by Peter J. Bates

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Navigating Modern-Day Content & Consumer Engagement

The expression “the more things change, the more they stay the same” is one we might forget in our rapid-speed, tech-driven way of conducting business but I feel compelled to remind luxury marketers about the importance of circling back to a principle that should guide us – at the core, marketers must engage consumers. Regardless of the tools we use to achieve that goal, we need to move the needle forward to create brand loyalty and generate sales.

To help move that needle in today’s 24-hour, tech-savvy world, we need to treat SoMoLo (social, mobile and local) channels differently. They dominate the daily mindset and increasingly draw a larger share of the marketing budget, but it is a huge marketing misstep to lump these platforms into one category and treat its users the same. To secure the coveted customer, we must understand/engage/inspire them – but we should also give that same attention to the individual social networks. While remaining rich, inspiring and interesting, content should be amended to fit the audience and the channel they are using.

Keep in mind that social is akin to “digital word of mouth.” With social media, luxury marketers have the opportunity to tap into these crucial conversations, help change opinions, and embrace the power of brand advocates across large networks.

Twitter – The Power of 140 Characters
Twitter epitomizes the “less is more” approach. Has brevity ever been more powerful? Tweets are effectively today’s sound-bytes – must-have deals that spur clicks and sales, an endorsement, a statement on news, sharing of opinions, etc. Chuck Todd, NBC’s chief White House correspondent, even likens Twitter to a newswire for the digital age (Adweek article – October 29, 2012).

Today, we rely on the consumer to further our messaging more than ever before (consider the analogy of Twitter being like a coffee house where people come together to share ideas and drive conversation). Consumers become our brand advocates, and they emerge as valuable influencers among known, and in some cases unknown, social networks. When a luxury brand’s tweet is re-tweeted, we know we’ve done something right – the message was worthy, relevant and spot-on, and it inspired our followers to share it with their network of followers.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Consolidation Breeds Confidence & Renewed Focus on Partnerships

As marketers, we spend a great deal of time exploring consumer-related trends – what they seek from travel experiences, what influences their purchasing decisions, and more – but it is important to take stock of our own industry trends and how these impact stakeholders in our business.

These days, it’s all about mergers and acquisitions! Recent news of the merger between Protravel and Tzell as well as Travel and Transport’s purchase of Ultramar reflects the changing business landscape of our industry. These are two examples in the U.S., but consolidation is happening in other parts of the world as well. These recent deals are a sign of confidence in the travel business, and this eventually trickles down to the benefit of the consumer.

Consolidation Yields Buying Power
After several years of tumult in the travel industry, the past 12 – 15 months have seen steady increases in business, and the money spent on recent agency acquisitions is a reflection of “the strength of travel.” Consolidation means larger agencies have greater buying power when dealing with travel suppliers – and that likely translates into better prices and enhanced value and experiences that can be delivered to consumers.

In the luxury travel sector, agency consolidation signifies a merging of “talent pools.” Travel advisors possess a breadth of knowledge and valued contacts that make them tremendous assets to their agency owners as well as their clients. This talent is the foundation of a strong and thriving agency group and is what breeds future prosperity for these mergers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Highs, Middles & Lows of Today

Now that we’re at the half-year point, I’d like to take the time to pause and reflect on the past six months of 2012. One thing we know for sure is that U.S. consumers are indeed traveling again but there is still some skepticism among them. The psyche of today’s high-end consumer requires constant examination to ensure that our messaging is spot-on. Plus, economics around the world (think of the state of the Euro) and U.S. politics (the Presidential election and Wall Street in particular) continue to impact consumer mindsets and tourism in various ways.

Therefore, as we recall the past and look toward the future, I’ve outlined some highs, lows and of course, some points that fall into the middle for us luxury travel marketers to consider.

High #1 – Understanding Today’s Affluents
The most recent “Survey of Affluence and Wealth in America,” produced by American Express Publishing and Harrison Group, delivered some great news for our industry! “Travel is the number one discretionary spending category for affluent and wealthy families” – and this is because travel is a means towards achieving the goal of spending quality time with the people who matter most.

Additionally, enjoying positive and enriching experiences that encourage ‘quality in life’ are paramount to this audience. “Affluent and wealthy consumers across generations wants experiences that support their goals, values and passions in very personal ways, within an environment that shields them from the noise of the debate over wealth and success.” As luxury travel marketers for the finest experiences and products, we are poised to continue excelling as long as our delivery, attention to detail and customer service are flawless.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

As I 'C' It

Times have changed dramatically from when the “four p’s” of product, price, place and promotion dominated marketing strategy. Now, this is “How I ‘C’ It” – Content, Community, Channels, Commerce and Collaboration are the pillars on which to create an effective course of action to target today’s affluent consumers.

The ‘Consumer Age’
Our social and business climates have changed in immeasurable ways during the last decade, and the pace of transformation is best reflected in this quote from author Thomas Friedman:

“When I wrote The World Is Flat: A Brief History Of The 21st Century, Facebook didn’t exist. Or for most people it didn’t exist. Twitter was a sound. The ‘Cloud’ was in the sky. 4G was a parking place. LinkedIn was a prison. Applications were something you sent to college. And, for most people, Skype was a typo.

