Keeping the travel dream alive through Video

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Keeping the travel dream alive through Video

Last Updated
07 April 2020
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Though we’re mainly grounded for the moment, travel remains on our radar through clever communication from industry leaders. Visit this page for new and inspiring video marketing messages from global travel brands.

Our Digital and Content teams have been encouraged and uplifted by the increasing number of exceptional, optimistic and heartfelt videos being released by the major travel brands and the world’s best destinations. Featuring themes of support, future travel dreams, and a drop of humour here and there, our industry is showing its best face in trying times.

Scroll down for some heartrending audio-visual engagement – and if you get inspired – our entire team is at your command to create your own on-brand message, crafted in a way that’s perfect for this moment in time.

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To learn more about how QUO can help during this challenging period, send us an email, but we also want to hear from you. How has your organisation adapted their digital strategy during the COVID-19 crisis? Get in touch to let us know, and we’ll share those insights here with your colleagues across the digital marketing world.

We will update this page regularly with video and other inspiration media, as this situation actively unfolds. Check back regularly to see the latest developments.

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Z Marks the Spot

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Z Marks the Spot

Last Updated
02 April 2020
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Being real and relevant with the alphabet’s final generation

Tired of pandering to the whims of millennials? Well here comes some good news: there’s a new gen in town, and they’re coming to a hotel near you very soon.

The less-good news: they’re fiercely independent, switched on (in more ways than one) and totally resistant to all the usual marketing garbage.

So crank up your social spaces, update your Snapchat and get ready to redefine the rules of hotel branding, because this crowd plays to a different kind of beat.

Eyes Wide Open 

Millennials may have helped to shape The New Collective, but the rise of Gen Z is set to redefine it.

Born between 1995–2000 (although no one can quite agree on the exact years) Gen Z’s influence and spending power—especially in the travel space—is set to make some serious waves in the near future.

As a group, they already outnumber millennials, making up 32% of the global population. They’re also on pace to be the largest group of consumers worldwide as early as 2020.

And they’re bringing with them a new, hyper-realist perspective on the world. While the millennial generation is a story of innocence lost, The New York Times observed back in 2015, “Generation Z, by contrast, has had its eyes open from the beginning, coming along in the aftermath of… the War on Terror and the Great Recession.”

Gen Z is on pace to be the largest group of consumers worldwide as early as 2020.

Just Cause

One outcome of growing up in that environment is that Gen Z carry a healthy dose of cynicism and a fierce commitment to social issues. In other words: They’re passionate, they know when you’re faking—and they aren’t afraid to call you on it.

“I don’t need brands to use their ads to tell me that they are ‘woke’ or that their brand is ‘lit’. The worst. If you are saying it, then you aren’t it,” 18-year-old Mimi from San Francisco told last year’s Irregular Report.

The brands that stand out to them are the ones that “seem to care about people rather than just profit,” said 20-year-old Tosin from London.

And while they may not buy into traditional loyalty programmes, they are loyal to causes they care about. Nearly three-quarters, or 69%, of Gen Z, for example, are more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes. Conversely, some 33% have stopped buying from a company that contributes to a cause with which they disagree.

Bottom line: All the slick marketing in the world won’t work on this crowd unless your brand has a real purpose that’s backed up with real action.

All the slick marketing in the world won’t work on this crowd unless your brand has a real purpose that’s backed up with real action.

Sharing is Caring

Of course, Gen Z wouldn’t be redefining The New Collective if they weren’t social animals, thriving off face-to-face interactions and drawn to social situations.

Focused on aligning with a community culture, Gen Z values the ability to meet and mingle with others even more so than their predecessors.

The New Horizons survey from 2018 found 42% of Gen Z travellers list building friendships as a key purpose for travel, substantially more than 32% of millennials.

Communal seating, social hubs and common areas tick all the right boxes—but also look for the rise of co-living hotel brands that take this community spirit to a whole new level.

Plugged in, Switched on

Gen Z is the first true generation of digital natives, and they’ve learned from the mistakes of those before them.

As keepers of their own brand, they are more careful about their privacy than millennials, with Gen Z favouring vanishing media like Snapchat and Whisper. The usual suspects, like Facebook, are barely even on the radar—according to a survey by Piper Jaffray, just 9% of teens list it as their favourite platform.

Visually driven apps like Instagram (24%) and Snapchat (47%) are where they’re spending most of their time, making it a crucial moment for brands to start reassessing their social-media strategies.

Gen Z also uses social media differently than others. “Humour and entertainment are top motivators for Gen Z to create and consume on social media,” according to a 2018 Snap Inc-commissioned study—they watch an average of 68 videos a day—while millennials tend to see it as a place to chat with friends.

Meanings to an End

Central to all this is a quest for meaning and authenticity.

Instagram to Gen Z, for instance, “isn’t as much about how they look, as it is about what they know, believe and do,” Irregular Report found. While millennials are more focused on the exterior, Gen Z care more about substance and representing their inner lives online in a genuine way—it’s why 67% of Gen Z say being true to their values and beliefs makes a person cool.

“Gen Z’s selfies are in the caption, not the picture—or in the tension between flattering selfie and self-deprecating comment that demonstrates their wit, cultural clout, intelligence and authenticity via confessional,” Irregular Report added, noting their peers are more likely to respond to their captions rather than the photos themselves.

Gen Z say being true to their values and beliefs makes a person cool.

The Bottom Line 

As Gen Z comes of age and brings fresh perspectives to The New Collective, it’s never been more important for brands to build around a genuine purpose.

If you want to appeal to this newest generation, stand for something (but no need to shout about it). Be personable. Maintain a sense of humour. And always keep it real.

But perhaps most importantly, don’t read too much into articles like this one—Gen Z will see straight through it.

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How to optimise your digital strategy in a COVID-19 world

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How to optimise your digital strategy in a COVID-19 world

Last Updated
27 March 2020
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We’ll update this dynamic resource with new tips and fresh insights as we receive them. Stay in touch and check back often.

Our Digital Director, Brian Anderson, is actively surveying the market to help QUO’s clients adapt their digital strategies in the current climate. As he develops theories, tests ideas and interacts with other industry specialists, he’s compiling this list of up-to-the-moment insights.

Read on for tips on short-term messaging, longer-term planning and a host of COVID-19 strategies in between.

Optimise digital strategy in light of caronavirus

Digital is Now De Facto 

As hotels close their doors to guests and wait out the spread of the Covid-19 virus, many are now looking to the digital world to maintain communications. Across social media and property websites, owners and managers have been posting updates, blogs and video content to communicate with their customers and teams during this incredibly difficult—and constantly evolving—time. 

