by Peter J. Bates

Monday, November 21, 2011

Are We in Social Media and Technology Overload?

iPad, Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy – these names, among others, dominate our daily lives, whether we’re reading about these devices or utilizing them ourselves. And, today’s marketers are tasked with determining how best to take advantage of consumers’ obsessions with these latest and greatest technology ‘toys’ as well as how to effectively incorporate social media (Twitter, Facebook and more) into their strategies. It seems that every recent conversation I have had with marketing executives includes these topics to some extent as the hospitality and tourism industries try to figure out the best way to embrace new technology and communications channels.

In our effort to be innovative and strategic, it is crucial not to get carried away. For example, on a recent trip to London I dined at a well-known restaurant that recently opened following an extensive renovation. As always the food was excellent, but I was disturbed when the professional and efficient sommelier presented the wine list on an iPad. Was this really necessary? Leafing through the pages of a wine list is part of the enjoyment of selecting a good wine. I grew more concerned when that same sommelier had to spend several minutes at a nearby table explaining to the guest how to use the iPad. What was the restaurant trying to prove? Surely, a wine list on an iPad is no more than a gimmick. Is there any added value in the experience or was something authentic stripped from my lunch?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The State of Tourism in Asia

I have been privileged to visit Asia many times during the course of my career, and the destination continues to surprise and delight me. Having just completed a three-week tour of the region from Tokyo to Shanghai with many cities in between, I remain impressed by the vitality and ingenuity of the tourism and hospitality industry there.

While oversupply in some markets and staff retention seem to be key issues, it is quite apparent that tourism and hospitality are healthy and resilient in nearly every case.

Japan continues to face challenges from the earthquake and tsunami earlier this year, however the WTTC recently announced that business is beginning to return. Here is a link to the informative WTTC report:

During my stay in Tokyo, I learned that business travel is back and leisure travel enquiries are beginning to show some momentum. It appears the last few months have seen an improvement in occupancy at the top end of the market.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Evolve + Adapt = Staying Relevant

I wanted to share with you a recent experience from a weekend getaway that reminded me of the importance of two key elements to operating a successful luxury hotel – the importance of keenly knowing your customers and recognizing how to stay relevant to them.  For me, in-room Internet was the subject at hand.  I stayed at an exquisite Martha’s Vineyard inn, which was outstanding from the accommodations to the food to the service – but the lack of in-room Internet as an option should I want to stay connected was somewhat troubling to me. 

This drove home the point to me that giving travelers what they want is essential – there’s no option – but you need to know what is pertinent to your customers and then execute flawless service delivery. Finding the right balance of staying true to what defines a luxury product as authentic, genuine and unique while still providing the services consumers not only seek but have come to expect remains a challenge for those of us in the hospitality and tourism industry.

This drove home the point to me that giving travelers what they want is essential – there’s no option – but you need to know what is pertinent to your customers and then execute flawless service delivery.  Finding the right balance of staying true to what defines a luxury product as authentic, genuine and unique while still providing the services consumers not only seek but have come to expect remains a challenge for those of us in the hospitality and tourism industry. 

Luxury consumers can’t be pigeon-holed into one category of needs and desires.  As hoteliers and tourism companies, we endeavor to retain our existing customers while also cultivating a new audience as we work toward a goal of unparalleled customer satisfaction and prosperity.  Creating the right recipe for success indeed seems to require a master craftsman!

So, what’s the proper strategy?  Through my consultancy I implore hoteliers and tourism companies to evolve and adapt to stay relevant. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Crucial Keys to Success - Cultivating Remarkable Experiences & Getting Delivery 'Right'

From numerous research reports on the hospitality and leisure sectors and discussion at tourism conferences, it is clear that leisure travel is back in a big way and consumers are on the move – a tremendous vote of confidence for the luxury travel market.

