Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Younger travelers an emerging force in luxury spending

Travelers who use agents to book their trips continue to be the biggest spenders, according to Travel Weekly's annual Consumer Trends survey. But the latest report and other recent research show a surprising shift in who it is that's doing the luxury spending.

According to this year's Consumer Trends survey, those who used the services of travel agents in the past 12 months spent, on average, $10,843 a year, compared with $4,939 among those who didn't use an agent. That is about the same as last year.

The big difference is that spending by travelers over age 55, the group that traditionally leads all ages in average travel spend, declined significantly, from $8,430 to $5,840. And the proportion of those age 55 and over who spent less than $1,000 increased from 6% last year to 23% in this year's survey.

New brand ‘Zoku’ launches, marking the end of the hotel room as we know it

    Shifting the focus from bed to living and work space
    Revolutionary design, customisable interior, smart use of space
    In response to the need for more flexible, international living and working
    The first Zoku will open in Amsterdam in autumn 2015
    International rollout to follow
Facilitating global living and working for the travelling professional, Zoku, which is Japanese for family, tribe, or clan, will disrupt and create a new category in the hotel industry - a home-office hybrid, also suitable for long stays, with the services of a hotel and the social buzz of a thriving neighbourhood. Designed in collaboration with Concrete, the award-winning interior design and architecture agency, Zoku will be a relaxed place to live, work and socialise with like-minded people while getting wired into the city.
Hybrid-living meets compact-living: living large in a small space
As space is becoming scarcer in urban areas, the way we use it sustainably to meet long-term accommodation requirements is more and more relevant. Smart solutions that create the opportunity to use less square metres and facilitate 24/7, multifunctional use are needed. The Zoku Loft combines hybrid-living (living and working) with compact-living, by creating a spacious experience in a minimum area of just 25 m2.
The end of the hotel room as we know it
Offering both style and space consciousness, the Zoku Loft has customisable interiors that shift the focus from the bed to the living space. The central feature of the room will be a four-person table that can be used to work, dine and entertain, or just hang out.
The Zoku Loft also features a fully-equipped kitchen, cleverly designed extensive storage space, an alcove desk with office supplies, and an elevated, loft-style sleeping space, which can be accessed by a retractable staircase, and screened off to make the loft cosy, business-like or something in between. The loft will feature furnishings from Danish design brand Muuto. Zoku guests can add a finishing touch to their loft by choosing their own art, making the space truly personal.
Serving the new generation of business travellers, with focus on well-being
The concept behind Zoku is the result of extensive crowdsourcing and research efforts by Zoku and futures consultancy The Future Laboratory.
"The merging of business and leisure – a trend we have identified as bleisure – represents one of the fastest growing and dynamic business opportunities in recent years. Today's business travellers are re-writing the rules. Their outlook on work and play demands new services and a new approach to the hospitality sectors. The business hub will be the opportunity of the next decade in terms of hospitality value creation," says Chris Sanderson, Co-founder of The Future Laboratory London.
"The advance of technology has changed personal and professional lifestyles. Boundaries between work and leisure are fading, and blurring borders have made people more mobile than ever," says Hans Meyer, Co-founder and managing director of Zoku.
"At Zoku we realise that your well-being is vital to get the most out of your travel experience. It's easy for global nomads, whose work forms an essential part of their lives, to feel ungrounded and disconnected from what inspires them. Zoku is going to change that. The Zoku Lofts offer an efficient work space without losing the comfortable, flexible vibe of home, while the Zoku community provides a social structure."
A thriving neighbourhood for global nomads
Encouraging social connections, Zoku will offer diverse social areas to facilitate effortless interaction between Zoku's residents, the local community and Zoku Community Managers. 24/7, open-plan communal living and co-working spaces will allow for conversations and small meetings, and a residential living kitchen will present the possibility to share a meal together or host small dinner parties. Zoku Community Managers will roam the public spaces, helping with personal requests and facilitating professional and social connections through their broad networks within Zoku and the city.
Zoku will also develop a lively social programme with focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as an app, to build a strong in-house community and facilitate business connections and a local social life.
Zoku worldwide"We are aiming for a fast international rollout of Zokus in the world's most creative cities," says Marc Jongerius, Co-founder and managing director of Zoku. "All this with the aim of creating an international community network of Zokus."
The longer you stay, the more you get out of it. Zoku Lofts can be rented for just one night, and are ideal for those seeking a temporary living and working space from 5 nights up to several months, making it financially and culturally beneficial for guests to extend their stay at Zoku. The first Zoku property will open in Amsterdam's city centre, featuring 133 Zoku Lofts, and over 500 m2 of social space for its guests.
Zoku Amsterdam will be taking bookings from July 2015.