What, how and where you communicate though is critical. It’s important to remember that the actions you take now will define your brand perception for years to come. The challenge is to balance both immediate practical, informational content with more aspirational messaging that keeps the travel dream alive. 

As we continue to support our clients, developing a wider range of solutions to rapidly evolving digital needs, I would like to share some of the communication and marketing measures which you too could be considering as part of a response strategy. 

The actions you take now will define your brand perception for years to come.

Pivot Your Marketing, Evolve Your Messaging

Although a reduction in marketing and online advertising spend is inevitable for those running tactical revenue generating campaigns, we are now seeing some properties maintaining their marketing across a number of different approaches. 

Book and deposit now; travel later

Some properties are attempting to maintain their forward booking pipeline by offering discounts and incentives to travellers willing to pay deposits now on future flexible bookings.

Focus on domestic audiences

They’ll be the first to recover in countries where the epidemic is under control or receding. Budgets set aside for international travel, albeit significantly reduced, will be spent on local and regional vacations.

Offer flexible booking conditions

Waive cancellation or modification fees. Automatic room upgrades where available. Consider changing rapidly to an all-inclusive model, as travellers will want simplicity and ease once this is all over.

Keep the dream alive 

The guests that should be basking on your private beach or in the paddling pool with the kids are currently worried, concerned, wondering what the future holds. Show them that this too shall pass, and pretty soon they’ll be soaking up the sun in your luxury rooftop lounge. We all need to dream, now more than ever.

Share your outreach and support work

We know of a number of hotels opening their doors to the homeless and repurposing as emergency-treatment facilities. This compassion deserves to be shared widely. Social media is generally a captive audience, so consider paid CPM media to double down on your credentials.

Collaborate and combine budgets

Collaborate with other properties and businesses locally and reach out with messaging about your destination. Reassure past and future guests that as soon as you are able, as soon as it’s safe for them, you will be back in the travel dreams business. Likewise for MICE, work with local organisations and business leaders together on recovery plans, at least to lay the foundations.

Consider your distribution networks

Some of the online distribution networks you have been using may not survive. They work on very low margins with high marketing and technical overheads, they are highly sensitive to any sort of disruption. Now would be a good time to discuss options with them for positioning, promotions and rates, and their commissions. With so many properties going offline they may be open to new positions and offers, eager for any sort of inventory, and with guaranteed rates for x months you could help yourself and the OTAs survive.

Review your scheduled marketing 

I just received what appears to be a pre-scheduled marketing email from a travel company using the now-famous ‘follow me to’ motif—where a person in the foreground the viewer forward by the hand to an intriguing group-travel experience. Probably not the best graphic device to be using at this point.

It would pay to review any longer term scheduled marketing you already have in your plans.

Show them that this too shall pass, and pretty soon they’ll be soaking up the sun in your luxury rooftop lounge. We all need to dream, now more than ever.

Practical Measures

Apart from marketing and advertising communications, what other online tools and techniques could you be considering to bolster your response to the challenge?

Website announcements

We are seeing a great many hotel websites with little or no updates or news on the crisis, or any sort of support for guests. We have all been taken by surprise, and no little shock, but as hospitality companies we owe our clients the benefit of our concern, the least of which is knowledge and guidance.

Whether in the form of simple popups leading the user to an information page, a blog post, or at the very least a press release, your website is a news channel and is likely right now being bombarded with people looking for your response.

Live chat

A great many people are in panic mode, stranded or cancelling, unsure of the next step. If you can organise for live chat on your website, routed through to bookings or reservations, you can offer a voice and a person instead of an email hours later. No better way of easing burdens and worries, while guaranteeing a good impression. It may even cut down on the massive volume of emails you are probably receiving.

Dedicated pages

As discussed above, if you are providing special services to governments or on behalf of owner or group brands, beyond the responsibilities of a hotel, then please share the knowledge, on social media of course, but also on your website. Your site is a destination in itself and reference point for persistent knowledge and service. Create a dedicated blog category or updated media and news page detailing what you are doing for the community and how you are responding as a team.

Prepare for Recovery 

Digital audit

Many of our hotel and resort clients have entered a waiting game, and for some who have scaled back or closed the doors, they are casting around for next priorities on their crisis response list. When the tasks become less critical you may want to consider getting your ducks in a row for the recovery phase throughout your digital strategy as it’s the first channel people will be looking at with recovery on the horizon. 

Here are a set of tasks and projects you could look into with your agencies:

Channel strategy review
When was the last time you looked closely at the sales and ROI through each of your channels? Now could be a good time for a quick review.

We know that some properties don’t consider changing channel investments from one year to the next, due to lack of familiarity, lack of knowledge or expertise, or because they just don’t see the return. Some of the biggest hospitality brands in the world invest the majority of their budgets on B2C sales, and online, because they see the results in black and white. Take another look and consider it.

Do this with half a mind on the recovery demographic:

  • Origin: Obviously the countries that recover fastest
  • Demographic: Probably younger audience—not likely to be older or have families
  • Psychographic: Adventurous, travel addicts—and of course those who feel the sting of having missed out and are ready to rebook after cancellations 

But above all, look to business travellers. The catastrophic impact on the MICE industry should come back hard and fast as businesses scramble to make up for lost ground. 

SEO Audit
While revenue from online bookings remains largely driven by PPC and other direct advertising, organic SEO is the ticket to long term high value bookings. Optimising a website for specific sets of keywords once, then maintaining the presence of those keywords and related content through time is a low budget to long term presence in the search engine results pages of Google, Yahoo and other global search engines.

If you haven’t done keyword research then you need to consider it now, then rewrite your page content accordingly. Then have your agencies collaborate on building out the more technical aspects of SEO to ensure the maximum value of the new keyword/phrase oriented content. It’s a longer term tactic as Google can take months to reindex all sites online according to content, but the payoffs can be distinct and clear.

Performance review
And while you’re at it, check your site speed. Many industries suffer from significant dropoff in user engagement and rate of abandonment if the website experience is too slow. Hotel and hotel brand sites don’t suffer from this so much since the average user on your site is there for a reason, with purpose, which adds a higher level of forbearance. However nobody will wait around for too long for your images to load. 

Conversion optimisation audit
So the site is fast, and it’s getting into Google organic search, why are bookings still low? You may want to spend a bit of time looking at conversion optimisation. This is the process of analyzing the website to understand what forces of design and layout are affecting booking intent and completion. It is often because your booking mask is not sufficiently visible, or you have no call to action, maybe your website looks old fashioned and outdated and people just don’t trust to book on your site, or maybe you offer no best price guarantee or other direct booking benefits (which has come standard). There are many different possible reasons, a tiny change could be the difference between an extra 20 bookings or 200 bookings per year. That’s a big potential return.