Embracing Regional Sales Power

With this travel resurgence, major city center hotels and the world’s resorts have a much more balanced mix of high-net-worth guests. Gone are the days when top suites were filled with wealthy Americans or Middle Eastern guests paying top dollar. Today’s mix is much broader with affluent guests from around the globe – Latin America, China, Russia and India, for example – vying for the best suite accommodations. Therefore, hoteliers must broaden their sales and marketing initiatives to include sales trips beyond the East and West coasts of the U.S. to cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Mumbai, Rio and Moscow. The regional sales office will play an increasingly greater role in driving profitability whether as a member of a chain or representation company.

The Importance of Maximizing Rate

With occupancy back on the rise, hoteliers, cruise lines and airlines should emphasize a focus on maximizing rate. While consumers still are looking for value – not to be confused with discounts – the industry must now employ the very best revenue managers to improve the ADR (average daily rate), which unfortunately, in many cases, still lags behind where room rates were four years ago. Now that consumers are traveling again, they will have to book with a longer lead time in order to secure their preferred accommodations, itineraries and flights – and this will propel travel counselors to work more effectively with their clients to coordinate trips further in advance of departure. Clients unable to plan far in advance will require greater flexibility and more options. How will the travel industry rise to the occasion and meet these consumer needs? Consider ‘delivery’ – in terms of service, experience and value for money – as crucial to your strategic planning going forward.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Paradise Found at Shangri-La's Villingili Resort and Spa - Maldives

I do not often write about individual hotels except when I discover something exceedingly exceptional. Recent examples I’ve been privileged to herald include The Upper House in Hong Kong, Fullerton Bay in Singapore, The Crosby Street Hotel in New York City, and Grace Bay in the Turks & Caicos. Now I add another one to the list – Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa (pictured above), perched on the southernmost tip of the Maldives.

Stunning & Spectacular Location
Nestled 75 miles south of the equator on Villingili Island on the Addu Atoll, this 132 all-villa resort will celebrate its second anniversary on July 26. With the choice of many major luxury hotel brands in the Maldives, how do you decide which resort to select? After all, glorious sandy beaches, shimmering turquoise water, impeccable service and superb watersports are in abundance! Often, the Maldives is associated with romantic getaways; however, if you are seeking a luxurious tropical resort that is truly family friendly, Shangri-La has perfected that with the Villingili Resort and Spa.

All Villas, All Luxury
Fabulous accommodations include Water Villas, Tree Villas, the Pearl Suite (a fabulous secluded water villa), Presidential Suite and 10 wonderful two-bed room villas ideal for families, each with a private beach and swimming pool. All accommodations are fully air conditioned and feature a comfortable layout, spacious bathrooms with separate shower and toilet stalls, outdoor showers, and large relaxing tubs. Particularly eco-friendly, all villas are fitted with solar panels to generate hot water. Service is unobtrusive, and your personal villa host (called by a pre-programmed mobile phone) looks after all your needs from restaurant reservations to activities. Like all Shangri- La properties, the resort offers complimentary high speed Internet access for those of us who wish to remain connected to the outside world!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Yes, Consumers Are Traveling Again To All Corners Of The Globe

Spring and summertime bring renewal, and with that an enhanced optimism from valued travel advisors eyeing the state of the luxury industry. In talking with my trusted friends in the travel advisor community, I am pleased to report there is good news, which many of you already know since your phones have resumed ringing – people are indeed traveling again! But, where are they going and why? And, with a rich global tapestry of cultures out there, what motivates advisors to sell certain destinations to clients? I queried a group of 50 well-known travel advisors (at the owner/manager level) around the country and am privileged to share their insight with you.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I was fortunate to have been asked to write a column for the U.K.'s Profile LEADER: Essential Reading for Hospitality Management on the subject of "New Imperatives in Luxury Marketing." I addressed how effective marketing adapts to the mindset of today's luxury travelers and the many ways they can be engaged. I hope you enjoy reading this column. Do please share your thoughts with me.