Just What is a Lifestyle Hotel?

By Larry Mogelonsky, President and Founder, LMA Communications Inc. on 3 Sep 15

A short detour through Southern California brought me to an independent property advertising itself as a 'lifestyle hotel'. Not knowing the specifics of what this meant in a West Coast context, who exactly this hotel was targeting or how the property was differentiating itself to substantiate this modifier, I was curiously excited to try it out.
Withholding its name so we can keep this discussion neutral, the property itself was a one-time Hyatt that had seen a recent – and what I am told was, extensive – renovation. The open concept lobby's enormous size was augmented by its sleek, reflective tile surfaces and made only more inviting by the vibrant reddish orange hues utilized in the sparse décor. The patchwork lighting was eclectic and moody, as was the labyrinthine juxtaposition of the lobby furniture and bar area. Furthermore, a large grab-and-go outlet reminiscent of a humble, luxury-goods-oriented airport duty free shop dominated one side of the lobby just before the entrance to the restaurant. The overall feel was relaxed and inviting yet also animated and hip.
The front desk staff was no different than what one would expect in a traditional hotel, with the exception of a lack of name badges. The property was very busy, and I was advised by the desk clerk that they were expecting to sell out that evening. Looking around my double queen guestroom, I noticed the traditional binder of statistics, safety data, TV channels, conference space maps and room service listings had been replaced by a bound, well curated series of cardboard flip charts, each one depicting an element of the property's features. All was presented in a laid back, millennial-seeking lexicon.
Apart from this element, the bedroom and bathroom were traditional in every other way. Towels, amenities, bed linens, soft goods and case goods looked catalog-familiar. The neutral brown color selections and bland interior design elements lacked clear-cut distinctiveness. Writing this just one week later, I am having a hard time remembering the specific combination of textures and shades which served create any sort of 'lifestyle roar'.
So, what is it that differentiates or allows your property to be described as a lifestyle brand? One would expect – or at least a traveling boomer such as myself would surmise – that a strong sense of place would be a key factor contributing to this descriptor. After all, lifestyle's dictionary meaning pertains to the ways in which a person or group lives. And aren't our surroundings an important influence on our behavior or livelihoods? Moreover, shouldn't lifestyle hotels work to enrich or improve our lives in ways that other standardized hotels simply cannot do? A lobby bar and c-store are really not enough.
From this example, I would say that lifestyle means a younger, less formal attitude, which translates into youthful front desk staff, lax uniform code, irreverent guest communications, creative use of print elements and a lively website. Perhaps the word 'lifestyle' just isn't meant for those of us over the age of 45.
Not to seem jaded, but from this experience (amongst others) it would seem as though the promise of a lifestyle property has been hijacked by savvy marketers hoping to fully reposition a hotel without changing all that much to the appearance or the operations. My token of advice for you is if you are currently operating a lifestyle hotel or are thinking of moving in that direction, give some serious thought as to how exactly you will transform your property to make it truly distinctive but also better than your competitors.

Hotels, food trucks form unique partnerships

Food trucks are the epitome of grab-and-go dining and have become a cultural trend, as well. Hotels often partner with food trucks to offer variety or in the case of Four Seasons, have their own truck to promote their brand.

The Aloft brand has featured food trucks alongside their Live at Aloft Hotel music events when large crowds demand a greater variety and volume of hot food items than the brand's re:fuel food-and-beverage area provides. Food trucks assembled on-site make for a fun event and engage guests with the local foodie community, according to Jeremy Cooper, direction of global guest initiatives, specialty select brands for Aloft's parent company, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
"For an Aloft hotel in a location with limited restaurant options, a carefully selected food truck partner can certainly enhance the guest experience—particularly at night at the W XYZ bar," he said. "Ethnic and cultural cuisines (e.g., Korean, Indian) and trends (e.g., grilled cheese, crepe) can serve as an enhancement to the W XYZ vibe and core bar food offerings. Depending on the situation, individual hotels might be able to negotiate a commission-based agreement with the food truck operators."
Four Seasons had a FS Taste Truck Tour in 2013 and 2014, making stops across the West and the East Coast. Chefs from each of the Four Seasons properties along the way crafted unique menus specifically for the tour, highlighting regional flavors.
"For us, the popularity of the Four Seasons food truck was that people were very curious that a luxury hotel brand was operating a food truck, offering street food cooked by very well-trained chefs," according to Guy Rigby, VP of food and beverage for Four Seasons.
Cooper advised that food truck offerings and partnerships must be carefully managed to ensure the proper level of quality and reliability—as well that the food truck complements the hotel offering in a unique and engaging way, ultimately driving overall sales through beverage and ancillary food sales.