Analytics audit
Finally, do you actually know who visits your website and what they do on it? What age range they are, nationality, gender, what banner ads they clicked on, what pages on the website they prefer to visit and which ones get the most natural organic visitors, what website they were on previously, what general industries they work in, interests they have? All this and more is data readily available in Google Analytics, a free tool, amongst many tools, which provides extensive essential insights into the audience for your brand and property.

Look to the Future

These practical audit measures are things to consider as a means of maximising the value of what you already have. They won’t reduce your exposure to the inevitable risk and losses we all face, but they will position you better in the inevitable other side. These measures are simple short introductions to techniques and ideas that are wholly embraced by some properties and sadly neglected by others, but were crucial in 2019—and more so in post Covid-19 2020.

Above all, look to business travellers. The catastrophic impact on the MICE industry should come back hard and fast as businesses scramble to make up for lost ground.

Check this Page Often

To learn more about how QUO can help during this challenging period, send Brian an email, but we also want to hear from you. How has your organisation adapted their digital strategy during the COVID-19 crisis? Get in touch to let us know, and we’ll share those insights here with your colleagues across the digital marketing world.

We will update this page regularly with new tips and recommendations as we hear from you, and as this situation actively unfolds. Check back regularly to see the latest developments.

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Collateral Advantage

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Collateral Advantage

Last Updated
27 December 2019
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In crafting an exceptional hotel experience, it’s the little things that count.

It’s human nature to be curious, and so it should come as no surprise that guests will leave no stone unturned during a resort hotel stay, peeking into every drawer and rifling through every magazine. Brands need to rise to the occasion during every step of the guest journey – engaging customers by satisfying their curiosity and enriching their experience.

Whether traditional or digital, every piece of hotel collateral from arrival to the point of departure should deliver the brand promise. These include often-overlooked opportunities like registration forms, luggage labels, key cards, brochures, signage and bathroom amenities. There is a tendency amongst many in the luxury hospitality sector to play it safe; they seem to be scared of displaying any intellectual playfulness when it comes to collateral design. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Working closely with a designer, hotel brands should strategically take advantage of all these applications, which are fantastic vehicles for leaving an impression and forming bonds with the guests. Every piece of collateral is a natural platform for enhancing the brand essence. Simply slapping the hotel’s logo all over these items or labelling them in unimaginative ways misses a fantastic opportunity. The results are utterly boring, whereas well thought-out and relevant pieces of communication – using words and/or graphics – can grab attention and create moments of magic.

The very best items are so desirable, they become memorabilia, promoting the brand well beyond the hotel’s confined perimeter as they will travel all the way back to the guest’s home. The best of the best are shared online, through social media and on the pages of trendsetting publications.

Which one of these two door hangers is more likely to seduce? The one that says ‘Please do not disturb’, or the quirky example created by W Hotels: ‘WHEN? Not quite yet’. With this witty, ‘on-brand’ message, W not only shows confidence but also portrays the brand as one of the smart thinkers who understands the sophistication of their hip, intelligent guests.

Another good illustration of my idea of efficacious collateral comes from the London-based agency GBH. They describe their branding work for Mama Shelter as: ‘Positioned as affordable luxury, The Mama way is both warm and cosy but also surreal and surprising’. They created a set of key cards that feature portraits of chickens and allow the front desk to write room numbers on the medals that hang from the necks of the poultry models. There are also bathroom amenities that talk in the MAMA language.

In these examples, the use of wit is very rewarding. But beware: a too-witty idea that bewilders guests is worse than no idea at all. If the concept isn’t truly strategic and effective, you’d be better served by playing it straight with a boring conventional approach.

One way to assess whether the cue will be grasped or not is to test it amongst a few people outside of your organisation or department. If you’re in doubt, make sure the concept works both ways: whether the viewer gets the witty idea or not.

While creating design perfection can be a near impossible task, spectacular collateral is a cost-effective medium for communicating with guests. Their curiosity is your opportunity to surprise and delight them.

Pierre’s Tenets For Ensuring Your Design Collateral is a Strategic Success:

1. Make sure the brand essence and the tone of voice are well defined. If your brand is based on embracing the local culture, you might create collateral that educates the guest with images of artefacts accompanied by cultural legends.

2. Be inventive, and create collateral beyond the expected list of items. These pieces should fit your brand but create a unique experience.

3. Assess each application to see if it fits the brand characteristics and criteria.

4. Make sure the design of each element is relevant to its application.

5. Allocate adequate budgets for design, photography or illustration, and copywriting.

6. To quote Antoine de Saint Exupéry: “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

A Rose by Any Other

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A Rose by Any Other

Last Updated
27 December 2019
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The secret to creating a great hotel name? Create a great hotel. By Orion Ray-Jones, Content Director and Regional Director, Indochina.

Call me Orion. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – I may have told you to call me Ryan. Easy to spell and pronounce, the alias could’ve made life a little easier for a kid growing up in a time and place where names from Greek mythology were rare. Every year, on the first day of school, I would wait to be called on by a new teacher, dreading the inevitable “Or-EE-ahn” mispronunciation. In the worst-case scenario, my educator would write my name on the blackboard, and, depending on their handwriting, the ‘r’ might extend a little too far, turning into an ‘n’. Onion. So much for being named after a legendary demigod who sparkles in the night sky.

Having analysed a number of studies about baby naming, pop economists Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt concluded “names are not destiny”. According to their meta-analysis, there seems to be little correlation between a child’s moniker and their future success. And to some degree, the same holds true for a brand’s name. So-called experts predicted that the Chevrolet Nova would do terribly in Spanish-speaking markets, as ‘no va’ means ‘does not go’. The car sold like hotcakes. Chase Bank (named for a mostly forgotten US Treasury Secretary) is worth about USD250 billion, even though nobody wants to ‘chase’ their bank for money. And one of the biggest successes in the video game industry came in 2006, when Nintendo released its Wii. The system was a smash, despite, er, the obvious.

The list of successful brands with ‘bad’ names is endless. Yet, agreeing on a name for a new hotel, company or product can often be the most contentious part of the branding process. Owners are justifiably concerned about choosing the ‘right’ name for their investment, spending hours agonising over hundreds of names. But are we all wasting our time sitting around conference tables arguing about whether ‘MonkeyHouse’ or ‘QX17’ best represents the concept of our millennial-focused brand? Yeah, we probably are.

