Will Superhosts Kill AirBNB's Brand?

AirBNB has quietly launched a back-end page for hosts to turn over the management of their listing to superhosts. This new feature gives individual hosts the ability to outsource the management of their listing to a broker, of sorts, who handles guest transactions and pricing.

The Superhost market makes sense. I'm sure there are many AirBNB hosts (and potential hosts) who would prefer to have someone else handling the transactional minutiae of hosting. For AirBNB, superhosts could deliver a greater inventory and open access in large metro markets by lowering the barrier to entry for new hosts.

However, I can't help but think that superhosts may kill AirBNB's brand. After all, the "secret sauce" for AirBNB has been the direct relationship between guests and hosts. A superhosts isn't going to greet a guest and introduce them to an unknown taqueria, after all. If AirBNB removes that connectivity and endorses greater separation between host and guest, the next step is likely to be commoditization.

It will be interesting to watch this trend over the next few quarters for any hint of guest backlash, especially in gateway cities.

Three Luxury Hospitality Reads for the Week

Here are three short, compelling reads regarding luxury sales and marketing in the hospitality segment. I found each of these very poignant for guest service and hotel sales in our industry:

 

Twenty percent of Virtuoso's customers drive 71% percent of sales
This statistic speaks to the old adage of how important it is to take care of your best customers, especially in the luxury hospitality segment.

Biggest risk to luxury brand dilution? Partner Offers
A new study finds that luxury brand cross-marketing is a dangerous tightrope, bringing in new customers when done well but risking market share for both brands when poorly executed.

Four Seasons Hotels are active on 393 social media channels
Is there an effective limit to the "be where your customers are" mantra that has driven CMO and social marketing? Also, is there a limit to the effectiveness of "be where your customers are" in the luxury segment?

 

Interested in seeing more about luxury hospitality sales and marketing? Follow me on Twitter

How to Convert Social Media Followers to Buyers

Since the rocket-like launches of Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest years ago, organizations have been asking the million dollar question in regards to social media, "How can we convert fans into buyers?"

Social MediaCountless books, seminars, blogs have been devoted to the topic of social media ROI, but (sadly) most seem to miss the most obvious point.

While I don't proclaim to have all of the answers, the answer to the question of converting social media followers to customers seems a rather obvious one:  The same way you converted your existing customers.  

From my perspective, there's too much status placed on 'fans' and 'fan counts' by most social media "experts". The people who "like" your brand are essentially giving your company a virtual high five. Click to Tweet They appreciate something you've done or a perception you've created about your products. They may or may not be your current customers. And – unless you work to convert your followers into buyer – they may or may not be your future customers.

In a traditional sense, your Facebook fans and Twitter followers are the digital equivalent of window shoppers. Click to Tweet Some of them know your brand well, they enjoy your products  and actively share their experiences with their friends.

But some  of your fans – a large majority – are standing on the sidewalk.  They like your window display, but it hasn't compelled them to open the door and try your brand. And this is where your business acumen and experience – more so than your social networking skills – come into play.

Social media is a tool for increasing your sales, not the solution. Click to Tweet

So ask yourself and your team: What do you do as a brand that brings potential customers in off the sidewalk?

If you can answer that question, then you can convert social media followers into buyers.

Insights: Why Multigenerational Travel is THE Emerging Trend

A recent presentation by Peter Yesawich, vice chairman of MMGY Global, highlighted a number of trends and insights for the hospitality market in the near term. While there was definitely a lot of beneficial information presented, one key insight may emerge as the number on trend in hospitality: multigenerational travel.

"Multigenerational travel" or "mutligen travel" most commonly refers to grandparents traveling with grandchildren, but can reflect any number of generations traveling together.

According to MMGY Global, more than 20% of travelers are grandparents. Of those, 40% have taken a trip with a grandchild during the past year. And eight out of 10 times that a grandchild comes along, so does a parent.

As you can see, the market is already well developed. As more affluent baby-boomers retire and begin traveling alongside children and grandchildren, this market will will just continue to mature (pardon the pun!)

Several elements are key to capturing this target market, but most important among them is a well-developed recreation program that meets the needs of these guests collectively. Broadly inclusive cooking classes, walking tours, and lower-impact activities that can be enjoyed by all age groups are key.

For the hospitality market, multigenerational travel represents one of the few demographics that shows extensive growth potential domestically. Beyond just welcoming family guests, multigen represents a new gateway for luxury hoteliers. Traveling alongside affluent parents and grandparents, economically stretched GenX and GenY consumers are discovering brands that can serve them for decades to come as their affluence grows, making this a significant play for the luxury market.

The Unparalleled Importance of a Crisis Management Plan

As the stories of the Casa Monica Hotel firing an employee for wearing a US flag pin began to break this weekend, I was struck by just how unprepared the hotel and Kessler Collection were for the public relations firestorm which erupted in response to the media coverage. 

(DISCLOSURE: I once worked in Sales & Marketing for the Kessler Collection and, as I said on Twitter this weekend, it was troubling to see former colleagues in such a position.) 