Room to brew – the future of in-room coffee

My morning coffee is a perpetual delight in my life, warming my insides, prickling my nose with its soothing aroma and sparking my brain for the day ahead. It’s a simple pleasure, a momentary respite and a ritual I do not take lightly. I bet many of you are in the same boat! All subtle addictions aside, coffee is an essential part of many people’s lives and as such, it merits your attention – both at home and at work.

In this case, let’s assume your place of work is a hotel or related to a hospitality setting in some manner or another. But that doesn’t mean that the home coffee experience is not applicable; quite the opposite in fact. We want our guests to ‘feel at home’, and any actions we can take to better emulate a person’s image of the ideal daily caffeine ritual with be greatly appreciated.

With this in mind, I ask you to give your own honest opinion (as a traveler and not as a hotelier proud of his or her place of work): do you actually like in-room coffee? Do you get the same sense of solace and rejuvenation from a hotel cup as you do at home? Does anyone for that matter? Coffeemakers in guestrooms are all but mandatory design elements, but many properties only pay them lip service. Hence, whatever you can do to augment this micro-experience will do wonders towards guest satisfactions because it will come as unexpected.

It’s critical that you reassess your caffeinated endeavors at this juncture because our collective appreciation of these beverages continues to climb through the roof. Call it the ‘Starbuckification’ of coffee as ever since this chain broke out in the 90s, we’ve all come to respect and crave a superior quality brew. This is coming, of course, from a North American perspective as many parts of Europe, Africa and Asia have upheld a high caliber of coffee-making for many decades or centuries prior to this company’s worldwide expansion. Regardless of any oldfangled customs, nowadays Starbucks and its ilk represent somewhat of a gold standard for coffee excellence; if you can’t match what they are doing then you’re failing to impress guests in this regard.

Another important note on diction used is that I am talking about improving the overall ‘coffee experience’ and not just the actual coffeemaker. In this sense, we are talking a bit broader, encompassing in-room possibilities as well as anything pertaining to the ‘club lounge’ or ‘social station’ model. While augmenting in both areas will see results, you need only devote your energies to just one of the twosome, to the point where it becomes a feature worthy of praise.

As it stands right now, most in-room coffeemakers aren’t total eyesores, but they aren’t doing the room any favors either. Their designs often don’t match the room’s theme or color tones, nor are the most common accessories – such as plastic wrappings, cardboard sleeves and Styrofoam cups – very appetizing either, especially for our inner germaphobes. Chic, new and easy-to-use models like those offered by Nespresso or Keurig present a viable option for upgrading your in-room coffee selections. Apart from a few drawbacks such as restocking issues, these single-cup brewing machines provide guests with a variety of delicious flavors beyond stock packets of ground beans, thus adding to the perceived value. Moreover, you can investigate other niche coffee apparatuses like a French press or a cold brew system – anything to differentiate your services and leave an impression with guests.
The other main area to explore pertains to tea. If you aren’t a tea drinker, give it a shot; those three letters will change your life! Green, white, black, oolong, herbal and all in-between, there are so many different types of tea for you to choose from above the normal offerings you see on menus everywhere else. With teas you must also take into account the wide range of accompanying fragrances, which contribute to the extraordinary nature of each individual experience. Yes, give guests one or two familiar options so they don’t feel completely blindsided, but then go for a few esoteric varieties to heighten the sense of surprise and interactivity (that is, unfamiliar or exotic tea bag labels can spur guests’ curiosity by prompting them to read). All the better if your hotel already has its own private label or has partnered with a company that does just that.

Jumping over to the other side of the fence is the break room or social station concept. Often 24-hours in operation, these are perpetually restocked common areas where guests can procure their choice of caffeinated beverages in addition to other food items like fresh croissants, specialty pastries or sweet, savory cookies. Although a topic for a whole other discussion, let’s just say that such companion treats have a tremendous compounding effect on one’s coffee experience and they represent a great boon for differentiating a hotel’s petit dejeuner.