Names are important. They can communicate something about a brand’s positioning, ethos or vision. And if you get it wrong, it can be the hardest thing to change, as a name holds more brand equity than the logo, corporate colours and building architecture combined. The Chevy Nova might have performed fine in Latin American markets, but the infamous Ford Pinto didn’t fare quite as well when it was released in 1980 in Brazil, where ‘pinto’ is slang for male genitalia. Ford changed the name to Corcel – ‘horse’ – and lost all the marketing dollars spent on the old name. These days, the Internet is full of similar missteps, and speakers of any language have surely seen LOL-worthy photos of foreign companies advertising brands with saucy names in the local lingo.

While the pitfalls of potty-talk make for great memes, more common naming problems are far less funny. The complex world of intellectual property law makes it near impossible for globally expanding brands with real-word names to enter new markets without some risk of trademark infringement. In countries where punitive damages can be awarded, a bad name can be a very expensive mistake.

More difficult yet is navigating the ever-changing world of SEO. Just when you think you’ve found the perfect name, you discover it’s already been taken by a guesthouse in Uruguay which has bought up all the best URLs and planted itself firmly at the top of Google’s search results. If you don’t have the appetite for buying or litigating your way into your favourite URL or trademark (see: iPhone), you’ll have to go back to the drawing board.

In response to these complexities, a whole industry has sprouted up around brand naming. Equal parts art and science, the process usually starts with analysing a brand’s DNA, target market and competitive set. From there, the hunt for a word that embodies the brand and appeals to its consumers can lead almost anywhere. Fairy tales. Thesauruses. Dictionaries of dead languages. Boggle. Linguists will agonise over the euphony of every syllable, dissect the shapes of each letter and disappear deep into semiotics as they look for that perfect word. A long list of possibilities will become much shorter as names are disqualified for problems with pronunciation, intellectual property and URLs. The winning name might come from an ingredient (Pepsi), a nickname (Adidas) or geographic place (eBay). It might even be totally arbitrary (Apple) or made up (Kodak).

In the past, owners named their companies according to personal taste. Now, most believe it’s more important to use a name to maximise brand value, rather than appease a whim. It is far more important that the name resonates with the target consumer than with the boardroom, after all. A name that sounds ‘cool’ to a 55-year-old man in a suit very likely won’t have the same appeal to a 20-year-old, and vice versa. Effective branding demands empathy with the consumer, so it’s often useful to think about how one’s mother, or grandkid, or favourite barista would react to the word. What does it tell them about the brand’s offering? How does it create an emotional connection with them?

A ‘great’ name won’t just appeal to customers, but to employees as well. The recently launched Hotel Jen is inspired by a fictional character – Jen. ‘A professional hotelier who loves life, travel and the adventure of discovering new places,’ the character helps to define the ideal member of staff. CitizenM prides itself on treating employees as ‘equals’ and ‘individuals’. Jaz in the City seeks out staff members who love music and the destination – passions that can be evolved into employee-led service concepts.

Conventional wisdom holds that the best brand names come from real words; some studies have shown they’re twice as memorable as made-up words. Pros will also tell you that a perfect name should have a ‘story’, though it’s often hard to tell how much the general public knows, or cares, about the deeper meaning of brand’s appellation. Ace Hotel’s name cleverly matches its from economy-to-extravagant concept with the position of an ace in playing cards, but I have yet to meet anybody outside of the industry who knows this. What the public does care about is their ability to remember a name. An effective name has to be distinctive enough to stand out from the deck, but not so complex that the consumer can’t spell it when they’re doing an Internet search.

A less clear-cut criterion is pronunciation. It’s very difficult to create a name that is pronounced the same in Cameroon, Cambodia and Cuba. Usually, a variety of localised pronunciations won’t hurt – indeed, it’s welcome proof that a market has figured out a way to make a foreign brand more indigenous. Other times, only a brand’s most loyal customers pronounce their name correctly while others falter. A correct pronunciation of Hermés or Moët signals to listeners that the speaker has a level of sophistication worthy of the products. Outside of the luxury segment, it’s probably best to choose names that don’t intimidate or trip up the speaker, which is why we see so many Latin- and Sanskrit-derived names in the market. These languages have combinations of consonants and verbs that are relatively easy for consumers to pronounce, no matter where in the world they’re from.

So you have chosen a name that’s clever, unique, pronounceable and visually beautiful. It doesn’t translate to naughty body parts in other languages, and it has a rich and meaningful story. Everybody loves it. Success must be right around the corner? Possibly, but it won’t have much to do with that amazing name. A great name will not save a horrible product any more than Nintendo’s questionable choice of name hurt its fantastic gaming machine.

No matter what name is ultimately chosen, it will gradually gain meaning as the rest of the branding and the product itself come to life. There’s nothing inherently luxurious about the words ‘Four Seasons’, but thanks to the brand’s history of excellence, those words now conjure up images of top-notch service and refined accommodation. And while Coralia, Adagio and Ramada all have mellifluous sounds, none are brands from which you’d expect a couture-clad clientele and endless Champagne. Trends in naming also change over time. Who would name their company ‘Yahoo!’ or ‘General Motors’ these days? But customers will continue to trust an old brand name if the product continues to deliver. In other words, a name is only as good as what it represents.

My ‘Ryan’ phase was pretty short-lived, though I do still use the nom de théâtre on occasion, usually when making reservations at a noisy restaurant. (There are only so many times you can scream “O – R – I – O – N” into a phone before you give up.) My unusual name hasn’t made me legendary like my namesake, but at the same time, sporadic teasing from classmates and frequent mispronunciations haven’t done much harm. My name is sometimes a good conversation-starter (“hippie parents,” I explain), but its ‘story’ is often misperceived (my grandmother-in-law was slightly disappointed to discover I wasn’t an Irish ‘O’Ryan’). Sometimes a name is an asset, sometimes an annoyance, but ultimately irrelevant if the person behind it is a jerk. A generous, friendly man named Onion will always win out over an obnoxious demigod called Orion.

Ten Tips for Naming

  1. No name will please everybody. Don’t make the choice by committee.
  2. The perfect is the enemy of the good. Don’t blow important deadlines or sacrifice time spent on business strategy in search of perfection.
  3. Choose a name for your audience, not your ego.
  4. Specialist intellectual property attorneys in countries of operation are essential.
  5. Consult an SEO expert. Another company in a different industry in a foreign country might or might not be a problem.
  6. While pronunciation should be reasonably easy for target consumers, allow for regional variation.
  7. A name will gain richer definition as the visual identity and product are developed.
  8. A name cannot explain everything about your brand. Choose your primary communication goals.
  9. Do not try to choose from a massive list of names. Have your agency only present 3-6 at a time so that you can consider them in depth.
  10. If people love your product, they will come to love your name.

Bangkok: The Future of the World’s Most Visited City

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Bangkok: The Future of the World’s Most Visited City

Last Updated
27 December 2019
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In 2017, Bangkok was the most visited city in the world for the second consecutive year, according to the Mastercard Destination Cities Index.

