20 Years of the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance

A friend shared this great collage of the first 20 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance guides. Very cool!

 

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27. March 2016 by Kevin Donahue
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Google Destinations: The Future of Mobile Travel

Google has just launched what may be the future of mobile travel search tools: Google Destinations. Brilliantly, Google has integrated the power of their hotel, airline, and destination search into a single, mobile-friendly travel planning platform.

The completely immersive experience is simple for travelers to navigate and – ironically for a search company – intended to eliminate the need for multiple searches. As the user navigates, the search results auto-update.  One simply scrolls and Google Destinations handles all the heavy lifting.

 

It's difficult to imagine Google designing the "search" out of search, but one look at Google Destinations makes it easy to see how this could easily become the future of travel search. To test Google Destinations, enter a destination and add the word "vacation" (e.g. "Florida Vacation")… and Google Destinations does the rest.

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12. March 2016 by Kevin Donahue
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“Leadership Qualities” vs. Competence: Which Matters More?

Stanford’s Lindred Greer has published an interesting new study which seeks to answer one of the great leadership selection queries: Will an organization achieve peak performance with a highly competent leader or one with the strongest leadership qualities?

From the Harvard Business Review, the short answer is that the leader's competency – perhaps above other factors – has the greater impact on the success of the team.

In one group of teams, influence was aligned with competence: the person who knew the most about the task to be done led the team. These groups performed best.

A second group of teams shared power – they were relatively non-hierarchical. This group did not perform as well as the first, but they did outperform our third group of teams — hierarchical teams with a randomly chosen leader.

We replicated these findings in the field, by the way. We studied 49 teams at a publicly held Dutch company; the teams were auditing finances in search of tax evasion and fraud. If the team leader didn’t have a deep, technical understanding of tax fraud, he or she led the team badly astray.

This is simple to understand in more everyday examples. Would you prefer an airplane captain with vast experience or one who effortlessly rallies others to the cause? Of course we want someone who can fly the plane expertly. And that is Greer's greater point: depth of experience and expertise allows highly competent leaders to make difficult decisions and mentor others to success.

So… easy, right? Not so fast. Studies show organizations demonstrate a bias towards high leadership dynamic over high skill in selection, even when similar selection has led to failure.

In the end, executives must remember to hire for purpose. If we strive to build highly successful teams that achieve difficult goals, then the leadership for these teams must be exceptionally skilled.

Simply stated: competency matters.

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01. March 2016 by Kevin Donahue
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Shared: Thoughts on Servant Leaders and The Great Outdoors

I was greatly inspired by this article on servant leadership twelve years ago. Written by the National Vice Chief of the Order of the Arrow, I happened upon it again today and it resonated as deeply now as it did years ago. I'm sharing this inspirational article in full in hopes that others may find it as meaningful as I do.

TTHOUGHTS ON SERVANT LEADERS AND THE GREAT OUTDOORS
By David Dowty, 2004 National Vice Chief

The vast forests, fields, oceans, and mountains of the United States have become our most vital resources in the Boy Scouts of America and the Order of the Arrow; they are, for us the staging grounds to learn life's most precious lessons for every scout and scouter. As an Arrowman, one of our central obligations is to be mindful of our duty to the outdoors, to not only preserve them but also to interpret the deeper messages that nature leaves behind.

We are charged to be servant leaders and as such must strive toward leaving an everlasting legacy of cheerful service. In doing so, each of us defines what our own dreams are and with every breath drawn and every mile tread come closer to the ultimate pinnacle. The domain of our leadership though, is the future. It begins as a single spark within and becomes a roaring flame so intense that all around are enveloped by it. However, we must keep in mind that as we dream and look toward the future, a fire must be built in steps.

