by Peter J. Bates

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2010 - 'A Year in Review' - Market Rebound, Growth, Opportunity & 'Editors of Travel'

For those of us whose lifeblood is in the luxury travel business, I’m sure you’ll join me in celebrating the rebound that is penetrating the market. I’m confident that 2010 is closing more positively than it began, and as we move forth in 2011, we must stay on a path of resurgence with verve and enthusiasm.

So, with the New Year on the horizon, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of my thoughts, culled from my travels and discussions with tourism and hospitality professionals as well as those in the agent community.

1) As we know, luxury travel is rebounding – and with the economic recovery, the luxury travel market is becoming more experiential. When consumers spend money on a customized holiday, they want it to be more meaningful then ever before. That means delving deeper into a culture, a lifestyle, a true experience (such as art, spa/wellness, adventure and the like) so that a memorable travel journey with a ‘wow’ factor can be crafted for a customer.

2) The outlook for growth of business travel is positive as we move into 2011 and 2012 – but of course they’ll be challenges for corporate travel managers who’ll be faced with handling the dichotomy between rising air and hotel costs and the need to manage budgets, re-examine cost-control tactics, and increase business efficiencies. Companies are still tightening their purse strings on the corporate side, which makes leisure travel even more vital to the mix.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Life as a 'road warrior' isn't easy - I spend approximately two weeks a month traveling for business. Here's a great story in the October 2010 issue of Executive Travel magazine about tips for coping with this lifestyle from some very frequent hotel guests - myself included!

Let me know what you think.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Traveling The World's Best Events

We all know the downside to frequent global travel but fortunately, many of my journeys take me to world-class events that afford exceptional experiences and the opportunity to liaise with fascinating individuals. The past few months I attended three such events – the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Global Summit in Beijing, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, and the Shanghai Expo – all which greatly impressed me so I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

WTTC’s Global Travel & Tourism Summit
Attending the World Travel & Tourism Council’s 10th Global Summit in Beijing this past May was an experience like no other. I was honored to have been invited to participate along with such an elite and masterful group of high-level travel and tourism professionals. I was inspired by the enthusiasm and insights of speakers from Accor, Mandarin Oriental, Abercrombie & Kent, Expedia, American Express, Marriott International and Goldman Sachs. Echoing the sentiments of such great speakers, I firmly agree that the travel and tourism industry has the potential of being the engine to fuel global economic recovery. The 2011 WTTC Global Travel & Tourism Summit will take place in Las Vegas May 15 – 19. Visit or to learn more about the organization’s initiatives.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Road Warrior’s Dream – Beds, Business Centers and the Internet

Being in the global hospitality and tourism business means I travel a lot – approximately two weeks every month! I consider myself a road warrior because of all the time I spend away from home – most of my travel brings me to Asia and India, although I also find myself traveling around the U.S. and Europe.

Through my 30-plus years in the luxury travel and hotel industry, I’ve been fortunate enough to develop contacts with general managers and marketing executive who help make my hotel stays as seamless as possible, and for that I’m most appreciative. By virtue of being outside the comfort of my home so frequently, you can imagine how much importance I impress upon the hotel I stay at.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Planning for the Rest of 2010

According to conversations I’ve had with my friends in the travel agent community, 2010 is shaping up to be a much better year than 2009, but many challenges still lie ahead as agencies look to climb the ladder of profitability. Doing better than last year is a huge plus, but the barometer you should measure yourself against is that of more profitable years from the recent past. We must keep reality in check.

Now that the first quarter of 2010 is over, I’ve outlined out what I perceive to be the five biggest challenges that remain for the year with some suggestions on how best to address them.

Challenge 1: Maintaining and Growing Your Client Base
Winning new clients and retaining current ones must remain a top priority. We all know very well that a healthy customer base is the foundation of a healthy business.

Stay connected via phone, e-mail and/or social media with your valued clients. Maintain ‘top of mind’ presence by keeping the lines of communication open. Impress your clients with how well you know them by presenting vacation suggestions sure to fit their individual tastes and preferences.