The capital of Thailand has transformed into a megacity, a status confirmed by large-scale urban redevelopment and massive infrastructure projects.

The 50 billion baht (USD $1.5 billion) Icon Siam development is changing the skyline on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya river and will be the first project to integrate road, rail and river transportation. The BTS and MRT public transport networks are rapidly expanding, with the MRT Blue Line extension further opening up Thonburi while the BTS line to Don Muang airport will alleviate the delays and frustrations caused by traffic gridlock.

Other massive redevelopments underway in the Big Mango include One Bangkok, a 16-hectare mini-metro next to Lumphini Park, and the Grand Rama IX super tower, which at 615 metres will be one of the world’s tallest buildings and an unmissable landmark when complete. And these projects are just the beginning of Bangkok’s megacity makeover.

But what exactly is a megacity and how does Bangkok compare with other global urban conglomerations? Those questions and many others will be answered at the 2018 Thailand Tourism Forum (TTF), the country’s biggest annual hotel event. The 2018 TTF spotlight will shine on Bangkok and speakers from some of the largest Thai conglomerates will discuss Bangkok’s future growth in new districts as well as the reinvention of historic areas.

QUO CEO David Keen will moderate a TTF panel discussion about Bangkok’s brand and how the new economy will shape perceptions of the city. David will be getting the opinions of some highly respected names in the local hotel and development industries including Ingo Schweder, CEO at GOCO Hospitality; Thomas Schmelter, IHG Group’s Director of Operations for Thailand & Indochina; and Cobby Leathers, Head of International Business for Sansiri PCL.

Organised by the American Chamber of Commerce, TTF 2018 is a unique opportunity to hear Thailand’s hotel and hospitality heavyweights candidly discuss the economy, growth and other issues affecting tourism. Attendance at TTF is complimentary but advanced registration is required.

Date: Monday, 22 January 2018

Venue: Grand Ballroom, Level 4, InterContinental Hotel, Bangkok. 

Registration: Send an email to TTF@amchamthailand.com or visit AMCHAM website

For more information and to register, go to www.ThailandTourismForum.com

Joes vs Pros

OUR CREATIONS

Joes vs Pros

Last Updated
27 December 2019
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The first time I hosted friends in Bangkok seems like a lifetime ago. The year was 2009, President Barack Obama had just been sworn in, James Cameron’s Avatar was the year’s highest grossing film and I became an ad-hoc guide for six energetic millennials.

At the time, I felt such pressure to make sure my friends ate, saw, smelled (durian), wai’d, and tried everything. It was their first visit to Thailand, and they were counting on me to deliver an “authentic local experience”. (Little did I know how much those three words would impact my career today).

Looking back, my biggest takeaway is simply that most travellers desire an element of the extraordinary: something unique, captivating and memorable that they can recall for years to come. In order to provide that, I had to gauge their particular appetites for adventure and plan our itinerary accordingly. But what if they didn’t conveniently have a local buddy on-hand – how would their trip have turned out?

Perhaps with the help of articles, top-10 lists and published travel guides, they would have been OK. Better yet, they might have sought out their hotel’s concierge for sightseeing ideas, discussed Bangkok’s best street food stalls with a lively waitress at breakfast or discovered the neighbourhood’s temple after chatting with an ever-smiling doorman.

Inevitably, and thankfully, hospitality at its best requires genuine face-to-face human finesse. It is that very notion – and the idea that travellers are inherent story collectors and experiences seekers – that makes Airbnb’s recent offer, Trips, something to keep an eye on.

Guiding a New Path

In what seems like a natural extension of Airbnb’s mottos of ‘Live There’, ‘Welcome Home’ and ‘Belong Anywhere’, Trips enables plucky locals, and even non-profit organisations, to share their insights, passion, culture and art with curious travellers. Made to tap into Airbnb’s already substantial global network of hosts and guests, Trips is motivated by the fact that, as Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky says, “You can spend as much time planning your trip, as on your trip.”

The new offering is something the company says will ‘fix’ this problem, giving travellers authentic local experiences while freeing up the time usually spent researching and arranging said experiences. Experience Hosts, as they’re calling these local insiders, can’t just be any regular Joes. They must be creative, expressive, welcoming and, most importantly, not think of themselves as tour guides. This extends to the types of experiences hosts should offer. Airbnb challenges them to create “an experience that your guests wouldn’t be able to find on their own”.

The latter point is perhaps the essential trait of Trips. Because, regardless of what travellers wish to do – dive with sharks, hunt truffles, learn Dominican bachata dance – it is still easiest (and safest) for them to ask their hotel to arrange it.

The reason Trips is such an exciting prospect is that many hotels either aren’t prepared or are too mired in convention, to cater to travellers’ growing appetites for off-the-beaten-path adventures. The majority of hotels and tour groups continue to peddle generic tours that don’t quite fulfil expectations or inspire the imagination. This is at their peril, as more forward-thinking operators are taking a leaf from Airbnb’s playbook, realising they need to offer distinct, bespoke experiences if they are to sell their tours.

Learning from Experience

Airbnb has already had a profound impact on the industry, and although it is less than a year old, Trips is shaking up expectations and business models in the hospitality and travel world. To the
benefit of travellers everywhere, this has been a motivating factor for all operators, from independent properties to global brands, to invest more into creating, and enhancing, their own experience offers.

While some are catching up, others are already well on their way. West Hollywood’s Sunset Marquis is leveraging its rock-n-roll reputation to tap into experiential travellers. From making their famous underground recording studio available to guests and adding the Morrison Hotel Gallery (an extension of the New York City-based gallery) to monthly themed events focused on music and artists, the Sunset Marquis has proven that hotels can more than compete with the independent local insider ‘host’. Perceptive guides and guest experience managers at hotels may even employ Trips as an additional platform – because if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Multinational hotel groups with brands that showcase local culture and design, such as IHG’s Indigo or AccorHotel’s MGallery, are also a step ahead and should have little difficulty adapting and even innovating. Still, while some will rise to the occasion, there will undoubtedly be a thinning of the herd.

Local tour companies dependent on standard one-day trips may have to go back to the drawing board. I doubt anyone will miss those loud, flag-waving, time-keeping tour guides, their military-strict
sightseeing schedules and their cold, uncomfortable minibuses. No matter what the future holds for this industry, one thing is for certain: it doesn’t pay to lather, rinse and repeat.

Hoteliers VS. Hosts

While independent hosts have agility going for them, hospitality expertise and training are not to be taken lightly. The very purpose of Airbnb is to connect regular people with, well, regular people – not seasoned hospitality professionals.

