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Saturday, November 18, 2017

In the Limelight: Consolidation is Reshaping the North American Ski Market



This article originally appeared in Skift's New Luxury Newsletter, for which I am the luxury correspondent.
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Ski season is going to be a bit different in North America this year. Two ski industry giants, Vail Resorts and Aspen Skiing Company, have been picking off notable ski areaslike pawns on a snow-covered chessboard. Vail acquired Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia toward the end of 2016 and then grabbed Vermont’s Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont this summer. This year, Aspen Skiing Company, in a venture with KSL Capital Partners, also made moves, acquiring Mammoth Mountain in California and the assets of Intrawest, which include Mount Tremblant in Quebec and Steamboat in Colorado. Aspen Skiing Company independently operates four ski areas around Aspen/Snowmass.
On another front, Aspen Skiing Company, or Skico as it is familiarly called, is growing its hotel business. The storied Little Nell has been part of its portfolio since the 1980s. However, in 2010, Skico purchased an existing property in Aspen and named it the Limelight Hotel. The second hotel under the moniker was built from scratch by Skico and opened earlier this year in Ketchum, Idaho. The move raised some eyebrows, as Ketchum is a mere mile down the road from the privately-held Sun Valley Resort. Could a move into the greater Sun Valley real estate market be a harbinger of things to come?



As family-owned resorts, Sun Valley and Aspen Skiing Company are rarities in the ski industry. The Crown family of Chicago owns Skico, while Sun Valley is owned by the Holding family, which also owns Sinclair Oil and Little America Hotels & Resorts. Both are also part of the Mountain Collective, a multi-property ski pass allowing purchasers two free days of skiing (and other benefits) at each of the 16 participating resorts. (The Mountain Collective competes with Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass, which includes unlimited skiing at 45 resorts worldwide).
Bald Mountain in Sun Valley
While speculation abounds, for now, Sun Valley is not for sale, nor is Aspen Skiing Company setting its sights on it. Kelli Lusk, Sun Valley’s public relations and communications manager, says the Holding family is holding onto ownership and has no plans to sell. All Alinio Azevedo, chief operating officer for Aspen Skiing Company’s hospitality division, will say is that “we have a great relationship with Sun Valley at corporate levels–and the families are good friends.”
In the Limelight
Azevedo then pivoted to focus the discussion on the Limelight brand. After Skico acquired what became The Limelight Hotel in Aspen in 2010, the company considered how to grow a brand out of a single property. “We saw an opportunity gap — a gap in resort markets between the high-end and the next level down in terms of accomodations,” says Azevedo. Additionally, “there are people who want to stay in luxury quarters, but they are not willing to pay for the extra service. From a physical standpoint, we are four-to-four-and-a-half star properties with high-quality rooms, but without the full-service hotel experience.”
The Limelight Ketchum
Brand concept in hand, the next step, says Azevedo, was deciding “where can we replicate this type of environment, a hotel which becomes a living room for the community….a place to connect guests with the locals and vice versa….and a base for adventure.”  Skico found the environment suitable in both Ketchum and in Snowmass (where a Limelight will open in the fall of 2018).
After Snowmass, Azevedo says, “Our goal is to have eight to ten hotels in the next five years.” Where will Limelight enter the spotlight? “We are looking in communities that center around adventure (all likely in North America) — whether it’s skiing or nature or trekking or surfing.” The expectation is that most of the hotels will be new builds, but “we are not shutting down from existing opportunities that may present themselves if they align with our brand strategy.”

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Pass the Avocado Toast: Updating the Spa Experience for a New Generation

What do millennials want out of a luxury wellness experience? Apparently, avocado toast. That’s just one of the findings lifestyle publication Well+Good discovered after surveying 4,600 of its readers.
californiaavocado.com
Unlike days of yore, when the only way to discover wellness concepts was by going to iconic high-end destination spas like Canyon Ranch and Miraval, today, wellness is accessible nearly everywhere.
You can take a high-intensity interval training class or sip on a matcha latte anywhere from Boise, Idaho to Baltimore, Maryland. There’s the entire urban landscape extending to second-tier and tertiary cities supporting what were once fringe wellness practices and pabulums confined to the likes of Los Angeles or New York.
Alexia Brue and Melisse Gelula co-founded Well+Good in 2010. They presented the findings of the company’s Wellness Travel Survey at the Global Wellness Summit in October.
The ubiquity of wellness is a big part of the reason, says Brue, that millennials aren’t impressed with the iconic spa brands, many of which have traditionally appealed to clientele getting the wellness light switched on for the first time.
But another reason, she says, is simply that this generation doesn’t know these brands. “Starting in the late 1990s through the early aughts,” says Brue, “the iconic spa has not been a part of the cultural currency.”  In pre-Internet days, seekers would discover these retreats thanks to fawning articles and splashy advertising in glossy travel magazines.  But this generation gets its information online, and as Brue notes, “These brands haven’t been part of the social media conversation.”  That’s part of the reason the millennial wellness getaway mindset has traveled elsewhere.

