HOTELS September 2014 : Page 8
Global Update Familiar voice Updates changes channels A well-known former journAlist hAs tAken her tAlents to tripAdvisor. MgM Deals In hakkasan 10 lInkeDIn’s potentIal 12 langhaM’s new ways to ‘connect’ 12 L kIMpton Ups ante 14 the gostelow RepoRt 16 ong-time, high-profile Conde Nast Traveler columnist Wendy Perrin in April jumped over to TripAdvisor with her consumer-focused style of reporting as the travel site’s Travel Advocate. Perrin is responsible for writing travel con-tent for TripAdvisor’s blog, member updates, forums and social media channels. Perrin also serves as a TripAdvisor spokeswoman. As the well-traveled mother of two, Perrin has experienced hotels around the world — often with her kids in tow — and has a wealth of views and ideas about the business. HOTELS caught up with Perrin recently to get her take on hotel trends of the day. HOTELS: What trends have caught your atten-tion, and what are TripAdvisor members saying? Wendy Perrin: One thing that is so incredibly important to TripAdvisor travelers is free Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi in a hotel is like running water. It is a basic of life. Everybody needs it. There are still a variety of delivery systems out there, but people feel nickeled-and-dimed when they have to pay in their room. It’s the biggest turnoff for TripAdvisor travelers. H: What are hotels doing now that you like? WP: They are bringing their staff alive in various ways — from advice about the locale on the website to books in rooms with insider tips about destinations from staff. That personal connection with the people at the hotel is a big turn-on. So many TripAdvisor travelers value that personal connection. H: What do you see coming next? WP: Instagram is the next social frontier, and hoteliers should be harnessing its power 8 HOTELS September 2014 www.hotelsmag.com
FAMILIAR VOICE CHANGES CHANNELS
A WELL-KNOWN FORMER JOURNALIST HAS TAKEN HER TALENTS TO TRIPADVISOR.
Long-time, high-profile Conde Nast Traveler columnist Wendy Perrin in April jumped over to TripAdvisor with her consumer-focused style of reporting as the travel site’s Travel Advocate.
Perrin is responsible for writing travel content for TripAdvisor’s blog, member updates, forums and social media channels. Perrin also serves as a TripAdvisor spokeswoman.
As the well-traveled mother of two, Perrin has experienced hotels around the world — often with her kids in tow — and has a wealth of views and ideas about the business. HOTELS caught up with Perrin recently to get her take on hotel trends of the day.
HOTELS: What trends have caught your attention, and what are TripAdvisor members saying?
Wendy Perrin: One thing that is so incredibly important to TripAdvisor travelers is free Wi-Fi. Wi-fi in a hotel is like running water. It is a basic of life. Everybody needs it. There are still a variety of delivery systems out there, but people feel nickeled-and-dimed when they have to pay in their room. It’s the biggest turnoff for TripAdvisor travelers.
H: What are hotels doing now that you like?
WP: They are bringing their staff alive in various ways — from advice about the locale on the website to books in rooms with insider tips about destinations from staff. That personal connection with the people at the hotel is a big turn-on. So many TripAdvisor travelers value that personal connection.
H: What do you see coming next?
WP: Instagram is the next social frontier, and hoteliers should be harnessing its power more than they are. There are conversations happening there, and if consumers are going to lovely hotels and taking photos, the hotels should make hay with that. Offer Instagram users special treatment, add more photogenic touches to be captured and shared. I’m waiting to see which smart hotel companies are going to be innovative with Instagram video. They have not quite tapped into that yet.
H: What pet peeves of yours and TripAdvisor members need addressing?
WP: Costly minibar fees. Our research shows only 7% care about having a minibar in their rooms. More people are hanging out in the lobby, and as room service disappears hoteliers are discovering different ways to offer snacks and drinks to keep the social scene hopping in the lobby.
Everyone I know also complains about the lack of electrical outlets in the guestroom. I know headway has been made, but it would be nice to have more convenient spots, especially at desk level and by the bed nightstand.
H: What is your take on the lobby social trend?
WP: It is interesting that it is happening at same time the minibar is becoming an endangered species. It is the Millennials and younger travelers driving it, as they are used to working in that environment and being more nomadic. It is a more comfortable and natural state of being for them.
H: What should hotels do to create more loyalty?