That all happened in the last seven years. And, what it has done is taken the world from connected to hyper-connected – and that has been a huge opportunity and a huge challenge.”

In the ‘consumer age,’ today’s luxury travelers are intelligent and well-researched, possess distinct expectation, and face diverse influencers. This consumer psyche has resulted in dramatic shifts in marketing strategy amid the constant evolution of the digital and social landscapes. Among the changes, one core point emerges as stronger than ever before – engagement is the cornerstone. It drives relationships, and that ultimately drives sales and profits.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Greaves Featured in Departures Magazine!

Flip to page 70 of the March/April 2012 issue of Departures magazine to read "India Done Right" - a fantastic interview with Mehra Dalton of Greaves! You can also click the link below to read the two-page feature:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Understanding The 'Human Element'

Many of us travel marketers subscribe to the idea that today’s consumers are driving the sales process. With this acceptance comes a constant redefinition (and in some cases a reinvigoration) of our role as influencers and as profit generators. Times have indeed changed – we don’t have the control we once did but we must still steer an effective strategy. A provocative and insightful article I read in Advertising Age titled “The Dawn of the Relationship Era” gave me a lot to consider on the subject (and I’ve quoted the article throughout this e-mail) because it is indeed the ‘human element’ wherein the power lies.

As marketers, we are often also researchers, analysts, strategists, and in some cases prognosticators navigating the channels of our science while staying attuned to the needs and desires of our target demographic. The Ad Age piece tapped right into what travel marketers, travel advisors and anyone in the hospitality and tourism industry needs to recognize more than ever before in order to keep pace with the modern-day consumer mindset – brand integrity, relationships and trust are vital when “you are being evaluated 24/7 in countless conversations that have zero to do with your ad slogan.”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Moving Forward in 2012 - Listen to Clients, Engage Them For Life

As travel professionals, we are constantly on the quest to understand what our luxury clients want from their travel experiences, the latest ‘in’ destinations, and how economics, political unrest and other global events impact the consumer mindset and the future course of worldwide exploration. We have to keep pace like never before! This makes the development and implementation of an effective – and modern – strategy extremely crucial. For me, devising a smart strategy starts with research. To that end, I surveyed approximately 50 advisors at the owner or manager level who graciously shared some enlightening feedback so I’m pleased to recount with you some of their thoughts on “what’s hot” and trends in the luxury marketplace as we move ahead in 2012.

Don’t Just Speak – Listen
“When to book?” is a question constantly on the minds of both travel advisors and their clients. Leads times of 12 – 18 months are not typical anymore, whether consumers are seeking a deal or determining the ‘right’ time to travel. Said the advisors I contacted: “Consumers buy when the price, economic environment, workplace atmosphere, etc. are all aligned” and “Planning ahead doesn’t ‘pay off’ anymore due to unpredictable volatility on all fronts” – currency fluctuations, political instability, natural disasters, and pricing.

Therefore, it is vital for advisors to ensure they don’t just ‘speak’ to their clients but ‘listen’ to them. Genuine engagement can result in loyal clients – and profitability – for life. When travel advisors are indeed speaking with their clients, they should tap into their power to paint an intriguing vacation picture and inspire travelers with a global narrative of adventure, reward and enrichment. The portraits of memories created during a vacation will last a lifetime.

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Top Hotels in 2011...And My 2012 'Wish List'

During the first month of the year, I like to pause and consider all the hotels I’ve been privileged to visit – and will encounter the coming year – during my global travels. In the spirit of ‘recaps’ and ‘lists’ that celebrate the launch of a New Year, I wanted to share with you my thoughts on the top five hotels I experienced in 2011 as well as the top five properties I can’t wait to discover in 2012.

Top 5 in 2011

Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa, Maldives – Nestled 75 miles south of the equator on Villingili Island on the Addu Atoll in the Maldives, Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa is exceedingly exceptional in every regard. Fabulous accommodations (132 villas in all), a superb roster of outdoor activity (such as biking, tennis and fishing), watersports (including diving, a huge passion in the Maldives), the CHI spa, superior dining, and flawless service make this luxurious tropical resort that is truly family friendly a gem in the glorious Maldives. Created on a deserted island from scratch, Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa is a dreamy vacation getaway that is one of the few places I can confidently say allows the ‘globe-trotting road warrior’ in myself to actually relax. I visited last summer and I can’t wait to return.

Corinthia Hotel, London – Several new hotels emerged on the scene in London, and the Corinthia may be the best new property there. I’m in the city at least twice a year so new hotels are always on my radar. The Corinthia’s design is striking and impressive; bold and cutting-edge spaces (that are open and welcome tons of natural light) and spectacular workmanship enhance the stunning city views. Innovative culinary dishes and the revolutionary ESPA Life spa concept also make the Corinthia a distinct stand-out in London. It sets a new standard for luxury and style in one of the most cosmopolitan and culturally-rich cities in the world.