In a game of “would you rather,” the Well+Good survey discovered that a slim majority of the respondents would opt to go to an iconic spa (55 percent) over a guru-led retreat (40 percent). However, Gelula calls the results “shocking,” given that they were expecting an 80/20 differential in favor of the old-school spa.
According to the Well+Good co-founders, the spa attendees in the audience at The Global Wellness Summit were surprised, too. “The spas don’t even realize that their biggest competition isn’t other spas,” says Brue. “Fitness and lifestyle instructors leading retreats are the competition,” says Brue. Indeed, it’s increasingly common for self-branded wellness gurus with large social media followings to organize their own wellness retreats to exotic destinations around the world.
Cambodia is one of the exotic destinations popular for guru-led wellness retreats.

For spa resort executives who might be comforting themselves by thinking it’s all about the price tag, they are wrong, according to Gelula. “They are convincing themselves that if they are not attracting millennials, it’s because millennials aren’t taking luxury trips.” But that’s not true. Millennials do have disposable income (although not necessarily as much free time. According to to the survey, younger wellness seekers are more likely to take a three-day getaway rather than the traditional one-week spa stay). When it comes to retreats versus spas, she says, “it’s important to point out that we aren’t seeing much of a price point difference. Retreat leaders often charge between $700 and $1000 a day.
Brue also believes that some of the iconic spas, instead of trying to appeal to millennials today, are just waiting until they start getting aches and pains. The problem with that approach, says Brue, is that “millennials don’t have a ‘fix me now’ mentality when they go to a spa.” Because they are already incorporating wellness in their everyday life, when they go on a wellness getaway, they want an elevated experience that builds on their daily practices, but doesn’t replicate them.

Gelula says, “Spas are simply are out of the loop in terms of what travelers expect from a wellness retreat.” So, what do today’s wellness warriors want? The number one priority, according to the survey, is food. Ninety-nine percent of the respondents said the quality of the food was a key factor in their decision-making process.
Ninety-seven percent of the survey respondents wanted cultural offerings to be part of the package. That doesn’t necessarily mean experiencing a Lomi Lomi massage in Hawaii, but rather going to a destination where the surroundings themselves provide a broadening experience. That’s part of the reason guru-led retreats are starting to get a leg up. They can roam from place to place from year to year, plunking down in up-and-coming destinations in order to incorporate a greater cultural component into the programming mix.
The Well+Good survey also found the nature experiences (96 percent) and high quality fitness offerings (94 percent) were important, with spa services (93 percent) rounding out the top five.

So, how can the iconic spa bring offerings up to date? Gelula recommends starting with the menu. “Focus on food,” she says. “Provide cool wellness food offerings. After all, consumers are used to eating avocado toast, avocado smoothies and cauliflower rice at home…or seeing them on Instagram.” In addition to menu updates, Brue says spas need to hire higher-quality fitness instructors, and to add more personalization to the spa programming.
All in all, the co-founders of Well+Good suggest spas need to change now or risk becoming dinosaurs. As Gelula notes, “The value proposition has to keep pace with this sophisticated group of travelers. One thing we confirmed with the survey results: Spa experiences for millennials should focus on deepening already-existing wellness practices.”

This story originally appeared in the Skift New Luxury Newsletter.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Key Demographic That Travel Marketers Are Forgetting About

This story originally appeared on Skift.com, for which I am the luxury correspondent.
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Despite often being ignored by marketers, who tend to focus their attention on the millennials, older baby boomers and the so-called matures, mid-lifers (ages 45 to 59) form a vast and relatively affluent legion, representing 16 percent of the world's population.

Global Mid-Lifers at a Crossroads: Lifestyles and Market Impact, a new report from Euromonitor International, examines the lifestyles and spending habits of members of this group, whose relatively high incomes make them an important market for luxury goods and premium products and services of all types, including, of course, travel.

This Mid-lifer subset comprises baby boomers born in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Younger baby boomers were the first to coin the term, "40 is the new 30." Different from their generational cohorts born right after World War II, later boomers embrace the idea of staying active and continually evolving, no matter their age. Even though they may be in their 50s, many are embarking on new careers or new relationships.