While there will always be outstanding, generous indie hosts, hoteliers as a whole still set the standard for service and care. A team of in-tune, dedicated specialists is better equipped to serve. And judging by the expansion of their training programmes and the growing intensity of their experience proposal vetting, Airbnb knows this.

Consumers and industry experts should not discount the value of brand standards, service and operations guidelines, job experience and ethical requirements. Each assures guests of respect and fair treatment.

Being a hotelier entails so much more than checking-in guests, offering poolside service or even being a local discovery guide. It is a specialised role that demands expert precision, commitment to guest
experiences, passion for service, creative innovation and enthusiasm for each and every guest. Hoteliers, whether seasoned or newly minted, have a very real stake in delivering the best services to guests.
For Airbnb, whose hosts are probably not seasoned hospitality experts, maintaining standards will be an ongoing challenge.

Last year, the company came under fire over its hosts’ ability to refuse potential bookings based on guests’ race, nationality, age, gender and more. A study published in May by Rutgers University, based on nearly 4,000 Airbnb booking requests, found that bookers with disabilities were refused at rates higher than people without disabilities.

While Airbnb has implemented a non-discrimination policy to “reaffirm their commitment to inclusion and respect”, there are obviously still ways around the language. Currently, the most severe consequence that rogue Airbnb hosts face is being removed from the platform. Meanwhile, Airbnb’s reputation suffers.

Naturally, hosts do not have the same connection or obligations to Airbnb as a hotelier has to their property and brand.

Ask the Experts

Did I end up being a good local ‘experience host’ for my friends? Much to my relief, they ended up falling in love with Thailand, and their happiness was well worth all the planning. But I can’t claim all the credit. While it was easy to share my enthusiasm for a city so close to my heart, I had plenty of support.

Thanks to Thailand’s mature travel industry, I was able to tap into a well-established infrastructure. I stole ideas from articles. I scoured top-10 lists. And every morning while my friends were diving into their hotel’s breakfast buffet, I reviewed my itinerary with the concierge, whose insights and advice were essential to our holiday.

So while Trips may signal a new era of travel, it’s not the end of the tour. The quest for an authentic local experience is always going to rely on exactly that: experience.

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Designing Profitability

CLEVER STUFF

Designing Profitability

Last Updated
27 December 2019
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Benjawan Intrasuwan, Head of Digital at QUO, reveals why smart website design means much more than just making it look nice.

Online travel agents (OTAs). You love that they help significant numbers of guests book at your hotel, but those commission fees just don’t feel right. What’s more: what happens to the fantastic brand you created that is perfectly tailored to appeal to your target guests? On OTA websites, hotels are reduced to pretty much just a basic comparison of price, location and amenities. There is very little space left for an original brand to shine through. You have almost become a commodity.

For these reasons, the ultimate aim is to obtain commission-free direct bookings through your hotel’s own website. This is where smart website design really shows its value.

Express Your Brand

Your site as a whole should embody the mission and culture of your hotel and show visitors how you are different. Each page should feature content that clearly portrays its purpose. There should be a distinct sense of style, whether you are going for a sophisticated look or a laid-back vacation vibe.

Here are 8 principles we keep in mind as we build websites designed to  significantly boost the number of visitors who actually convert and make a direct booking.

1. Be Quick

Worse than someone who comes to your website and doesn’t make a booking is someone who doesn’t even reach your website to start with. Forty per cent of users abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. Part of any delay is server speed, but website design also has a major impact on loading time. High-resolution images, video and advanced design elements slow down a website. You need an experienced designer to ensure that image and video weights are compressed and advanced design used sparingly to keep things fast.

2. Grab Attention

Research shows that the vast majority of users will abandon a website within the first 10 seconds if they don’t get a good feeling from it. This makes the design of the home page incredibly important. As soon as the site loads, it should enchant the guest and convince them that the rest of the website will provide them with what they are looking for. A good idea is to feature a ‘wow’ hero image or video that encapsulates what you want the guest to know about the hotel.

3. Make it Intuitive

Visitors come to your website with a clear purpose. It is important to make the experience as easy as possible for them. The navigation of the website needs to be simple. Approximately 25 per cent of users report leaving a website because it is too hard to navigate. Users especially shouldn’t have to search for the ‘Book’ button. It needs to be on virtually every page, prominently positioned and visible at all times. Using a bright colour that contrasts with the surrounding space ensures it catches the eye.

4. Personalise

A website should be designed to appeal to target guests. Are you looking to attract business travellers, young families, couples or groups of friends? The design needs to reflect that through the choice of images, styles and colours. Users will book if they feel a connection with the hotel’s brand. With modern websites, the content and layout that is presented can change depending on the user’s IP, so you can target geographic areas and returning visitors. Personalisation is the key to making a deeper connection with a user and encourages bookings.

5. Be Responsive

Your website must adapt to different devices. With the massive proliferation of smartphones, a major proportion of the visitors to your website will be viewing it on a device that is not a desktop computer. If your website is not responsive and has not been designed to look good when displayed on a smartphone screen, you will frustrate and lose many of your visitors.

6. Share Experiences

One of the most important parts of your website is engaging content, and one of the most important forms of content is photography. Photos and videos should be professional, tell a story and deliver a strong message. Hotels can also use blogs to build the brand’s narrative, give exciting updates and inform guests about events and attractions in the area. Your content should be professional, informative and entertaining. Your website is the digital front door to your hotel. If you can’t wow a guest online then they will assume your hotel has nothing exciting to offer.

7. Provide Social Proof

Around 78 per cent of people trust peer recommendations, but only 14 per cent trust commercial advertising. Many people will not book a hotel until they have first checked out reviews from fellow travellers. If a user has to leave your website to find these reviews, there is a big chance they won’t be coming back. Integrating guest reviews into a website helps to give potential guests the reassurance they need to make a booking. Sites like TripAdvisor provide the ability to insert review widgets into hotel websites so visitors can check reviews without leaving the site.

8. Measure and Test

Optimising a website is an ongoing process. It’s important that usage is measured and analysed to spot areas where people are dropping out, getting frustrated and not doing what you want. Running constant tests to see what works and what doesn’t and making relevant changes will increase the percentage of visitors making bookings. Google famously ran a test using 41 different shades of blue for their advertising links. The result for Google was USD200 million per year in increased revenue.

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Well, Well, Well

CLEVER STUFF

Well, Well, Well

Last Updated
27 December 2019
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Daniel Grossberg, Brand Strategist at QUO, predicts a long life for this year’s biggest hospitality trend.

What’s the biggest hospitality trend of 2018? Stop by the nearest hospitality and tourism event this weekend and survey ten attendees. You’re likely to hear the same answer ten times: ‘wellness’.