Encourage ‘word of mouth’ praise because the payoff to you is invaluable. Consider incentivizing your current clients to bring you new potential customers. That investment (in terms of an upgrade or special extra to enhance the luxury vacation experience) can yield huge rewards for you and your business.

Tap into local community events to build awareness of your depth of knowledge and the customized travel experiences you can deftly craft.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Reinvention of Scotland

When you think of Scotland, world-class golf, tartan kilts and Sir Sean Connery might immediately come to mind – and they rightfully should! The fabric of Scottish culture is rich and dynamic, and the country has certainly made a name for itself on the world stage. What you might not realize, though, is that Scotland is actually a very ‘young country’ – its Parliament is only 10 years old following devolution in 1999 (when the Government of Scotland was given power to handle most of the country’s day-to-day issues including health, education, justice, rural affairs and transport).

With its newfound youth comes the opportunity for re-invention. This doesn’t mean that what has come to represent Scotland on so many levels gets dismissed. Instead, the new country that is emerging gets to embrace its distinguishing characteristics and showcase new aspects that celebrate not only the present, but the future of Scotland.

The strength of Scotland’s youth has generated a more powerful cooperative spirit, particularly among its tourism partners. This is particularly evidenced by the very successful Virtuoso Chairman’s Recognition Event, which was held in October 2009 at The Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. Government officials, hotel and tourism executives, and various other partners worked for two years to put this event together. Their collaborative efforts demonstrated how triumphant the results can be when partners work together toward a singular goal of driving tourism to Scotland. Tourism yields tremendous benefits, including the generation of jobs and revenue as well as allows those who call Scotland ‘home’ to share a wealth of culture and sightseeing with travelers from around the world.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Luxury Summit for Insight & Inspiration

The luxury travel segment is not the only luxe segment that has suffered. One thing we’ve surely learned during this difficult time is the importance of sharing ideas among colleagues and formulating strategies that will lead us to success. Sometimes that inspiration and insight can be found by looking at what companies are doing in other industries such as retail and leisure goods. Staying ‘in the know’ will remain paramount in 2010, which is why I draw tremendous value from the annual American Express Publishing Luxury Summit, to take place at the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas on April 25-27, 2010 (

During the Summit, experts and authorities on culture and economics will illuminate the trends, tastes and attitudes that are forming on the horizon and will shape luxury marketplaces and appetites. Speakers include:

· Steve Sadove, Chairman & CEO, Saks, Inc.
· Daniel Lalonde, President & CEO, Louis Vuitton NA
· Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos
· Michael J. Kowalski, Chairman and CEO, Tiffany & Co
· Baba Shiv, Professor, Stanford University
· Mary Baglivo, CEO NY and Chairman & CEO Americas, Saatchi & Saatchi
· Henrik Fisker, CEO, Fisker Automotive Inc.
· William Taubman, COO, Taubman Centers Inc.
· Marian Salzman, President North America, EuroRSCG Worldwide PR
· Vineet Nayar, CEO, HCL Technologies
· Ted Teng, President & CEO, The Leading Hotels of the World
· Geoff Vuleta, CEO, Fahrenheit 212
· Fred Dust, Partner, Ideo
· Christopher Cowdray, CEO, Dorchester Collection
· Irwin Gottlieb, CEO, GroupM

There will also be two terrific overviews by four senior executives from the global offices of McKinsey & Co. from Shanghai, London and Paris, New York and Washington, as well as the annual Survey of Affluence & Wealth in America presented by Dr. Jim Taylor, Vice Chairman, The Harrison Group.

This “must attend” event will be jam packed with data and information to help you better understand today’s luxury consumer and the trends within the marketplace. For more information or to register, visit

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Snow Bliss at Snowmass & Aspen

It appears that Aspen and Snowmass ( are weathering the economic downturn fairly well. After ending last year about 7% down, the Aspen Ski Company reported it is 5.5% ahead of last year at the end of January with all indications that if March is a good month, they will have had a good season. While these statistics are encouraging, the economic downturn is certainly having an effect in Aspen. Some retailers and restaurants are going out of business, and there is vacant retail space in prime locations. Even, the best book shop in Aspen (at Little Nell), has disappeared after more than 20 years of providing a fine selection of books, DVD’s and newspapers.