According to the report, "Mid-lifers do not want to be ignored by businesses, but nor do they want to be singled out, stereotyped or treated in a patronizing manner." That said, marketers cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach with this group, given the fact that some may be empty nesters, while others are raising younger children; or that some are married and others singles. That's why the report notes, "Mid-lifers should be targeted in terms of life stage as much as age." For example "for those harried parents squeezed between bringing up children and looking after aging parents, convenience and price will be key factors in purchasing decisions."

What are the advantages are marketing to Mid-lifers? According to the report, overall, Mid-lifers have the highest spending power among all age groups. Many are at the peak of their careers, while others may have received inheritances or made money on real estate, or a combination of wealth thereof. This makes the group a logical target market for luxury and indulgence items.

The report also notes that wellness and relationships are the key to Mid-lifer's sense of happiness. They are seeking a better work-life balance, and are choosing to slow down, change direction or fulfill lifelong dreams.

That may be one reason why divorce is becoming more common at this stage in life. Another is because divorce has lost its stigma in more traditional countries, such as Italy. The country's 2015 divorzio veloce (quick divorce) procedure reportedly received 50,000 request within two months of being introduced.

Euromonitor cites a study by UK-based QualitySolicitors finding that "over- 45s who get divorced report feeling "relieved", "excited" and "more confident. Some 17 percent of respondents said hitting middle age highlighted what they were missing in life, with divorce one of the first steps to nding happiness for 40 percent. That's a huge opportunity to travel marketers, with an appeal to divorced spouses feeling the need for freedom and adventure at this particular juncture.

Another opportunity for travel marketers is this group's intense emphasis on health and fitness. "Mid-lifers are focusing on improving their health and appearance through diet, exercise and lifestyle. Energetic pursuits have become popular among this age group the world over."

According to Tim Simons, the founder of Build Coaching, an Australian business consulting company, who is quoted in the report, "Fitness is the new mid-life crisis. The old-school, traditional mid-life crisis has been about buying things and feeding the ego, and while fitness is also ego-related, this time it's a physical thing, and a transformational thing."

Growth in this segment isn't slowing down anytime soon. The report notes, "Mid-life consumers will continue to represent a huge and lucrative market, with population numbers expected to expand by 10 percent globally." Growth will stem largely from the Middle East and Africa (17 percent) and the Asia-Pacific and Latin America regions (both 11 percent), although incomes will continue to be much higher in North America and Europe.

Separating China from the pack, Euromonitor International reports the massive country accounts for 26 percent of the world's 45-59-year-olds. Incomes of those between the ages of 45-49 and 55-59 increased by 49 percent in constant value terms between 2010 and 2015. Given that China has the biggest and the fastest growing Mid-lifer demographic, one with a strong penchant for purchasing luxury, this is an extremely important market for the travel industry to pursue with alacrity.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

More Travel Gadgets on Great Day Washington

Greetings, dear readers. Apologies for being AWOL, but this new luxury travel gig for Skift is keeping me going 24/7.  But I continue to squeeze in time for my Travel Tuesday gadget guru segments on Great Day Washington. Here's the most recent, which features items like A/Stand, AirHook, Face Cradle and the HydraPak collapsible water bottle. Take a look.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Five Luxury Travel Trends You Need to Know About

The story originally appeared in the Skift New Luxury Newsletter, for which I am the chief correspondent.
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Changes in the world are happening at warp speed, and the expectations of luxury consumers are following suit, according to The Future of Luxury, recently published by Sabre Corporation.
Palm Trees in Martinique
The report notes that smart brands will make a move toward more individualized and transformative forms of luxury in order to appeal to the new consumer ethos of wanting to broaden personal horizons while finding purpose and connection.
Sabre identifies five core trends that luxury purveyors should be paying close attention to — trends that tap into the desires to be unique and to access luxury on one’s own terms.
The five core luxury trends are:
1. The Quintessential Self: “The endless search to realize the idealized version of themselves that they carry around in their head.” Consumers are looking for brands to deliver goods to “help them fulfill their dreams to be better human beings.”
A prime example of a product appealing to this trend is Le Monastere des Augustines, about which we previously wrote. A bit more extravagant is Maverick Helicopter’s Yoga in the Desert. For “just” $3,500, yogis are transported by helicopter from Las Vegas to Valley of Fire State Park for a 75-minute class.