WP: What I hear about and notice is service — the real way a hotel can differentiate itself. Hardware matters, as does thread count, but in the end what people remember is when the hotel went above and beyond and solved their problems. Either they solve it and perhaps create a loyalist, or they don’t and truly frustrate guests. Service is the most important thing for a hotel to focus on, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
H: Is there such a thing as loyalty today?
WP: I have thought about this a lot. I collect hotel points, but points have been devalued so they are not as important a currency. I get the sense loyalty is waning. People are open to trying something different because loyalty doesn’t bring as much value for most people in those programs.
H: Can you offer some social media dos and don’ts?
WP: Responding promptly is super important. Also, it is important to thank reviewers for their feedback. Be polite and show you want to hear from them, and address specific complaints. Some travelers are using social because they have a complaint and want to resolve it, while others are excited to talk about their hotel stays. Hotels would be smart to connect with the traveler before the stay and fan the flames of the expectations, offer more information about their stay.
H: Have you noticed any overlooked opportunities for hoteliers?
WP: At more destinations, people are battling so many lines and crowds. I’m waiting for hotels to help guests in various ways get past the crowds. Help travelers make their stays more efficient. If a hotel helps you skip the line, how great would that be? Various parts of the travel world do it, but I’m not seeing hotels do it. I know concierges can help, but a lot of people aren’t savvy enough, waste hours in lines and complain afterward. It would be great if hotels could help with that.
Hotels could also do more outreach after bookings and before stays. With activities at destination so important to Millennials, there are so many ways to reach out to them in advance.
H: What could hotels do to better cater to women travelers?
WP: As a woman who travels for business there a several things I wish hotels would do from placing makeup remover towelettes in the bathroom, which is very rare, to providing workout clothes and shoes, as I travel with just one carry-on bag.
Since 2007-2008 MGM Resorts International has been slowly developing non-gaming branded hotels using its iconic MGM and Bellagio brands. Due to bad market timing, while there are close to a dozen letters of intent, the Las Vegas-based gaming giant has only opened an MGM Grand in Sanya, China, with dual-branded projects under development in Mumbai and Dubai.
To further jump-start non-gaming development MGM announced in April a joint venture with Abu Dhabi-based nightlife player Hakkasan Group to create a hotel management company called MGM Hakkasan Hospitality. The duo can develop together or separately, or with other developers, but the JV will manage all projects, including the existing projects in the MGM pipeline as well as Hakkasan hotel projects in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Not surprisingly, the JV will lean on MGM for hotel management expertise, while Hakkasan will focus on lifestyle design and services as well as restaurant, lounge, nightlife and daylife experiences.
The JV will target New York, Beverly Hills and London. Additionally, Hakkasan Group will continue to place high-profile dining and nightlife brands (similar to MGM Grand in Las Vegas) into all developments.
“Having Hakkasan as a partner gives MGM something it didn’t have before, which is a company that is committed both from an expansion standpoint and a capital standpoint to making sure we make far more inroads into the hotel market,” says MGM Hakkasan Hospitality CEO Neil Moffitt. “I would like to double the numbers on the board by the end of 2015, as far as commitment. I would like us at 20 under development.”
Moffitt says with all the brands at their access, the new company can develop in city and resort locations. “We can use Hakkasan as a resort property,” he notes. “It has very many different forms it can take.”
Moffitt says the essence of the JV is delivering an experience that is more than just fantastic room product. “If I can convince a business traveler or a resort destination traveler not to leave my hotel, we’re achieving something that nobody else seems to be able to achieve,” he says. “And I believe we have a better chance than anybody else of achieving that.”
Rosewood Hotels & Resorts has debuted a signature culinary program, A Sense of Taste, tailored to the local culture of each property.
From diving for lobsters at Rosewood Little Dix Bay in Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands to a floatplane trip to Salt Spring Island to learn the art of cheese-making at Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver, Rosewood is offering private tours to exclusive locations to allow guests to experience local culinary experiences and traditions.
Additionally, as part of Rosewood’s Partners in Provenance commitment, each hotel establishes a defined radius for chefs to source artisanal ingredients to feature on menus. The concept emphasizes maintaining a seasonal and diverse menu.
CONSERVE AND CONNECT
In 2011, when Langham Hospitality Group launched sustainability program Connect, the Hong Kongbased company was in need of a cultural change. Corporate Sustainability Manager Carmen Ng used her vast corporate CSR-related experience to provide that change.
