Tag Archives: hotels

Five Reasons Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills Is The New A-List Hotel To Beat In Los Angeles

Beverly Hills has a gorgeous new icon in its midst. After ten years of planning and construction at a reported cost of around $200 million, the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills opened this summer overlooking the so-called Golden Triangle district that includes Rodeo Drive and some of the world’s priciest shops and real estate. As luxury entities go, it’s a game changer.

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Marriott Now Requires 48 Hours for Cancellations

Back in 2015, TravelPulse’s Pat Clarke reported that Marriott Hotels, along with Hilton International, were toughening their cancellation policies.

At the time, the two global hoteliers were making the revolutionary move to dial back travelers’ ability to make same-day cancellations with no penalty. Starting Jan. 1, 2016, customers who couldn’t give at least 24-hours notice for a room cancellation would be charged the equivalent of one night’s room rate.

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Lackluster Q1 GDP growth could stymie hoteliers from raising rates

U.S. gross domestic product rose only 0.7 percent in the first quarter, with torpid consumer spending pointed to as the main culprit. The rate marked the economy’s weakest quarter since early 2014.

Consumer spending grew at a 0.3-percent rate, the smallest increase since the fourth quarter of 2009.

Americans reduced their purchases of big-ticket items, such as automobiles and home appliances; meanwhile, responsibility for sluggish GDP growth rate is also blamed on rising inflation, which has dinged paychecks.

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Amid Global Tension, Luxury Hotel Brands Emphasize Human Connection

With all the global disruption in 2016, ranging from Trump to terrorism, there’s a decided shift in the luxury travel industry toward simplicity, balance, human connection, self-discovery, and getting back to the basics of what’s important in life.

That was the biggest takeaway at the International Luxury Travel Market 2016 conference in Cannes last week. Most of the participating brands emphasized human connection and elevated, authentic cultural experiences to better reconnect family and loved ones with each other, and engage people in the local destination. Luxury is very personal in 2016.

Top-tier hotel groups are now aligning their marketing and communications around those themes. The biggest challenge for luxury brands, however, is differentiating and defining their unique value proposition for customers when every upscale hotel is basically saying the same thing.

Arnaud Champenois, SVP brand & marketing at Belmond, summed up today’s consumer expectations in the luxury space, pretty much shared by everyone else at ILTM.

“Luxury consumers are looking for authenticity, true quality, genuine people, real stories, and immersive local experiences,” he said. “At the same time, they make their decisions based on personal values and interests for experiences rather than material goods. So there needs to be a balance between doing things and the good life.”

The “doing things” part, Champenois explained, refers more to active learning experiences that help improve travelers’ understanding of themselves and different cultures. He said that’s where the demand is because travelers are seeking higher levels of engagement to create longer lasting, more impactful memories.

To deliver on that, Belmond is creating travel experiences with an educational emphasis around three touch points: Nature, Culture, and Wellbeing. It’s interesting how culinary isn’t featured in that mix. Instead, innovative food and beverage is embedded in the local experience across all three pillars.

For example, Belmond’s new Hope & Harvest tour in Cape Town takes guests to local townships where they gather for lunch with the people behind a citizen-led vegetable garden collaborative that has scaled nationwide.

“In a world where time is true luxury,” Champenois said, “[luxury consumers] want to better themselves both intellectually and physically.”

Belmond Wants To Double In Size

Roeland Vos, president and CEO of Belmond, outlined an aggressive growth strategy to expand the company’s footprint beyond its present 47 hotels, resorts, small-ship cruises, and historic rail journeys in 23 countries. He said the company wants to contract somewhere between 36-53 new properties though 2020 to drive topline growth and bottomline results, increase brand awareness, and expand the global footprint in under-represented countries, including the U.S.

“We want to identify new destinations with as many as 1,000 potential hotel targets that represent what Belmond stands for as a brand,” said Vos.

To help drive brand awareness to support the ambitious product development, Belmond is launching a new website in mid-2017 that will showcase the new destination experiences as much as the properties.

Aside from that, Belmond’s long-term business strategy is to continue partnering with important properties of all different sizes and shapes in both iconic and emerging destinations. But because the properties are so disparate in nature, the new focus on destination experiences and storytelling is designed to provide a common thread that better conveys the overall brand experience to the marketplace.

Meaning, Belmond is paralleling the shift in luxury consumer demand from hardware to software by slightly repositioning the company around programming as much as product. Although, Vos insisted, “The underlying powerhouse is the individual properties, and we should never lose that.”

