  Here’s what appeared (to read more, click here):

The fracturing of communities is thriving unlike never before. No longer defined only by geography or socio economic class,
communities are of the like-minded. As Watts Wacker, CEO and Futurist of FirstMatter LLC said,”people are becoming desperate to find people like themselves”. Facilities which create and foster a sense of community and bring together like-minded individuals will flourish. This fracturing means a further explosion of niche travel. The affluent will still have their tribe, but motivations will be less for exclusivity and status and more to mingle with their own kind .

Now, almost 8 years later, it has come full bloom — not the apocalypse Wacker predicted, though sometimes after reading the newspaper I think that’s around the corner.We’re living in a time of tremendous change. The Wall Street Journal called it “an arc of instability” not seen since the late 70’s. and people worldwide are looking for refuge in their groups — religious, ethnic, economic, and social.  So what does this mean for marketers?  The niche a.k.a. tribal plays will continue to grow, fueled by the  perfect distribution channel – social media.  Consumers, barraged by change and often fearful, will increasingly look for comfort and convenience and  to family and friends and others of like interests at home and in their travels . Always on top of trends (and setting them), Marriott and MIT recently announced an app to connect hotel guests with shared interests who are staying at the same hotel. Can’t wait to see more. Intriguing.

By Karen Weiner Escalera

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?

Service, Small Business and CRM

No one doubts the effectiveness of CRM systems and loyalty programs though for small businesses, the costs of implementation in dollars and human resources can be a challenge. So what’s a small business – be it hotel, restaurant, service provider to do? Here are two examples of the right way and wrong way based on my recent experiences, and then a look at the takeaway.

Two hair salons. Both I’ve been going to for several years. Salon 1: Oribe in South Beach. When the hair stylist is running late they let me know. If there’s a big traffic tie up they give a call. And the best yet, this week I called to make an appointment. First, and unbelieve, the receptionist recognized my voice ( I go every 6 weeks). Then, she asked if I’d like an appointment in the morning, remembering my preferred time. Whenever I walk in, she makes me feel as if I’m coming home.

Salon 2. They have all of the tech stuff – as soon as I make an appointment I get a text confirming it. Then, a day before I get another text and a call (overkill). The problem. When I call they always ask me for my phone number which is in the computer, act as if this is my first time at the salon, and have me spell my name more than once.

Now which salon will I recommend? What’s the takeaway? It’s so important in a service company to have a good receptionist and do whatever to keep him/her so there’s longevity and he/she gets to know the client. Tech goes just so far.

Madigan Pratt, President of MP & A Digital and Advertising who has serious credentials in CRM summed it up. “Today CRM software allows companies with a culture of great customer service to move up to another level. When they do they can achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

Problem arises when companies think office automation software is the answer to their customer service problems. Staff may know how to push buttons, but do they really know how to empathize a customer? More often than not, the answer is no.

“CRM with a human touch just may be the answer”, he concluded.

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.