There is a natural progression of life around us, soaring through the air, rushing through the rivers and rising from the earth. Every great achievement by our natural surroundings has taken time to develop and grow from its own modest beginnings to an awe inspiring presence. The giant redwoods of Sequoia National Park, the deep gorges of the Grand Canyon, the breadth and power of the Mississippi River and the eloquent beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains took millions of years to become some of the most beloved natural treasurers within our nation's borders. Each built upon past successes and accomplishments because the natural world we live in knows that great undertakings take time. It is from this simple observation, that we can learn a valuable lesson.

Leaders are meant to be authors of great ideas and wild dreams, taking a simple problem and applying a unique form of creativity to imagine the possibilities. As the dream takes shape, a leader must also determine and define for themselves and for their group how success will be measured. If we only defined success as achieved after we had reached and perfected our dreams, no one would ever feel that deep sense of accomplishment. Never knowing the taste of victory can demoralize and dishearten those you serve. Within little goals and aspirations can a group find the will and energy to continue serving their ultimate purpose; it is through those "baby steps" that Mother Nature perfected the natural world and that we will come closer to reaching our own summits.

As a leader, celebrate victories often. Always seek out and learn to identify the building blocks that become the foundation of a truly great achievement and with every block placed, have a party. Observe the world around you and see that even the largest tree in a forest was once a sapling, the deepest canyon, a shallow hole, the widest river, a trickling stream and the oldest mountains, a modest hill. A servant leader can look beyond the horizon of tomorrow and believe that although what they do today may seem small and insignificant, they too will someday realize their ultimate dream.

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02. February 2016 by Kevin Donahue
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Restless Renewal – The Art of Continuous Innovation

Innovation

As I've discussed many times before, I'm confident that innovation is the key to sustained success in business. It cannot be simple coincidence that the top companies in the world are also the most innovative companies in the world. As a leader, you must create a culture of restless renewal that drives innovation and change in your organization.

Why do I say innovation and change? Because innovation – the creative process of re-evaluating ideas – is not enough to deliver success. If leaders don't take the next step and test opportunities to evolve, then innovation is meaningless.
The pages of corporate failures are littered with stories of innovation that didn't deliver change.

For example, did you know that now defunct KODAK invented the digital camera… in 1975? In fact, nearly every digital camera and smartphone in existence today relies on some form of KODAK's patent for digital cameras. But rather than pursue a ground-breaking innovation, KODAK management passed on a segment-shattering change and stuck to film. While the company was innovative, the leadership lacked the vision to embrace change.

In my Twitter feed, I've collected a few more stories of continuous innovation this week, under the hashtag #restlessrenewal:

How Nick Saban's process would change your business
A nice look behind the scenes at how Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban's drive to lead innovation for his team helped build a the most elite organization in college football today (But still… #GoNoles!)

Chick-fil-A is making an unprecedented move to hook millennial moms
Chick-fil-A's commitment to innovation extends to every guest touchpoint, even the drive-thru

This Is How The Patriots Dynasty Was Built
A great example of how innovation – and restless renewal – drove the Patriots to become a modern NFL dynasty


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23. January 2016 by Kevin Donahue
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Student Fulfills Dream at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

What an exceptional story of genuine care from the Ladies & Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island.

A student in my special education class recently shared his dream of working as a massage therapist at the Ritz-Carlton on SBSK.

A day later the The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island invited my friend to join them for a full day of work and learning as a massage therapist.

A student in my special education class recently shared his dream of working as a massage therapist at the Ritz-Carlton…

Posted by Special Books by Special Kids on Monday, January 11, 2016

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13. January 2016 by Kevin Donahue
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Top Travel Trends for 2016

This week, TripAdvisor released their annual list of top travel trends for 2016 (PDF). Hidden in the results are a few very interesting details that not only apply to 2016, but hint at travel trends that may have a longer tail for both hotels, airlines, and OTAs.
2016 Travel Trends

Top Travel Trends for 2016

Trend #1 – Seeking new experiences

Globally, 69% of travelers plan to try something new in 2016, including cruises (20%) and adventure travel (15%). A key travel trend in the data is that 17% will try solo travel for the first time in 2016. It will be key for hoteliers to anticipate the unique needs of solo travelers and catering to this emerging trend.