The goal is still to lead with hotel and transportation inventory that singularly define their particular destination.

“We’re bringing in the name Belmond but also keeping the wonderful identity that the hotels have anyway,” Vos explained. “For example, the magic sits in the Cipriani. The magic sits in the Copacabana Palace. That’s where the history is. That’s where the heritage is. When you feel it, you feel it under your skin.”

Except layering the Belmond brand onto those hotels has been a challenge in the past, to a degree, because the properties are iconic but the brand is only a couple years old following the Orient-Express rebrand. No one, for example, ever says they’re going to the Belmond Cipriani. Vos admitted he doesn’t, but he thinks the experiential element is a way to tie the Belmond name with the product more decisively.

Although, that’s a considerable ask when all luxury brands are now pushing local immersion.

“Where I think the magic of the brand begins to kick in is when people realize we are creating a kind of a golden thread among those properties,” he said. “If you start recognizing what the experiences are, that if you travel to the Cipriani or Copacabana, you’re getting this Belmond experience. How we’re defining those Belmond moments and those Belmond experiences in the properties is then something that customers will actually start recognizing. That’s where the brand really starts coming to life.”

Ideally, Vos wants to recreate the clustering of different travel experiences, including hotels and cruise/rail, like the company has developed in Peru and Italy. He agreed that’s easier said than done, but he said the demand is growing for multi-modal travel. His main priority, for now, is communicating Belmond’s somewhat unique positioning in the market to owners and customers in order to drive overall growth.

“The differentiator for us is we’re about finding hotels in the sweet spot between 50 to 100 rooms, where we can support owners financially to bring their properties back to life,” Vos said. “The second piece is we’re going into destinations where some of the hard brands are not going to go because their standards don’t fit into what we’re doing. We don’t define luxury by 50-square-meter rooms or 100-square-meter rooms. Our brand standards are different. We define luxury by the exclusive experience that you can get in the destination and nowhere else.”

Shangri-La Asks Guests To Define Loyalty

Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts strove to engage the luxury consumer in 2016 by inspiring them to submit user-generated content explaining their feelings about loyalty.

The company’s “#LoyaltyIs” brand campaign and microsite kicked off with videos of five cultural influencers discussing their attachment to specific cities from Paris to Hong Kong. Their stories are more pointedly about their personal and professional evolution in the destinations, and how the destinations have influenced their life decisions, which is messaging aimed squarely at a more Millennial-age audience.

In four out of the five videos, there’s relatively small focus on the actual hotels themselves.

Then Shangri-La launched additional videos profiling long-term employees and repeat guests who shared their views on the importance of loyalty. One of them is Edward Wa, who has worked as a lobby ambassador at the Kowloon Shangri-La, Hong Kong for 35 years.

“I have to say watching that video gives me goose-pimples and makes my eyes water because he’s still working for us, and I know him well,” said Barbara Pang, SVP of sales & marketing at Shangri-La Hotels. “It’s a very emotional video and it brings out the human side of travel, and that’s how we’re connecting with our customers, by sharing that content.”

With those initial videos in place, the hotel group then launched the #LoyaltyIs contest late last year seeking submissions from the general public for their feelings about loyalty in any context. People like Tuyan Richelle, who got married at Shangri-La Mactan Resort & Spa in the Philippines, wrote: “#LoyaltyIs choosing to love someone you promised your whole being to. It’s not based on feelings, it’s a choice.”

“It’s really interesting to see how the five influencers look at loyalty differently because they come from different cultural backgrounds,” said Pang. “They also really inspired people entering the contest to put in a lot of quality content.”

She explained that the #LoyaltyIs initiative was designed to speak to all consumers across all segments. That’s important because luxury brands are more challenged today to segment customers by age, travel purpose, and other demographic delineations. In order for messaging to resonate with luxury travelers, according to Pang, it has to speak to customers’ values.

To facilitate that, hotel groups like Shangri-La are all investing in new customer relationship management technology to dissect the entire online customer journey to understand how people are engaging with the brand at different touch points.

“We look at customer segmentation now more so than market segmentation, because I think increasingly every customer is different,” Pang explained. “The traditional way of looking at a corporate traveler versus a leisure traveler doesn’t work anymore because they’re blending what they do when they travel. So with customer relationship management, I think you’re looking at different behaviors, and how you’re communicating with individual customers. There’s a lot of talk about that internally.”

