As travel and hospitality are two of the most discretionary items in anyone’s spending pattern, they are probably under more pressure than any other sector.
Yet hotel brands seem to be making mistakes that could have longterm repercussions. How can hotel brands adjust to the new paradigm of luxury that’s driven by value, rather than conspicuous consumption?
Treating luxury as though it were an ornament, not substance.
Consumers are demanding the freedom to determine what luxury means. In response, your product must go beyond the standard checklist of high-thread-count sheets and a locally acclaimed restaurant. PlumpJack, which has niche properties for snowsports (Squaw Valley Inn) and wine appreciation (Carneros Inn), provides direct access to unique experiences in those categories, bypassing the need to “know the right people.”
Luxury isn’t the fireplace anymore. It has to be a real fire.
Adapting your current luxury consumer model without changing your operational setup.
Ensuring that customers achieve the experience of privilege with every encounter requires a very different operational style. Staff members need to be trained to be stewards of the brand. Look to organizations that blend entertainment and hospitality successfully for examples of how service can be choreographed but not scripted. For instance, W Hotels has adapted the same “cast member” strategy as Disney—their human
resources representatives are even called casting directors—to create the right behaviors in customer interactions.
Ignoring the competitive landscape beyond the boundaries of your category.
Luxury is about indulgence. In the mind of the client, a week in your hotel might be measured against plastic surgery or a new sports car; which gives the most satisfaction?
Your competition doesn’t end with other properties in the same area with the similar amenities. Consider how well your marketing messages measure up in servicing other needs beyond your core competence.
Believing a single, spectacular brand experience is possible without fully integrating communication channels.
Consistent, seamless, positive relationships with your brand are at the base of what every “purchaser of experiences” wants. Talk to customers online about what is going on at your property, and then follow up with additional conversations through special events and direct mail.
TheLobby.com, for example, offers insider-quality information written for visitors to both inspire them to travel to Starwood properties and to make their trips in progress more enjoyable.
Too often, different communication channels are parceled out to separate agencies and partners with little regard to how messages will fit together for the customer. Marketing executives must align them to achieve a common goal. Think orchestra rather than solo performance.
Not striving to make brands more human. Don’t focus on the brand’s tagline.
People who are buying luxury experiences don’t want to buy the same experience again and again. They will gravitate toward brands that continuously evolve and demonstrate different tastes and moods like real, live humans do. They desire anthropomorphic brands that do different things and introduce them to different people.
Blueblood brands such as The Ritz-Carlton Co. and Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts must begin to portray different aspects of their brand personalities from location to location. They could also flow more organically from one context to the next. For example, a Ritz in the city should have a different flavor than a Ritz at the beach. And everyone needs to lighten up, or else risk becoming a target for the current backlash against traditional demonstrations of ostentatious wealth