The obvious shortcoming of favoring these lounge concepts over in-room coffee is that guests have to journey beyond their own rooms in order to take advantage of these complimentary treats. Despite this inconvenience, there are far too many advantages to this system for me to side with any in-room partisans, so much so that one could easily see how in-room hotel coffeemakers will become extinct within a matter of years.

First, by catering to everyone at once, it allows you to source a more complex coffee or espresso machine, delivering a far better brew but at the cost of regular maintenance and intimidating a few tenderfoot guests. Next, this lounge style encourages a social environment, which is oh-so-important to today’s grab-and-go, millennial-centric culture. And heaven forbid you don’t offer free WiFi at these locations. Third, with well-placed signage, such stations can become highly educational (who doesn’t want to learn about what they put in their bodies?), transforming a quick coffee break into an interactive mixology event.

Last and importantly, because you can offer fresh food in conjunction with coffee or tea, it’s an excellent opportunity to showcase local produce and to theme your F&B presentation in line with a few of your brand’s exceptional qualities. For a property in the United Kingdom, you better have an impressive spread of English teas, biscuits, shortbreads and scones. Or, if orange is the dominant color of your brand, why not theme your coffee breaks accordingly with orange pekoe tea, fresh citrus fruits and chocolate-tangerine-infused confections? Many cultures and countries have their own takes on how to best prepare these amazing beans and the onus is on you to embrace the authenticity of your surroundings.

With points made both for and against, which side do you fall on? Is in-room coffee a thing of the past or is the proliferation of these social stations just a temporary phenomenon?

About the author
Larry Mogelonsky ( is the president and founder of LMA Communications Inc. (, an award-winning, full service communications agency focused on the hospitality industry (est. 1991). Larry is also the developer of Inn at a Glance hospitality software. As a recognized expert in marketing services, his experience encompasses Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Preferred Hotels & Resorts, as well as numerous independent properties throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Larry is a registered professional engineer, and received his MBA from McMaster University. He’s also an associate of G7 Hospitality, a member of Cayuga Hospitality Advisors and Laguna Strategic Advisors. His work includes three books “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” (2012) and “Llamas Rule” (2013) and “Hotel Llama” (2014). You can reach Larry at to discuss any hospitality business challenges or to review speaking engagements

Best Western Announces Expansion of Vib Boutique Hotel Brand

Best Western International announced on Monday that it has signed deals for five new Vib boutique hotels.

Since the official announcement of the urban boutique concept last October, Vib (as in Vibrant) has eight properties under development. In addition to the previously announced hotel projects in Chicago, Miami and Seoul, South Korea, Vib will also open another 150-room Vib in Miami, as well as hotels in Los Angeles; Staten Island; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Springfield, Missouri (all 200 rooms or fewer). All eight hotels in development are slated to open by the end of 2016.

"Since the launch of Vib we have had tremendous interest from hotel developers and are especially pleased with the response from developers who have not previously developed Best Western hotels," said Ron Pohl, senior vice president of brand management for Best Western International, via a release. "Vib is really gaining traction because it is the only boutique concept designed for the upper midscale hotel segment and fills a niche that developers and customers want."

In addition to the Vib hotels under development, Best Western also announced that it is negotiating deals for the brand in Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas; New Orleans; Scottsdale,, Arizona; and San Diego.

Best Western’s latest move with Vib exemplifies how the hotel industry is shifting, as more and more hotel companies—big and small—attempt to meet rising guest demand for boutique hotel offerings. What was once a niche concept has now attracted a mainstream audience, and hotel companies tend to be quick to respond when they see a big opportunity.

Vib focuses on a lot of boutique-centric elements that are popular, including social engagement, technology, a high level of service and innovative design. It also claims to have a minimal footprint, which stands to resonate well with a world that appears to be more environmentally conscious these days.
The fact that global hospitality companies like Best Western are placing more of an emphasis on the boutique hotel is proof that the concept is more valid than ever. As the world gets bigger, hotels—interestingly enough—appear to be getting smaller.

