by Peter J. Bates

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.

Asia Gets ‘Delivery’ Right

I was fortunate to have spent the past three weeks in Asia on a mix of business and family vacation. While many of the designers and project managers may be based in the U.S. and Europe, Asian hotel owners and managers are prepared to experiment and invest in new creative concepts – they always keep the interest of the luxury consumer piqued. And, while product is vital, service delivery continues to be the key to the region’s success.

As we know, today’s luxury consumer is still seeking “value for money” but what is even more important is the richly rewarding experience to be realized. Precious time together sharing happy moments, bragging rights at the next cocktail party back home, and meaningful memories that make the vacation special – this truly helps define the customized handcrafted experience that epitomizes personal luxury. It is not just about pillow menus or a guest’s preferred brand of soap – today’s consumers want to experience unforgettable moments.

Crafting Exceptional Experiences

Take as an example Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces. Three months ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Hyderabad in India where Taj recently opened the Falaknuma Palace after a painstaking mutil-year renovation. We were met at the gleaming new airport in Hyderabad and transferred to the palace in a lovely bright shiny German sedan, as well as offered water and towels to refresh ourselves. When we reached the outskirts of the palace, the car stopped, and we were escorted to a horse and carriage so that we could arrive at the palace in similar fashion as the Nizam would have originally arrived.

More recently, after a two-hour snorkeling adventure in the clear blue waters off the Taj Exotica in the Maldives, rather than head back to the resort we were taken on a 15-minute high-speed ride to a sand bar in the middle of the Indian Ocean, where our boys were able to raise a flag on a deserted island while our butler from the Taj Exotica opened a bottle of champagne for us to enjoy. This was an outstanding once-in-a-lifetime magical moment.

Enriching Experiences = Repeat Business

Today's cruise line executive, tour operator, hotelier and resort manager, together with skilled travel counselors, need to develop more of the engaging, gratifying experiences that leave guests fulfilled but still wanting more - resulting in repeat business. These enriching experiences have the power to generate improved rates and build loyalty for the travel advisor and the supplier.

We are only part of the way there - we may be recovering in terms of volume but now comes the hard bit - improving rate and at the saem time ensuring our customers believe they have had an outstanding once-in-a-lifetime experience that afforded value for money. Travel advisors and suppliers alike are being challenged with being more creative to achieve these goals to turn consumers into repeat clients so more revenue can be earned by all. This is a game-changing moment - are we ready for it?


  1. A great article, Peter. I especially love and concur that enriching experiences = repeat business. Incorporating those WOW! moments into itineraries is helping me to grow my business within the segment I target - Luxury Lifestyle.

  2. Thank you so much! I’m happy to hear that the ‘wow’ experiences are indeed having a positive impact on your business. They truly help define what ‘luxury’ means today to the sophisticated and discriminating traveler.