Trend #2 – Spending more because it’s “worth it”

One in three travelers plan to spend more in 2016 than they did in 2015, with nearly half (49%) of respondents doing so “because I or my family deserve it.” To capture these increased revenues, hotels must differentiate themselves with travel packages that focus on unique experiences, such as the "romantic kidnapping" and picnic at Namale Resort.

Trend #3 – Choosing destinations based on culture, special offers

Travel trends continue to point to the importance of targeted online marketing to focus buyers on your destination, with 21% choosing a destination because a hotel had a special offer or package. One in five global travelers have picked a destination because they saw it featured on television. In 2016, turn your marketing and social media team loose to create visibility for those key items that make your market a "must see."

Trend #4 – Staying cool and connected

While free wi-fi continues to be a critical buy factor for most travelers (46%), many travelers relate that they require "super-fast" wireless internet access (26%); 11% are willing to pay a premium to get the speed they need to stream movies and connect in high-definition.

Trend #5 – Rising room rates (and optimism)

Industry analysts and hoteliers are confident that 2016 will bring higher rates, with 47% of global hoteliers initiating rate increases. This travel trend should lead to capital improvements and enhancements for many in the industry. Despite these reinvestments, 65% of hoteliers expect profits to increase next year, as 2016 should give the industry a new baseline for both ADR and profitability.

Trend #6 – Managing reputations online

Given that TripAdvisor initiated the survey, it's not surprising to see reviews carrying a focus in 2016. I was surprised, however, to see only 59% of hoteliers planning to invest more in online reputation management in 2016. I anticipated this number to be much higher and see this as a travel trend that will go higher in future years. There is simply too much at stake for service providers to not actively manage these channels.

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21. December 2015 by Kevin Donahue
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Hospitality Hot Reads: iPhone 6, Net RevPAR and ProPAR

Here's what I'm reading this week to stay aware of emerging trends and opportunities:

Travel Weekly Consumer Trends 2014: Explosion in Mobile Bookings
With the launch of the new iPhone 6 by Apple this week, larger phones and "phablets" will continue to gain mobile share. The larger interface is a great canvas for hospitality sites and apps, which rely on rich media and large photos. Phablets have just 6% of the market share but 11% of the app usage, meaning owners of these devices are heavily device dependent and actively engaged.

Measuring Acquisition Cost alongside RevPAR
As focus shifts from gross revenue to net profit, acquisition cost per room night has come under more scrutiny. Is it acceptable to measure total RevPAR, or should hoteliers focus more closely on net RevPAR and ProPAR (Profit per available room)? This is a very intriguing topic and one conversation that most revenue managers are not fully prepared to have with their ownership.

Sea Change
A detailed discussion of new benchmarks for hoteliers, including ProPAR, ProPOR (profit per occupied room), Net RevPAR, Net RevPOR, and COA (cost of acquisition). This article, along with the previous piece, represent a strategic shift in revenue management. Great read.

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10. September 2014 by Kevin Donahue
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TripAdvisor insights on Hotel Guest Engagement

TripAdvisor has compiled a study of guest engagement and found several key factors that drive hotel guest engagement on the review site.

Among the key findings, management responses to TripAdvisor reviews can drive bookings on the site by more than 20% Click to Tweet. Specifically, hotels that responded to guest reviews were 21% more likely to receive a booking via TripAdvisor than hotels that did not respond to reviews. And properties that respond to over 50 percent of their reviews further increase their likelihood of receiving a booking inquiry by 24 percent over those that did not respond.

In addition to creating guest engagement, management responses to reviews seems to have a "halo" effect of higher review ratings. Hotels that regularly responded to reviews from guests have consistently higher reviews as well. From the study:

0% response rate = 3.81 average review rating
5%-40% response rate = 4.04 average review rating
40% – 65% = 4.05 average review rating
65%+ response rate = 4.15 average review rating.