Hotel Selfie – Hotelfie…seriously, it’s big and hotels need to encourage them

Love them or hate them, selfies are part of modern culture and they’re integral to our love of all things digital, especially for Millennials. So if this is a new and important way of communicating, it’s an area all hotels need to start capitalising on the hotel selfie and using to their advantage.
If you aren’t up with all of this, a selfie is a photograph you take of yourself, typically with a smartphone and it is then shared via social media.The word ‘selfie’ was officially entered into the Oxford Dictionary in 2013, recognising it as a part of modern society. Selfies reached a new height of fame last year when Ellen Degeneres took THE most retweeted selfie of all time at the 2014 Oscars.
A study of social media habits conducted by research firm YouGov showed that 25% of Americans post a photo within just one hour of arriving at a vacation destination. Take into account the fact that 64% of Americans also retake their photos in order to make sure they’ll get them likes.

Selfies aren’t going away any time soon so it makes sense to capitalise on them in order to have your guests do your hotel digital marketing for you, especially for hotels based in Asia. When Time magazine tried to quantify the world’s “selfiest” cities using data from Instagram in March 2014, Makati and Pasig City in the Philippines were the winners. In fact, four of the top 10 were in Asia, making the selfie a way of life and the hotel selfie, or Hotelfie is something all hotels need to start encouraging now.
The ultimate sharable content
Successful content which promotes your hotel on social media, needs to be sharable. There are few forms of media which are more frequently shared than selfies, and of the many different forms of selfie, hotels can encourage more than one type. Customers and guests are always looking for something authentic and special to share online with their friends – something that will both impress them and show off where they’re traveling.
Plenty of User-Generated Content
A study of social media habits conducted by research firm YouGov showed that 25% of Americans post a photo within just one hour of arriving at a vacation destination. Take into account the fact that 64% of Americans also retake their photos in order to make sure they’ll get them likes.
Guests are pouring their own-created content of your property onto social media channels, making capitalising on this a must. Providing them with plenty of beautiful backdrops and reminders of the great locations within your property to take a selfie, whether it be a beautiful beach or a stunning city view, becomes important. Reminding them to tag your hotel brand or use a hashtag will do wonders to boost your hotel’s exposure.
Top 4 Types of Selfie:
The study by YouGov also found the top 6 types of vacations selfie ranked as follows:
1. Sunglasses selfies
Beach properties and resorts will likely do well when it comes to selfies with sunnies (a British idiom for sunglasses, in case you weren’t sure). You could further encourage this sun-drenched self-indulgence by running a simple hashtag competition, along the lines of The best sunshine selfie wins free cocktails at your hotel bar. Posting this on your website, hotel app and social media channels will quickly encourage guests to post and tag your hotel claiming what a wonderful time they’re having there. Sharing positive images to thousands of people for the cost of two Pina Coladas.
2. Group selfies making silly faces
Does your property have a mirror or shiny surface in your lobby? Stick a hashtag next to it or on it and let your guests go nuts taking group selfies before heading out to the beach or heading out to dinner.
3. Selfie with a cocktail
If you’re not serving cocktails in your hotel bar, I’m surprised you’ve lasted long enough to read this. Cocktails are a staple mark of any vacation and frequently appear in hotelfies. A little cheeky note in your bar menu saying how great a specific cocktail looks in a selfie is an easy way to prompt guests to snap a shot of your fabulous hotel cocktails.
4. The Beach Feet Brag Selfie
The ultimate bragging rights selfie, your guests are literally showing how they’ve got their feet up and are relaxing and having a great time away on vacation. Usually taken to show the beach or the pool in the background and prove how far away they are from work, school and bad weather (we’ve all done it).
If you have beautiful views where guests can take a beach feet selfie then make sure they’re tagging your hotel in their snaps. You could even run a promotion within your hotel spa for pedicures on your hotel app or hotel website featuring images like this. “Get your toes ready for that all-important beach-feet selfie.
Ask guests to mention or use a hashtag in their post when they come in for their spa treatment, they’ll be happy to show off how much they’re being pampered during their stay for added bragging rights.
Don’t forget about Food Selfies
Food selfies could range from the “Look at how fancy my meal is” to “Treating myself while on vacation” style posts. Depending on your menu and guest demographic you could even go for the “Look how hungry I am eating all this food” type of selfie. Photos of food are just as popular as selfies, it could be a simple matter to ask guests to tag or hashtag your signature dish in order to receive a discount off their bill. This produces a huge amount of online presence and can create a reputation for your F&B quickly, especially in city hotels where many patrons will be non-guests.