Wellness is already everywhere in 2018, and it’s only February.  Vogue kicked off the year with Lupita Nyong’o in tree pose on their January cover. The concept has reached the hedonistic realm of cruising. It’s also influencing in a big way tours and airport facilities. Even whole hotels dedicated to wellness are on the rise. You could liken wellness’s spread to a disease.

Promising Vitals

When you look at the numbers, it all makes sense. Globally, the industry is worth approximately 3.7 trillion USD, accounting for a little more than 5% of the world’s total economic output.

This swift growth has impacted the hospitality industry in remarkable ways. From 2014 to 2016, the wellness tourism industry grew 14% – more than twice as fast as overall tourism during the same period. No longer a niche market for hippies or new-age, patchouli-scented spiritualists, wellness tourism now accounts for 16% of all tourism expenditures. That’s one in every six tourist dollars spent.

Over the past decade, wellness has become something of an omnipresent mantra, a catch-all panacea for any brand at all that wants to stay on-trend and capture consumer interest. While the details shift from year to year – 2018 just can’t get enough moringa, 2017 was all about turmeric, and before that kale and quinoa – the overall concept of wellness is generally presented as an inherent and indisputable component of human life.

The wellness industry was not always the marketing juggernaut it is today. Just 40 years ago, it was considered a fringe, cult-like fad, with little scientific basis or credibility. Few had even heard of the word wellness, things like nut-milk yogurt were weird and gene-based dieting was something from dystopian sci-fi. So how did wellness become so deeply ingrained into our everyday lives, and why does it now play such a prominent role in the hospitality industry

“ The wellness industry was not always the marketing juggernaut it is today. Just 40 years ago, it was considered a fringe, cult-like fad, with little scientific basis or credibility.

From Mumbo-Jumbo to Mainstream

Though its origins stretch back thousands of years to the teachings of Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine and ancient Greek medicine, our modern idea of what ‘wellness’ constitutes only began during the 1950s, developing over the 60s and 70s. Our present day use of the word – first recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary in the 1650s – can be traced back to physician Halbert L. Dunn, chief of the U.S. National Office of Vital Statistics from 1935 to 1960.

In 1961, Dunn published a book titled ‘High-Level Wellness’, which he defined as ‘an integrated method of functioning, which is oriented toward maximizing the potential of which the individual is capable’. The book was not exactly a best-seller, in fact it struggled to make an impact at all.

It wasn’t until the 1970s, before a small group of doctors and thinkers – including Dr. John Travis, Don Ardell, Dr. Bill Hettler and others – began to embrace and expand on Dunn’s ideas.

Interestingly enough, the term ‘wellness’ itself also took a while to gain traction. Dr. Travis, an early advocate of Dunn’s concepts, initially “thought the word ‘wellness’ was stupid… it would never catch on”. Nevertheless, he still used it to name his pioneering Wellness Resource Center in Mill Valley, California, in November 1975, thus sealing its fate as today’s biggest buzzword.   

The Wellness Resource Center was instrumental in gaining a wider audience for the fledgling movement. There, Dr. Travis and his small team of doctors focused on addressing an individual’s overall state of wellbeing and championed self-directed approaches to treatment, rather than traditional illness-oriented medical procedures. In 1979, Dan Rather brought international attention to the Center with a short segment that aired on ’60 Minutes’.

“Wellness,” Rather says, introducing the segment, “now there’s a word you don’t hear every day.”

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

One of the first business to jump on the wellness bandwagon was Canyon Ranch, which opened in 1979 in Tucson, Arizona. Founded by an overweight property developer named Mel Zuckerman (he’s since slimmed down) and his exercise enthusiast wife Enid, Canyon Ranch was billed as ‘America’s first total vacation/fitness resort’.

It’s telling that one of the first modern wellness-related business ventures was in hospitality. At the time, the idea that you might need to travel hundreds of kilometres to have such an experience made sense – there simply weren’t many other options. However, there was also a historical precedence for such retreats, which could be traced back to European spa towns like Baden Baden, where baths were first built during the Roman Empire.

Canyon Ranch got off to a slow start, but by the late 80s they were financially successful and ready for expansion. They’ve since built a brand that’s well-known for its upmarket interpretation of wellness (rates start at USD 1,000/night), as well as its variety of products, including spa clubs, Las Vegas hotel spas and cruise ship spas. In many ways, their story epitomises the rise of wellness itself, from a small, fringe concept into a global symbol of luxury and status.

Wellness for the rich and famous, however, is only part of the story.

In the mid-80s, nearly half of the U.S. population worked out on a semi-regular basis (up from 24% in 1960) and they were starting to demand more from hotels than just a room to sleep in. Travellers increasingly wanted new amenities like a pool, a spa and a gym included as part of their stay. Hotels were slow to get with the programme, however. By 1991, 40% of hotels in the U.S. contained some sort of gym, but the quality was inconsistent and often gym-goers were squashed elbow-to-sweaty-elbow into an unused guest room or a dim, shag-carpeted basement.

Finally, in 2003, Westin launched WestinWORKOUT, effectively reimagining the hotel gym for a new generation of travellers. Featuring state-of-the-art equipment, workouts designed in partnership with Reebok, upscale amenities and a focus on natural lighting, Westin made wellness an integral part of the travel experience, rather than an add-on feature. In doing so, they sparked a hotel gym arms race that, 15 years later, shows no signs of slowing down. One only has to look at upscale gym Equinox’s move to launch a hospitality brand in order to understand how important the gym, as well as the broader concept of wellness, has become to hotels.  

Wellness on Steroids

So why has wellness exploded to the extent that is has? Much of it has to do with the same global and technological forces that have transformed overseas travel from a relatively expensive and uncommon undertaking into a far more accessible, familiar and varied experience. And just as travel and wellness have become mass-market industries, they’ve also become the perfect status symbols for those living today’s most luxurious lifestyles. Both are powered by the same type of desire for rare and remarkable experiences, as opposed to traditional material objects.

The ever-growing wellness industry also taps into our age-old thirst for better health, better bodies and just generally better selves. And the future of wellness in hospitality will be focused on enabling this transformational potential, not simply providing a physical escape from daily life or throwing a yoga mat into the wardrobe your guest room. As Art Markman, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, argues, ‘the path to wellness is much more about embracing enriching experiences than avoiding stressful ones’.

Hotels occupy a singular position within the wellness spectrum. They have the power to create immersive and highly impactful experiences, which can play a big role in our overall happiness. Like any diet or exercise programme, only the brands that can enable sustainable lifestyle changes will go on to define the future of wellness hospitality.

