Luxury business digest – Hospitality by Andrea Luri and Miriana Verga (December 2017)

Luxury veteran hotelier Andrea Luri and Miriana Verga provide CPP-LUXURY.COM with his expert insights on the selection of the most important hospitality news of the month

Which are the most effective social media channels for luxury hotels these  days?

During the past 3 years we have seen an important growth in luxury hotels leveraging social media channels, mainly Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Linkedin (from the corporate side), while Pinterest is very popular for architecture, travel diaries and fashion and we feel it may become the next great bet. Luxury brands promote exclusivity; according to a 2014 study by the Blackstone Digital Agency,  75% of luxury shoppers use social media. All the major players of the luxury goods industry are investing in social media marketing to engage with their fans and customers, and  to build up brand awareness; we talk of giants of the luxury industry, from Dior and Chanel to Tesla and Ferrari who are constantly using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Luxury top performers focus on social media marketing emphasize quality over quantity, ensuring each post is carefully crafted and timed for maximum impact often through video content.

CastaDiva Resort & SPA itself has invested dedicated resources and efforts to build, maintain and engage its community which ensures the hotel right exposure, brand positioning and interest in potential customers, trying to highlight its unique and exclusive nature. A good communication strategy suggests us to plan a comprehensive editorial calendar covering different subjects, that goes beyond the hospitality business (fashion, food, design, travel tips), set a good standard of real-time interaction with our readers and post with right frequency which grants hotel daily visibility without stressing the audience. It’s important always respect our customers, even facing a negative attitude; we have to remember that with social media there is an audience watching and judging everything we do. Promotion of services is also possible keeping in mind that avoiding the hard selling approach often turn into a real booking, in the luxury market.

What makes an interior design firm stand out these days?

Nowadays we have a broad spectrum of style, décor and interior design from the classical and opulent style to the more modern and extremely minimal one.

What we often see is a clash between the landscape and the architecture which reflects also the interior design.What really makes an interior design standing out of the crowd is the capability to provide consistency between the outdoors and the internal ambiance in order to enhance the local richness, expertise and products.

A modern approach to design creates the optimum conditions for artistic license and self-expression, playing with white space, sleek materials and clean lines. It is important not only making a powerful contemporary impact on the spaces but also putting their creative hands focusing on the relationship between the client and the space to create a perfectly tailored environment. More and more we see the trends of amplifying light throughout the space and create fluidity between indoor and outdoor design so that spaces become elegantly rooted in their surroundings.

How has brand loyalty changed? Should luxury chains such as Four Seasons or Mandarin Oriental consider introducing a loyalty program? What are the defining factors?

In the recent past, brand loyalty used to be a kind of “race to the top”, and once reached, you stayed there for ever. Nowadays  brand loyalty is not “longlasting” anymore; it’s, now, on shaky ground being very easy to find and purchase new brands. Until a few years ago, people became loyal not just to brands, but to jingles, advertising slogans and even celebrities; now millennials are leading the way to a new kind of brand loyalty and today’s brands have to engage in good business practices, to provide excellent customer service, and be innovative. Nowadays you can find  everything you want; that’s why imagine brands have to work hard to attract and retain customers. According to a few researches recently published, millennials report they will switch brands if: they have a change in financial situation (56%), the brand raises prices (41%), a friend or family member recommends something different (38%), a better product comes along (37%), a brand has a scandal such as bad business practices (32%) Some brands probably do not know how much they become part of our “day-by-day operations”: Google, Amazon, Apple, to name just a few.  Today’s brands have to work very hard to compete for loyal customers; we feel that the most important factors are: remain competitive, exceptional product quality and business practices, be responsive to customers and practice excellent customer service.

How has the wedding market evolved in the past years?

The wedding market is on the rise, and has been for some time now, so much so that in the affluent area of Marylbone, London, a new luxury department store  recently opened dedicating its entirety to brides and grooms- The Wedding Gallery offers a one stop shop solution for alleviating the headache of wedding organization, where you can find from gowns to marquees, to accessories, to catering and florists. We can see that this market is extremely interesting for the high end properties as we find partnerships with both local and international destinations including Belmond and Relais Chateaux.

The revenue generated in a destination wedding  is becoming very important, so much so that high end resorts such as CastaDiva Resort & Spa on Lake Como has decided to set up a team dedicated to event and wedding planning, headed by Miriana Verga, “ after having experienced an important growth in these recent years of destination weddings which take over the property in its entirety for various days, we realized that this segment could become part of our core business” Miriana says” for this reason we have invested important resources in the creation of an in house wedding planner team which follows couples in all aspects of the organization, both on and off property, handling from travel to catering to entertainment, to dresses”

Gwen Stefani performs at the opening of Marriott’s Renaissance Hotel in Dubai

It’s all about experience… we’ve been hearing this for at least 10 years, we’ve heard about space travel, we’ve seen trade shows dedicated to travel experience, we’ve heard endless talks about food experience from Michelin starred cooking classes to frying insects, but at the of the day how many hotels are really providing that unique and true experience? Many are covering up regular offerings masked as unforgettable experiential travel. In our view, what makes a unique experience is the ability to create an emotional connection with the Guest, the capacity of empathizing and exploiting the emotional IQ. A smart way of catching two birds with one stone is demonstrated by Marriott partnering with the world of Pop Music, specifically artist Gwen Stefani. It is a fact that one of the most widespread currency in the world are membership reward points and one of the largest challenges is making these memberships work. Marriott, having a broad vision, has combined the emotional experience and building long-term customer loyalty by appealing to our emotional chords through music.

Flying private is becoming affordable.

We have a recent shift the habit of short haul flights in the affluent category. Low cost flights which last less than 2 hours see an increase in high end passengers both for business and leisure. The transportation segment in general is under a (not so ) quiet revolution: with the advent of Uber many have found an alternative to cabs and limos. This trend is gradually expanding also to the world of aviation. Wingly is a new app, present for now in the UK, Germany and France, which provides a matchmaking platform between pilots and passengers, where both parties share the cost of flying. You are not paying the pilot, rather sharing the journey. The platform offers not only the possibility of using this service as a means of transportation, but also the possibility of sightseeing and excursions at reasonable pricing.

Unique  experiences have become so widespread that today almost everybody can afford one, whether you are flying private at £60, or Etihad Apartment or Residence at around $23.000.

CastaDiva Resort & Spa Lake Como – private helicopter