Instead of arguing the merits of uniform policy versus patriotism versus two-year history of wearing the pin, it's important for hoteliers (and businesses in general) to take note of how this incident escalated from a policy decision to an immeasurable public relations incident.

Buoyed by (literally) tens of thousands of tweets, facebook posts, and hotel reviews through social media channels, the story grew from a local Jacksonville story on Thursday into a top five feature on nearly every broadcast and cable news channel in just two days time.

As this groundswell grew against the Casa Monica Hotel's decision, the Kessler Collection was notably silent on the issue. Neither the hotel nor the company responded to requests for comment by the local and national media. Neither the company nor the hotel made any posts to their official websites or social media pages to address the questions. In fact, the only tangible response the company seemed to undertake was to attempt to delete a number of strongly worded posts and comments from the hotel's Facebook page.

The Casa Monica Hotel finds itself at the center of a textbook public relations crisis – albeit one that it should have reasonably anticipated and managed – that threatens to damage its brand. The lack of preparedness and response beg the question: Does the hotel or company have a crisis management plan? 

Crisis management is not and never should be an extemporaneous endeavor. It involves forethought, resources, planning and practice. There are thousands of books, blogs, degree programs, etc to pull from but to briefly summarize, there are three active stages in a crisis – all of which need management:

  1. Before all hell breaks loose
  2. All hell breaks loose
  3. After the crisis

Before all hell breaks loose is the "simple" phase, although it is the one that requires the most work. The "voice" of the company must to be defined. Rules around when different members of the organization will be made available to the media must be written. Responses to reasonably anticipated situations (accidents, acts of God, etc) should be drafted. The channels by which the responses will be routed should be tested. And – most importantly – the entire act of responding to a crisis must be simulated and practiced by the entire organization. 

Once all hell breaks loose, which is where the Casa Monica currently finds itself, the work investing in stage one will begin to bear fruit. The most critical elements are the seemingly contradictory goals of speed and calm. Timely statements and media responses must be effectively managed to turn (and eventually tame) the crisis. 

After the crisis, there are two parallel, urgent paths – reputation management and response review. The company must review the root cause of the crisis and how it was responded to by the public relations team. Efforts must be undertaken to repair the brand's image both internally and externally. 

 

For those of us who are not involved in the Casa Monica / Flag Pin debate, it's important that use this opportunity to learn the unparalleled importance of having an effective crisis management plan. The inability to deliver timely statements and respond to requests for comment can do immeasurable harm to your business.

We will all have crises to face. The key is to remember the old Boy Scout motto: "Be Prepared."

 

 

Guests for Life: It's how you make them feel

The one fundamental truth in providing a luxury travel experience is best summarized by Dr. Maya Angelou's famous quote:

"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

In creating guests for life, our overarching mission must be to ensure that guests have an experience that captures their emotions and stays with them long after they have checked-out.

In the end, it's how you make them feel. 

 

Luxury brands are big fans of Facebook, other social media sites

High-end brands have woken up awakened to the power of social media because of some compelling statistics. "Households earning over $100,000 a year are on the Internet 23 hours a week and on Facebook six hours a week," said Bernie Brennan, co-author with Lori Schafer of "Branded: How Retailers Engage Consumers with Social Media and Mobility." And 80 percent of households with annual incomes of more than $240,000 use social networking, primarily Facebook, said Brennan. Luxury brands now realize "there's a new way to communicate and if retailers or brands are not engaging in social media, they're missing an enormous market opportunity," he said.

Some of the world's most exclusive names are quickly becoming the world's most engaging brands. Why? It's simple really. Facebook is the social media home to millions of affluents.

These statistics are the sirens song to luxury brands:

– Households earning more than $100,000 spend 6+ hours per week on Facebook

– 80% of households earning more than $240,000 use social media, primarily Facebook

Luxury brands are realizing the intrinsic value of having both affluents and aspirational customers interact with their brand and products at a time and place of their choosing.

So it's little wonder that BMW, Gucci, Chanel, Ritz-Carlton and Louis Vuitton have jumped headfirst into social media, particularly through Facebook.

Burberry has used direct engagement – such as asking Facebook users to submit photos and videos of themselves carrying the signature raincoats and handbags – to boost "likes" to more than 6 million.

One facet of social media metrics that is vastly underappreciated, however, is influence. When a user "likes" a brand, they broaden the degree of influence for that brand.

Even if the user themselves is aspirational and cannot yet afford the brand, generally users will have another 10-20 Facebook users within their network that can afford the brand. By "likeing" the brand, they are spreading the luxury brands influence directly to all of the users within their network. When that "like" shows up on their wall or stream, it serves as a call to action for other users to engage with the brand.

For example, if I "like" a new car from BMW, it will post to my wall. It will be seen by my entire network and the peer influence fundamental will prompt my friends to "like" that BMW and engage with the brand. If the average Facebook user has 130 friends, then Burberry's 6 million fans potentially influence tens of millions of Facebook users.

Luxury brands, with historically smaller traditional footprints and touch points, are finding a home on social media. And with 83% of affluents now making purchases online, Facebook and social websites have truly become the new showcase for the world's premiere brands.