“When I first joined the company, I would see very simple things like people not separating their waste or not turning off their computer, but now they do it automatically,” Ng says.
Today, Ng is working to ensure all Langham’s hotels — which include The Langham, Langham Place and Eaton brands — participate in EarthCheck, and last year the company also debuted Connect Conferences, which allows meeting planners to select sustainable options for events such as locally grown ingredients for banquet menus and filtered instead of bottled water.
In addition to green initiatives, Connect encompasses health and wellness, employee safety, business accountability and community service. Ng notes when she joined Langham, the company had approximately 3,000 staffers performing 2,000-something community- service hours annually; today, that number has grown to 7,000 staff volunteering more than 8,500 community-service hours.
Overall, Ng believes Langham has the chance to be a sustainability leader, and she thinks the industry as a whole can make a big difference in small ways. “There’s a simple message: simple actions can create something good, and a hotel will have a lot of different types of opportunities to do these things,” Ng says.
WARMING UP TO LINKEDIN
While hotel sales managers use LinkedIn to prospect, network and qualify leads, and human resources managers use it to post positions and find candidates, hotel companies have done little outreach to guests on the business-oriented social network.
However, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., Chevy Chase, Maryland, in June committed to writing 100- word posts on LinkedIn from its top executives.
“People simply do not go to LinkedIn to research trips and share travel experiences,” says Daniel Craig, founder of hotel online marketing consultancy Reknown, Vancouver, Canada. “Clearly Ritz- Carlton understands this, as this initiative focuses on thought leadership and brand positioning within the luxury travel and business communities rather than on finding vacation-seekers.”
Ritz-Carlton says the project is tailored to communicate the company’s thinking, best practices and successes, while the posts profile operational, marketing, sales, human resources, CSR, social media, legal and financial topics. Ritz-Carlton currently has more than 110,000 followers of its LinkedIn page.
“We are not aiming to tie ‘likes’ and comments directly to revenue in our hotels,” says Ed French, Ritz-Carlton’s chief sales and marketing officer. “Instead, we seek to foster deep engagement with consumers on an individual level. Impressions and interaction are our core key performance indicators on LinkedIn, and where applicable we will look at website click-throughs. Within the first six days of this series going live, our interaction was up by nearly six times.”
TWO MARRIOTTS AS ONE
The Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn now sit side by side at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles and prove the dual-branded trend is alive and well. The US$170 million project is the first branded select-service hotel to open in downtown Los Angeles in 20 years.
The two hotels are separated only through design aesthetic. Guestrooms share the same floors, with Courtyard’s golden-orange accents contrasting Residence Inn’s purple design elements.
The design allows guests of both hotels to have one arrival experience as well as a shared 24-hour fitness center, outdoor pool deck and business center. The Courtyard also offers Cafe Table 901 for both hotels, featuring bistro-style fare in a grab-and-go format.
KIMPTON, THE UNBRAND
San Francisco-based lifestyle operator Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants could reach the 100- hotel plateau by 2019, according to new COO Mike DeFrino, which gives it greater potential to convert frequent travelers who might like the idea of more of an unbranded experience if they can find it in their most-traveled destinations.
To further lure this group Kimpton recently relaunched its loyalty program, now Kimpton Karma, to reward members beyond stay transactions, as well as a re-imagined website to make it more engaging, easier to explore and book its hotels.
An example of how Kimpton is trying to compete more with big brands is in Austin, Texas, where it will open a “grander” 300-room hotel with more F&B and meeting space in April across the street from a Four Seasons hotel. “We have to adopt processes that are going to help us run significant properties going up against, in some cases, luxury brands,” DeFrino says. “We have to bring our game to the next level.”
However, Kimpton’s sweet spot continues to be the upper-upscale niche. “If we have a product that is interesting, fun and unique we don’t have to have 5-star service — if we do it with the right people, bring that friendliness and hightech access.”
DeFrino, a 17-year veteran of the company, says Kimpton is moving over the billion dollar mark in revenue this year with 60-plus hotels, will hit 80 hotels within two years and currently has 15 signed deals and five that are in the final stages of negotiation.
“We’re creating a hybrid that is not a brand in the way that people look at brands,” DeFrino adds. “We’re trying to brand that Kimpton lifestyle feeling and experience and be very diligent about the execution of that from property to property. That is the key to our future.”