Snowmass continues to develop although the much talked about Little Nell development is shuttered. The foundations have been laid but work has stopped while the developers try to renegotiate loans.

The good news for all Snowmass devotees is that the new Viceroy Hotel is open (, and it is a wonderful addition to the selection of accommodations in the area.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Putting on the Ritz

The investment being poured into new hotel development throughout Asia continues to amaze me. As I’ve mentioned before, cities like Beijing and Shanghai are in grave danger of becoming overbuilt with too much capacity – but nonetheless, brand after brand make their way – or expand their presence – in the market.

There are a handful of luxury hotel operators, though, that have mapped out very strategic plans making them key players in the region – and the one that immediately comes to mind is Ritz Carlton. For the past 20 years, Ritz Carlton ( has developed an impressive network of grand and luxurious properties, starting in Hong Kong and expanding throughout Asia – in Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Jakarta, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Osaka, Tokyo, Sanya, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

The brand is continuing its growth in Asia with a second property opening in Shanghai in May and one in Hong Kong in November of this year.

Monday, February 1, 2010

An Eye on Hotels in Beijing & Shanghai

I just spent a week in China visiting new luxury hotels, and I am astounded as to how rapidly the country is growing. My last visit was only a year ago, and in that time the landscape has dramatically changed. New properties have opened or are about to open, and the country is raising its accommodation standards for luxury, style and service.

Since Asia is indeed fresh in my mind, I wanted to share with you my thoughts on some of my favorite hotels in Beijing and Shanghai, cities that never fail to intrigue me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

'Five Key Principles' for ROI

While traveling in Asia this week, I visited the Hong Kong office of Zenith Optimedia ( and learned of the very effective way they are interpreting ‘return on investment’ for their clients. I believe that fellow luxury marketers will be as impressed as I was with Zenith’s clearly voiced ‘Five Key Principles’ to direct their communications activities for the success of their clients – Invest, Outcomes, Connect, Productivity and Evaluate.

1. Invest – We invest, not spend, clients’ budgets.
2. Outcomes – We are interested in outcomes, not simply outputs.
3. Connect – We believe in creating powerful connections with consumers to make investment work harder.
4. Productivity – We aim to increase the productivity of the marketing budget.
5. Evaluate – We strive to measure and improve returns on all activity.

Return on investment has always been important for luxury marketers regardless of their specific business segment (travel, retail, etc.), and it is probably even more paramount in the present climate. What Zenith Optimedia has done in articulating these principles is create something simple, understandable and focused that adds tremendous value to their relationship with their clients. We should never lose sight of the fact that, first and foremost, marketing agencies and clients must engage in constant dialogue to ensure an understanding of a client’s objectives with any communications plan that is executed. I encourage other companies to follow Zenith Optimedia’s example.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Top Two Hotels of 2009

Realistically, I probably spend half the year in hotel rooms around the world. Last year, I must’ve stayed in more than 60 different hotels – many of which were spectacular – but two in particular stood out for me. As my choice for the top hotels in 2009, I would select The Upper House in Hong Kong and the Crosby Street Hotel in New York City.

Both properties are owned by companies that have heavily invested in service. Yes, the hotels are contemporary, graciously appointed and uber-stylish but what impressed me most is the obvious investment in staff training to ensure that the customer comes first. If there aren’t satisfied customers, then a hotel doesn’t survive because empty beds don’t translate into profits. The importance of customer service – whether someone is traveling for business or pleasure – should never be underestimated, especially in today’s economy where travelers will scrutinize the value of their luxury travel experience like never before.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Welcome to the LuxuryBeat Blog!

Welcome to the LuxuryBeat blog! I've spent my entire career in the luxury marketplace encompassing marketing, sales, strategic planning, public relations, event planning and consulting. It is what I know, and it is what inspires me.

Luxury marketers have faced unprecedented challenges in the past 18 months, and while the economy is slowly starting to recover, analysts suggest the luxury travel segment will have a harder time rebounding than other travel segments. Therefore, we must tap into our masterful marketing minds and create a road map to success that embraces where we want to be in the future. In 2010 and beyond, I suggest you keep the following in mind: