by Peter J. Bates

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Reimagine, Resonate and Reboot

As we approach the last quarter of the year, three words come to my mind with respect to luxury travel marketing today – “reimagine,” “resonate” and “reboot.”  Why? 
  • Savvy marketers should be brave enough to know when it’s time to reimagine their brands in order to sustain the life of that brand.
  •  To be effective marketers, our efforts must resonate with our target audience. They can’t just resonate with us – they have to be meaningful and impactful to our customers
  • If we embrace the ideas of reimagining and resonating – along with new technology – we will likely enjoy a successful reboot, which is often a necessity in the lifecycle of a brand. Think of it as “revival of the fittest.” 

Reimagine & Reinvent
As luxury travel executives, we intimately know our brands – their essence, their defining aspects – but that doesn’t mean our brands are as distinct in the marketplace for affluent consumers and valued travel advisors. That’s why clarity of brands is crucial – showcasing an identity that is distinctive and rich in personality is the difference between being remembered and getting lost in the clutter.

For clarity, you need to understand your brand – and not be fearful of reassessing how consumers and travel partners perceive your brand. Keep your messaging fresh and on-point.  In the luxury space, we shouldn’t try to be all things to all people – it is about being the right thing to the right people.  This principle of “reimagine and reinvent,” as I like to call it, is driving luxury travel brands to create stronger corporate identities and strengthen their messaging.

Today’s emphasis is on exhibiting a razor sharp focus to target the right people.  Luxury travel companies are spending more money on new print advertising campaigns as well as putting money into digital and video/film because of their impact. Who is doing this? Look at Rosewood Hotels & Resorts (they just launched a new “Sense of Place” brand campaign), Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts (they are conceiving new television ads), Peninsula Hotels (the company is working on new creative and a focus on video) and Taj Hotels (they will shortly unveil a new campaign). Full disclosure – Rosewood and Shangri-La are clients.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What's Happening With Today's Traveler? - Fees & Social Media

Last time I wrote, I shared insights about popular/less popular destinations and travel trends of today’s affluent consumer based on a survey Strategic Vision conducted with approximately 50 travel advisors at the owner or manager level. We learned that Italy was one of the most popular destinations for bookings in the last six months, Southeast Asia and the U.S. are trending up destinations, Hawaii and villa rentals in Italy and France continue to grow in popularity for family travel (a burgeoning trend in itself), and much more. We also heard from numerous agencies that are experiencing different trends than those surveyed, so I’d like to thank those who shared their feedback.

Keeping the dialogue going, here I review survey results on the subjects of ancillary fees and social media. 

We’ve been concerned about fees and wanted to follow the conversation.  Respondents overwhelmingly believed in clearly outlining all fees to their clients – whether ancillary fees from hotels and airlines or service charges from travel agencies – so there are no surprises.  One respondent said their agency has a spreadsheet with all ancillary expenses clearly defined, and that travel counselors “are trained to explain each fee along the way.”  Respondents noted that fees are a “sign of the times” and “part of today’s landscape,” and one commented that “it is a way of life but there are ways around it.”

While the fees are not necessarily a “major issue questioned by luxury clients” because most are “used to them” and not “price-sensitive,” clients do demand more transparency so as to understand exactly what they are paying. This desire for transparency goes beyond fees – clients are continuing to require a cost breakdown for all the elements of their trip.

In terms of agency fees, they cover “time, research and expertise” for “customized services beyond the travel components,” and clients tend to be “amiable” if they understand what the charges are for.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What's Happening With Today's Traveler? A Six-Month Review...

It is half way through the year, which I find is a good time to reflect on the state of luxury travel and to recalibrate our strategic efforts based on the reality of bookings and trends of the past six months. As luxury travel marketers and advisors, it is vital for us to remain on the pulse of the latest news and trends so I surveyed approximately 50 advisors at the owner or manager level who graciously shared some enlightening feedback about today’s affluent consumer.

Read on for their valuable insights…

What destinations have been the most popular for affluent clients the past six months?

Accordingly to our survey, 70 percent of respondents named Italy as one of the most popular destinations for bookings in the past six months. Whether it’s the amazing cuisine, gorgeous art, or rich culture and history, Italy has broad appeal – and as one respondent stated, consumers have a “constant love affair with Italy.”

There is a wonderful cultural diversity in Europe – where “clients never seem to tire” of the continent. Respondents repeatedly mentioned France and Spain as well as London, where last summer’s Olympics and the upcoming Royal Baby seemed to have raised the city’s profile. Croatia was also listed for its undiscovered appeal. One agency said that a key with Europe is crafting “wow” moments in classic European capitals, which speaks to the continued desire for the treasured experiential and enriching aspects of travel. One respondent did warn, though, that Europe’s popularity could decrease “if air stays at such high levels even for coach.”

South America – particularly Peru, Colombia and Brazil – ranked high for its “perceived value,” “variety,” and because it is “interesting and luxurious.”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Survey Says...

I have always advocated the importance of research in order to effectively set a marketing strategy – when you’re equipped with knowledge, you’ve secured a degree of power that makes you a savvy strategist. In the effort to build on our wealth of information, Strategic Vision sponsored American Affluence Research Center’s Spring 2013 Affluent Market Tracking Study, a survey of the wealthiest 10% of U.S. households based on net worth.

The survey is based on self-administered questionnaires mailed to a randomly selected national sample of 4,500 men and women in households with specific income and assets ownership and a minimum net worth requirement of $800,000. Following a weighting of the respondents, the participants in this survey have an average net worth of $3.1 million and an average primary residence value of $1.2 million.

Some results were rather surprising...

What Magazines Do Affluents Read?
Marketing requires a constant examination of the luxury consumers’ interests, opinions and product preferences – including what publications comprise the affluent library. When asked what leisure magazines they read most on a regular basis (from a choice of 11 high-end titles), survey respondents indicated Travel + Leisure as their top choice (22%), followed by WSJ Magazine (19%), T: The New York Times Style Magazine (15%) and Departures (13%), which is distributed to American Express Centurion and Platinum Card holders.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Last week, I shared with you some of the distinctive destinations and magnificent hotels that I discovered last year. In Part 2, I am offering more from my “best“ list as well as some of the places I’ll be exploring in 2013. As I mentioned last week, none of the places or companies listed below are current clients – I visited them for business or leisure.

Best Hotel Concierge: Giovanni at Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong
I have stayed at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong more times than I care to count, and it wouldn’t be the same without Giovanni – one of the property’s best assets! He has been the concierge there for more than 30 years. He knows every customer, and is exceedingly helpful and knowledgeable. He knows this city inside and out and is skilled at recommending the right restaurants or experiences for guests. Plus, he can finagle anything in Hong Kong!

Best Unexpected Experience: Holiday Fireworks in Sydney and the London Olympics

You can spend a lot of time curating what you hope will be an unforgettable vacation, but sometimes it’s those unanticipated moments that rival for the best holiday memories. I had two such moments in 2012 – viewing the awesome New Year’s Eve fireworks display over the Sydney Opera House, and experiencing the gracious hospitality of the volunteers during the London Olympics (they were so visible and helpful – a reflection of fine British spirit).

Monday, February 4, 2013


One of the most rewarding aspects of my career in luxury marketing is the global travels and the privilege of discovering different parts of the world – and gems in those locations. And, my love of global pursuits has translated into memorable journeys with my family. Last year, I explored distinctive destinations and magnificent hotels, and I’d love to share them with you and continue the travel narrative that inspires us all. I’d also like to point out that none of the places or companies listed below are current clients – I visited them for business or leisure.

Most Interesting Place: Cartagena
I had never considered Colombia as a luxury destination but my visit to Cartagena showed me otherwise. There is an excellent (and growing) hotel product, new air service (thank you, JetBlue), and spectacular service levels. A rich culture of music, arts and gastronomy embrace the city, generating an uber-cool vibe. As much as I travel, I often don’t head to South America, which made Cartagena a particularly thrilling treat for me – and ignited an interest in discovering more around the continent.

Best Large Hotel in U.S.: Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles
A member of the Dorchester Collection, the Hotel Bel-Air was completely renovated and re-opened in October 2011. The amazing revamp re-charged the iconic property for the 21st century while retaining features of its original character. Think the glamour of old Hollywood blended with a style that is young, fresh, vibrant and fun. The Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air restaurant is divine, and the hotel bar remains famous for its savory cocktail collection.

Best Small Hotel in U.S.: Lake Placid Lodge, New York
Situated in the picturesque Adirondacks of New York State is the Lake Placid Lodge. Spending a few days in a cozy log cabin edging a five-mile-long lake and hiking in Adirondack Park (an impressive six million acres) was the perfect recipe for relaxation and family bonding.