Additionally, hotels with photo displayed on the TripAdvisor site saw a 138 percent increase in guest engagement vs. properties without photos. And for those hotels with more than 1000 photos, the guest engagement factor is a 203 percent increase over those with no photos.

As past studies have shown, the impact of guest reviews on both hotel ADR and RevPAR are significant, so any increase in reviews represents a very meaningful impact for hoteliers and management companies.

In a release, TripAdvisor for Business President Marc Charron tied guest engagement directly to management/owner engagement on the website. "Looking at the results of this study, a clear theme emerges: the more engaged the business owner, the more interested the traveler," said Marc Charron, President, TripAdvisor for Business. "It’s no secret that traveler want to see pictures and read reviews of a property before making their booking decision. What’s really key is the upward trend in average review ratings, traveler engagement levels and booking inquiries on the site, the more frequently a hotel owner responds to reviews. Taking part in the conversation and demonstrating that the owner cares about feedback has a very real and measurable effect on converting a traveler from a casual browser into a potential guest."

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08. September 2014 by Kevin Donahue
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How to Structure a Contract for a Hotel Group Buyout

Last month I participated in a LinkedIn group discussion with a meeting planner who was seeking advice on how to structure a contract for a hotel group buyout. Like any hospitality contract question, there isn't a "default" answer for group buyouts. The most important element for both meeting planners and hoteliers is to approach the event as a partnership, with a mutually beneficial contract and good pre-event communication.

Based on the strong feedback I have received from my answer, I've taken the liberty of sharing the question and my response in context on how to structure a hotel contract for a group venue buyout.

Group Meeting Planner:
Hi! I am in the process of negotiating a contract for a "virtual" venue buy out for a staff retreat. I say "virtual" because we'll take 100% of sleeping rooms and all meeting space for our program but the outlets (restaurant, marina, etc) will remain open and available to outside guests.

Any tips/advice/clauses that I should include? I obviously want to protect the sleeping rooms, meeting space and full use of the resort for our use. However I also don't want to get stuck with unused rooms/space if for some unforeseen reason our group size is reduced.

Thanks!

My Response:
In my experience, a buyout is very much a partnership arrangement with your venue and no two events are exactly alike.

In your specific example, you are looking to ensure full exclusivity – rooms, space, facilities – and mitigate all of your risk at the same time. I see these as competing priorities and it may be necessary for you to evaluate the importance of each.

It may also be beneficial to understand that the venue is taking on risk as well. In allocating the totality of their facility to you, they "risk" the opportunity to sell to other groups/guests at a higher rate. They also "risk" lost revenues if your group size is reduced.

If exclusivity is most important to your group, it is absolutely reasonable to expect that the venue will ask you to fully guarantee all of your rooms and your banquet minimum, both with no attrition allowance. This should ensure full use of the facilities without interruption from other guests and ensure the expected revenues to the venue. (WIN-WIN)

If it is more important to mitigate risk from reduced group size, then I suggest working with the venue to establish a reasonable attrition allowance that permits the hotel to resell your unused rooms/space. The venue will mitigate its risk through resell and there would likely be other guests in the facility, but you will not be "stuck" if your attendance falls. (WIN-WIN)

A third alternative may be a bit of a blend. If the event takes place further out, perhaps the two parties would mutually review the anticipated usage and make adjustments to the room block/space hold based on reasonable assumptions. If the group is reasonably expected to be smaller, you could return some of the rooms/space without liability and allow the hotel to resell them. However, if your numbers are on target, you could ensure your full exclusivity. (WIN-WIN)

Again, the most important component of a buyout is partnership. Be confident that you have selected a true partner and you will ensure your mutual success.

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17. June 2014 by Kevin Donahue
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