2. No-Frills Chic: Growing numbers of experienced luxury travelers consider themselves post-status, according to the report. They say they are not drawn in by brand prestige, but rather by quality and purpose.
Many luxury travelers “are looking for more subtle indulgence, choosing low-key brands, products and services over showy opulence.” That said, as the report notes, even the display of shunning brands is a status play. It’s just an alternative way of expressing it.
Image result for louis vuitton luggage
cntraveler.com
Examples of “no-frills” include the 2016 introduction of a new Louis Vuitton luggage line with the LV logo obscured. Another example is Airstream, whose camper trailers range in price up to $140,000.
3. Premium Redeemed: “Thanks to an ever-greater awareness of the impact of their actions, many travelers feel increasingly guilty about the negative impact their consumption has on the environment, society and their health.” So, there is a rising demand for luxury products that make the world a better place. The report notes that businesses should be looking at how to make products sustainable and/or how the brand can do social good.
For example, in Nicaragua’s countryside, the not-for-profit American Nicaraguan Foundation runs a luxury resort helping local communities benefit from tourism. Nekupe Sporting Resort and Retreat is situated on land where slash-and-burn agriculture was previously practiced. According to Sabre’s report, “The aim of the hotel is to educate visitors about its goals of improving local employment, sustainable farming and environmental stewardship.”
Image result for Nekupe Sporting Resort and Retreat
Nekupe Sporting Resort and Retreat
sfgate.com


4. Extravagance on Demand: “Smart phone-fueled on-demand services have rewired the expectations of customers.” Luxury brands seeking to get a leg up must realize that their consumers expect the benefits of instant access and “will push their on-demand mindset to new highs, and into entirely new domains of consumerism.”
Recharge taps into this trend. The app allows consumers to reserve luxury hotel rooms by the minute. It debuted in New York this spring. The cost of a New York City luxury hotel by the minute: 66 cents to $3. (Doing the math, that’s $40 to $180 per hour).
Blade, an on-demand helicopter service, partnered with Delta Airlines to reduce travel time from JFK Airport to Manhattan. Upon arrival at JFK, an elite service team whisks guests and their luggage to an awaiting chopper, which takes them to Manhattan in ten minutes.
Image result for blade helicopter nyc
flyblade.com
5. Customized: “Many luxury travelers want to construct experiences that align with their unique interests, needs and values.” The report notes expectations around personalization are constantly being heightened online, where it appears everything can be tailored to individual preferences and interests.
Nothing’s more personal than your own DNA. Last year, London-based Travel Unwrapped launched DNA Unwrapped, a series of travel itineraries inspired by the traveler’s genetic code.

For more stories on luxury travel trends, please subscribe to the Skift New Luxury Newsletter.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Inside Scoop on Luxury Travel Trends

As I continue to cover luxury travel in depth for Skift, there's little time to write new stories for DailySuitcase. So, dear reader, I provide you with links to a number of recent stories I have written for the leading publication for travel industry insight. Sign up for the Skift New Luxury Newsletter here. 


Where Luxury Tour Operators Are Going Next




BMW and Butterfield & Robinson Team Up



Photo of BMW Welt Courtesy of  BMW Blog


Luxury Tourists are Shopping Around


Beverly Hills, 9021-Oh


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Summer Travel Tips and Strategies


This week, I appeared on Great Day Washington to discuss summer travel strategies. Here's the recap from the Great Day Washington team.
Veteran travel journalist Laura Powell of The Daily Suitcase joined us with a brand-new series of summer vacation tips just in time for the first long weekend of the season.
Whether you’re leaving town for a Memorial Day cookout or preparing for that destination cruise in July, here are her strategies to ensure smooth sailing on all trips.
1. Plan together
Powell says all travelers should participate in the planning of their vacation time.  Couples, families and groups should pick the destination and plan the itinerary together. This way, uncomfortable feelings and conversations can occur well in advance.
2. Do a test run
If you’re planning an extensive getaway with a new friend or significant other, Powell encourages trying out a ‘test run’ before booking it. A quick weekend trip could provide some insights into your travel partner’s habits and preferences that you may find insufferable over longer stretches.
3. Save money
If you’re planning on flying this season, consider registering for an airline-branded credit card. These earn you rewards and points toward your flights with every purchase.  Powell says this can also shrink baggage fees and help you board earlier.
4. Pack practically
Instead of cramming all your clothes into one suitcase, Powell suggests distributing clothes among one or more bags to avoid an all-too-common disaster.  If you do this, losing your luggage won’t be nearly as consequential.
For more expert travel tips and news, check out Powell’s blog at dailysuitcase.blogspot.com or her luxury vacations coverage for Skift at skift.com.  Want more articles like this? Follow Great Day Washington on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram for more! Watch everyday at 9am on WUSA9. 
 
© 2017 WUSA-TV  Hallie Miller