Wellness services/products we’d like to see in hotels:

  • Generous and delicious vegetarian and vegan menus
  • Classes that are actually fun (parkour, ballroom dance, rock climbing)
  • Guest room tech integration with smart watches
  • Fitness incentives (such as paying for a soda in squats)  
  • Tech-free zones for more personal interactions
  • Guided meditation meeting breaks

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QUO REPORT: Vietnam Rising

CLEVER STUFF

QUO REPORT: Vietnam Rising

Last Updated
27 December 2019
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FACTORS SHAPING ASIA’S MOST EXCITING MARKET

All pundits are in agreement: the Vietnamese tourism industry is on the up in a big way. Vietnam has remarkable potential for growth – both in terms of tourist interest and projected revenue.

Last year, the United Nations World Travel Organisation (UNWTO) listed Vietnam among the top 10 fastest-growing tourist destinations. Jones Lang LaSalle also cast a vote of confidence, listing Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi among the 26 most attractive cities for hotel investment worldwide.

But what is the word on the street? It’s easy to say ‘invest in Vietnam’, but the potential for growth is more nuanced than that. To take a closer look at what’s happening in the Vietnam market, and what might transpire within the next few years, QUO spoke with some of the country’s most prominent hospitality insiders.

Here are some of the key thoughts from the discussion.

  • Vietnam should be ranked higher in terms of potential growth. Vietnam offers fantastic opportunities for hotelier and investors, as hotel numbers are still low compared to other Asian tourism hotspots.

“I believe Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi should be in the top 20 or 15 most attractive cities in the world for hotel investment,” said Michael Piro, COO of Indochina Land, real estate division of Indochina Capital. “If you look at other Southeast Asia countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, the number of hotels in Vietnam is still very small.”

 Jung Hyun Oh, GM of Novotel Ha Long Bay agreed. “The ‘next big thing’ here should be much more investment right across the country: Phu Quoc, Dalat, Nha Trang, Mui Ne need more luxury resorts, and Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City need mid-scale brands.”

  • The luxury market may not be that attractive to investors. There are certain areas where luxury hotels are in short supply, but overall, it’s not the most profitable market in the country.

  “In Hanoi, there is still room for luxury products, but in general, this sector is not very attractive to investors in term of profitability,” said Olivier Do Ngoc Dung, Managing Director of Dynasty Investments. He remarked that the most interesting sector was that of international-standard budget hotels, currently only seen in HCMC and Hanoi. He also believes in the potential of coastal town Ho Tram, where Dynasty Investments last year signed a partnership agreement with Club Med.

  • The mid-scale market is promising, and could put pressure on luxury brands.

“You see local products with lower quality, but you rarely see internationally-managed, affordable luxury products,” said Michael. “I think the ‘affordable luxury’ concept is going to put pressure on 5-star hotels – it will change the market.” The big players will try to create similar brands, he said, or try to buy local brands to fulfil the affordable niche. “Local operators will also change, as you can start to see at Silverland and Liberty.”

  • Tech will play a role, but not a crucial one. Vietnam has some catching up to do in the tech sphere – will this be a problem in an industry increasingly turning to technology to individualise services?

“I don’t believe that much in the interruption of the artificial intelligence that people are talking about,” said Olivier. “In a country like Vietnam, small or boutique hotels are defined by culture and service. Travellers want human contact, so artificial intelligence will not be a threat. Regarding advances like mobile apps – now that OTAs dominate the market, I’m not sure if mobile applications for checking or planning the whole stay are right for small hotels.”

Michael, whose new project Wink Hotels will embrace technology, explains the millennial attachment to tech. “Today’s travellers want almost everything on their phone. Everyone now has their own Netflix, Apple music, Apple TV, Apple whatever and are now travelling with their own personal content. Everything is being streamlined to automatic devices.” For this reason, Wink will make it possible for guests to easily stream content from their phone to the in-room TV.

On the operations front: “Most hotel experiences that used to be handled by people can now be taken care of by technology,” he said. “There will be greater initial investment in hotels, but lower operating costs over time, because what you used to need 100 people to do, now you can do with 20.”

  • Design should play a more prominent role. While local brands strive to reach international standards, Western travellers are still looking for something authentically local.

“One thing we’re seeing now is that people are looking for hotels with personality. ‘Can I stay somewhere where I can experience something unique? Can I experience something that would create good memories about this place?’” said Luis Riestra, Cluster Director of Sales & Marketing, AccorHotels.

Olivier also believes there’s room for innovation in design – both from an aesthetic and a practical standpoint. “New builds and renovations can incorporate open floorplans, co-working spaces, workout facilities, bars and cafés – all of which are especially appealing to the much-sought-after millennial traveller.” There are some brands in Vietnam already doing this, he noted, such as Kafnu by Next Story Group.

  • Vietnam has changing traveller demographics that will influence the local hospitality scene. New markets such as China and India have for the moment replaced Western visitors as the main source of inbound tourism.

“There should be a re-thinking of the products and service offerings for those customers,” said Olivier. He noted that international guests’ behaviours have changed dramatically in the last few years. South Vietnam used to be seen as a cheap destination – mainly backpackers and recent graduates, but is now attracting higher spenders with more time for leisure and lifestyle experiences.

It should also be noted that Vietnam is hoping to increase the average tourist spend up to US$1,080 by 2020. Vietnam Airlines’ direct flights to Paris, Frankfurt and London and the US (from late 2018) may see traveller numbers from the West increase.

  • International hoteliers should not underestimate local players. Even though Vietnam is still catching up to the West, this is not necessarily a disadvantage.

“Don’t think ‘Oh, Vietnam will take years for that.’ Every day, people become better and faster and smarter,” said Michael. “There is so much money-chasing in Vietnam real estate right now, especially in the hospitality sector, it’s going to force innovation, because to be competitive to survive in the market, you have to be innovative.”

“So how should hotel owners and operators react? I would say ‘watch what’s going on and keep up, stay curve’.”

  • Overall, the success of the Vietnamese hotel and travel industry will be a ‘team effort’. Everyone sees the country’s potential, so interest is coming from a range of sectors.

  “Local owners and operators are really waking up to the opportunities on offer in their own backyard,” said Catherine Monthienvichienchai, Strategy Director at QUO. “There is huge optimism about the future of hospitality in Vietnam, and everyone wants a piece of it. Business owners who’ve made their money in other industries see it as a point of pride to diversify into hospitality; almost to showcase their success.

“Meanwhile, we’re seeing a wave of second-generation owners taking over with a much bigger and bolder vision – many have lived or travelled extensively overseas and have a clear understanding of the international landscape. Whether they create their own brands or work with international operators, they aim high and move fast.”

For periodic market updates, add the QUO blog to your bookmarks list – or subscribe and get all our news. 

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