By Greg Oates

Source: Skift

Marriott CEO says top priority is integrating Starwood

BETHESDA, Maryland—Marriott International officials were upbeat during their third-quarter earnings call with analysts, their first as the official owners of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

Only a month has passed since the deal closed 23 September, and a watchful industry has waited for any details that Marriott and its president and CEO, Arne Sorenson, would share. News has come out little by little, including the latest that Marriott will lay off 163 employees at Starwood’s headquarters by the end of the year.

During the call and in the news release, executives made no direct mention to the layoffs. Similarly, when it came to the question-and-answer session after the prepared remarks, analysts did not ask about them.

Marriott’s stock value has increased 6.8% year to date as of press time. The Baird/STR Hotel Stock Index was up 3.6% for the same time period.

Integrating Starwood
Marriott’s near-term priorities following the acquisition are to reach out to associates to knit together the culture of the company, Sorenson said, as well as seize the topline synergies, property efficiencies and $250 million in G&A savings.

Following the closing of the deal, he said, Marriott linked Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest with plans to match member status.

“We immediately enabled our loyal travelers to earn points in one program and redeem in the other,” he said. “In fact, over 3.3 billion points were transferred between the programs in the first month alone, while the first transfer and redemption reservation occurred just 15 minutes after we closed the transaction.”

Getting the loyalty programs right was a top priority for Marriott, he said. Only 16% of the combined 85 million members were members of both programs before the acquisition, he said, which puts the company in a position to capture incremental business.

There have been more than 1,000 lead referrals for group business through the end of October between the Starwood and Marriott portfolios, Sorenson said. He also said he anticipates savings on contracts with online travel agencies.

“With its greater scale, Marriott has historically been able to obtain more attractive OTA contract terms,” he said. “While savings to Starwood hotels will vary by region, applying Marriott’s contract terms should save Starwood owners OTA commissions, even assuming no change in OTA usage, with more savings expected in 2018.”

Sorenson asked for patience regarding Marriott’s integration strategy and synergy opportunities.

“Every market is different and every property is different,” he said. “We can tell you we’ve reviewed and assimilated a tremendous amount of information from Starwood over the last six weeks and that we remain as enthusiastic about the transaction as ever.

Corporate caution
North American demand growth continues to moderate, Sorenson said, as hotels with the weakest revenue per available room were mostly in the oil and gas markets as well as gateway cities with weak international inbound travel or new supply.

New group business was encouraging, he said, as Marriott and Starwood sales organizations booked a combined 3.6 million roomnights for future periods. That’s 6% more business than last year, he said.

However, corporate customers are still cautious, Sorenson said. He cited the company’s second-quarter earnings call and said RevPAR growth from legacy Marriott’s largest 300 corporate customers dropped from 4% growth in Q4 2015 to 2% in the first quarter of 2016 and less than 1% growth last quarter.

“For this quarter, room revenue from legacy Marriott’s top 300 customers was flat year-over-year, as higher demand from professional services, retail and health care firms was offset by lower demand from technology, financial, energy and manufacturing companies,” he said.

When asked about group pace falling from 7% growth to 2% growth, Sorenson clarified that the 7% comes from legacy Marriott while the 2% is the combined company. Legacy Marriott’s decline is a drop from 7% to 4% growth, he said.

“I think the bulk of the impact is in volume,” he said. “In other words, no, it’s not rate. And it’s simply this relative caution about near-term commitments.”

On a positive note, bookings in Q3 for future periods were up about 8% to 9% compared to bookings in 2015, Sorenson said. Numbers for 2018 are in the high single digits, he said.

Future development
Marriott should grow its global room distribution by about 5% net of deletions in 2016, Sorenson said. Some delays have pushed back some Marriott and Starwood openings into early 2017, he said, but new deal signings are strong. By the end of the quarter, the combined pipeline came to almost 420,000 rooms, he said. In 2017, room growth should grow to about 6% net of deletions, he said.

The combined brand portfolio represents 14% of open rooms in the U.S., he said. The company now has 36% of rooms under construction in the country and 23% of rooms under construction around the world.

Sorenson said he is optimistic about brands like Aloft and Element. The franchisee community in the U.S. has seen these brands and is interested in them, he said.

“We have already seen that there is a strong appetite to grow those brands,” he said. “I think Starwood saw that even before we closed the transaction with significant increase in the signings for those brands in the United States and we’ll focus on those. We’ll continue to make sure that we refine them without changing the kind of customer idea that they’ve got and we think we’ll see growth of those brands accelerate quite significantly.”

By Bryan Wroten

Source: Hotel News Now