THE GOSTELOW REPORT
Myles McGourty, Miami-based senior vice president of Hyatt, Latin America and Caribbean, says the expansion of Hyatt Place in Central America (Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, San Salvador and Managua) is a strategic move to bring the brands closer to Central American travelers. Hyatt is already in Mexico, Costa Rica and Chile, and this year will add two properties in Mexico (La Paz and Ciudad del Carmen) and one in Panama City. Next year will see openings in Central America, another in Tijuana, Mexico, one in the state of São Paulo, Brazil (San José do Rio Preto), and the opening of the first Hyatt House extended-stay in Santa Fe, Mexico.
Is Cambodia ripe for development? One challenge is the growing number of inbound Korean travellers to the Angkor temples near Siem Reap who are more self-sufficient and find Koreanmanaged hotels and restaurants.
Peter French is president of Raffles International, Singapore. Unlike the other two brands in the FRHI Hotels & Resorts portfolio — Fairmont and Swissôtel — French reports directly to Zurich-based FRHI President and COO Michael Glennie. French wants more hotels in the Middle East and, like everyone, he wants London. One challenge in established destinations, he says, is that luxury operators are losing out to residential developers.
Carlson Rezidor Asia Pacific President Thorsten Kirschke is extremely bullish on his region with strong partnerships, as in India, already providing a good presence. Now, changing demographics and a burgeoning percentage of Millennials mean that while the last decade saw, if anything, an oversupply of luxury hotels, today there are massive opportunities for lifestyle products in Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia. When it comes to China, Kirschke is looking not only at the usual destinations of Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen, but also at secondand third-tier cities.
THE BASICS REIMAGINED
Seventeen years after opening, Singita Boulders Lodge in the Sabi Sand, South Africa, has been reinvented. Located on the banks of the Sand River, the original inspiration for the lodge came from the geometry of the ancient, weathered boulders and the natural curve of the riverbed.
This time, designers Cécile & Boyd and architect Sally Tsiliyiannis of GAPP Architects & Urban Designers have taken further cues from nature, incorporating the colors, textures and elements of the landscape. Throughout the 12-suite lodge, sculptures, abstract art and other found objects show a deeper connection with the wild.
Safari specialist Singita operates 12 low-impact luxury lodges and camps in five African destinations.
INTERVIEW: FRHI’S AGGRESSIVE GROWTH PLANS
Jennifer Fox was promoted to president, international, for FRHI Hotels & Resorts, Toronto, a year ago, while remaining president of the Fairmont brand. Under her leadership the company has pledged to grow its portfolio by 50% over the next five years, primarily outside North America.
“We have a different strategy for each of our brands,” Fox told HOTELS. “Raffles will always be a smaller brand. Today we have 11 Raffles hotels. We expect that brand is going to double its size over the next five years. For Raffles, our strategy is to be in mega-cities and key resort locations. With the Fairmont brand, we’re at 70 hotels going to about 100. We want Fairmont in major cities around the world and resort locations. With our Swissotel brand, our biggest portfolio is in Europe, and we’re growing steadily in Asia. We see a lot of opportunities to grow our Swissotel brand, which is currently 45 hotels open or under development.”
BLOG: WILL FACEBOOK REPLACE TRIPADVISOR?
Facebook has been steadily rolling out review features similar to what TripAdvisor offers with its Facebook Reviews. HOTELSMag.com blogger Benji Greenberg, co-founder and CEO of hotel social media marketing firm BCV, Chicago, wrote in a recent blog post that this could be a game changer.
“With a massive, active user base (more than 800 million daily users), Facebook has the potential to seriously threaten TripAdvisor and other niche review sites,” Greenberg writes. “That’s before even mentioning mobile, where Facebook’s 600 million daily mobile users far exceeds TripAdvisor’s 100 million total app downloads.”
INTERVIEW: THINK’S FRESH TAKE ON LIFESTYLE
Lifestyle hospitality owner-operator Think Hotel Group, Miami Beach, run by three lifelong friends from New York City, has opened its first hotel in New York City as well as two hotels on one block of Miami Beach and plans to open two more on the same block.
“By owning properties next to each other, we can offer amenities others can’t,” Shawn Vardi, Think Hotel Group president and COO, told HOTELS. “A 52-key boutique hotel couldn’t offer two restaurants normally, but we can offer four restaurants and two pools. Not having the flag gives us freedom. We can change and respond more quickly to the market, especially since we also own the properties.”
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