Trending: Evolving Lobbies

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Trending: Evolving Lobbies

Last Updated
27 December 2019
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The idea of an underutilised lobby, populated by guests solely at check-in and check-out, is a thing of the past.

Lobbies that were stale and uninspired—large, lonely rooms with one unloved sofa in the corner—are becoming extended living rooms.

Picture public spaces with cosy nooks and lightning fast Wi-Fi, places where guests can find a private corner to work or join the crowd.

The modern lobby melds co-working with coffee and cocktails in spaces that look like the coolest members’ club, with corners that feel like the family den. For 2020, a boring lobby is likely equated—in the minds of guests—to a boring hotel.

A group of younger guests enjoy playing games like table football in modern hotel lobbies.

Here are four hotels that are leading the charge in evolving their lobbies: 

These spaces work to elevate the guest experience and further convey the hotel’s brand story—which is excellent considering that hotel rooms are getting smaller, further encouraging keyholders to occupy thoughtfully designed communal spaces. Moxy Hotels offers guests group games, teasing Jenga, karaoke or even spin the bottle in their lobby.

Peep into the lobby of The Hoxton, Shoreditch and you’ll find it buzzing with people. Many are glued to their screens, clicking away at their keyboards. Entrepreneurs discuss business over coffee. Others prefer Champagne—the bar is unsurprisingly popular. The Hoxton has turned its lobby into an all-day destination; cushy sofas, 2am last call and a never-ending string of cultural events invite you to become a part of the community. The vibe is homey, the décor industrial-cool and the chatter lively. The Hoxton brands itself as a place where guests can kick back among locals—its lobby conveys that message loud and clear.

The concept has taken off. Like The Hoxton, several hotels now boast a co-working-friendly, communal lobby. Other hotels use the lobby to highlight their eco-conscious touches. At 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge Park, large potted plants, hanging gardens, recycled wooden elements and loads of natural light create a sustainable oasis in the middle of the city. 

Boutique hotels aren’t the only ones jumping onboard the lobby revival bandwagon. Big chains are elevating their lobbies with personal touches too. The Westin, for example, began introducing vertical gardens into more of its lobbies over the last few years.

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The Myst Emerges in Vietnam

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The Myst Emerges in Vietnam

Last Updated
27 December 2019
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QUO Vietnam’s Country Manager, Ly Bao Yen,  interviews the husband-and-wife team behind one of Saigon’s newest and most evocative landmark hotels. 

Those frequenting Saigon’s trung tâm, or centre, would have noticed a new outline in their midst last year. Featuring walls that look half-finished with trees jutting out, The Myst Dong Khoi is one of the city’s next generation of boutique hotels, challenging the landscape and offering something to appeal to The New Collective, younger domestic travellers as well as those from across Asia and Europe.

The design makes reference to the forest and nature’s eventual triumph over created landscapes, but the spirit of the hotel takes inspiration from the alley, or hẻm, one of Saigon’s distinctive features. The Myst’s customers love more than the out-there aesthetic of the new hotel, which is tucked down a quiet alley but steps away from the city’s buzz. They enjoy experiencing Saigon’s hẻm in all its street-food-laden, shopping and local-café glory, a place where they can watch authentic city life unfold around them.

The hotel was founded by Vũ Hồng Nam and Nguyễn Thị Phúc, the husband-and-wife team behind Silverland Hotels & Spas, who wanted to offer something new to the landscape. Instead of opening another Silverland, they decided to take a riskcreating something that could propel them far into the future.

“I needed to build a brand to meet a new set of expectations, a place to make a different kind of memory, and tell a fresh brand story,” said Nam.

The story of local culture, deep comfort and contemporary design was told in conjunction with award-winning Vietnamese architect Nguyễn Hoà Hiệp–all without a blueprint in sight. Nam set his sights on Hoà Hiệp, with his reputation for wild creations and rebellion, after other architects called the concept for The Myst too bold.

Hoà Hiệp, of a21studĩo, accepted a meeting but said he’d only take the gig if he felt the two had a connection and shared similar ideas. He’d never designed a hotel before, instead making his name with community spaces and large-scale art installations that blend indoor and outdoor spaces in unusual ways.

“At that meeting,” said Nam, “we chose each other. And it was our ‘lương duyên’, a Vietnamese word for fate, that we would work together.”

A few weeks later, they met again, Nam expecting to see Hoà Hiệp’s blueprints.

“Instead, he pulled out a blank sheet of paper and coloured it green, leaving a white square in the centre.” The architect noted that all the buildings in the neighbourhood were glass and concrete and he wanted to create something different, something closer to a forest in the city.

Hoà Hiệp continued on the project with no formal plans or drawings, instead explaining his ideas to construction companies that, unsurprisingly, turned him down.

Though Hoà Hiệp lacked hotel experience, Nam believes it actually worked to the pair’s advantage, allowing them to completely step out of traditional hotel design thinking.

He likened the process to, at times, being lost in a forest, but in the end finding the light through the extraordinary design of The Myst. The new hotel quickly received acclaim and began turning a profit.

When asked about The Myst, Nam likes to say, “I did it all for money!” but that’s only partially a joke, he says, clarifying, “All that we did would be useless if people didn’t find it valuable enough to book it and enjoy it.”

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Is the Official Hotel Rating System Sinking into the Past?

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Is the Official Hotel Rating System Sinking into the Past?

Last Updated
27 December 2019
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The inspection and classification of lodging facilities emerged in the early 20th century. In the following decades, tourism authorities of many countries established and implemented individualised official hotel rating systems.

However, the seismic change in the global hotel industry over the last two decades has rendered the official star rating systems out-of-date and inconsistent across Asia. The credibility of these systems has diminished and in many cases has left the consumer relying more on social media and other channels to judge the quality of a hotel.

Today, as booking decisions are made faster and easier by highly accessible information through citizen media – guest review websites, consumer photos and travel blogs to name a few – it becomes vital to understand how the official ratings are perceived by discerning travellers around the globe.

QUO undertook a comprehensive review of the issue, analysing recent industry studies, interviewing hospitality experts and surveying travellers.

Our research suggests that officially accredited “stars” take a backseat in influencing consumer decisions, as the rating systems have variable meaning across markets, are plagued by disparities and are not  geared toward reflecting guest experience. Hotel brands and the reputation of properties, on the other hand, have become increasingly valued and critical to decision making.

Industry practitioners state that to be relevant, an official classification system needs to be reviewed and upgraded on a consistent basis, addressing the latest trends and global perspectives, encapsulating multiple competitive dimensions, and engaging guests as key stakeholders. It should stimulate service improvement and catalyse service innovation.

An Industry Perspective

The Official Rating System Is A One-Dimensional Metric To Predominantly Communicate The Hardware Facilities.

In the prevailing grade-based rating system, criteria are itemised and assigned specific scores or weights. Hardware and a checklist of service availability take centre stage. Assessment committees carry out a one-time inspection to accredit a star rating. Without further periodic audits or integration of customer feedback, the evaluations are unlikely to comprehensively reflect the quality, consistency and perceived value of the facilities and services.

It Allows Disparity.

Most grade-based systems adopt a bottom line – there is a lowest score a hotel needs to achieve in order to reach a certain star level. This methodology allows disparity in hardware and software, as hotels could selectively miss a few points, translating to the varying quality of facilities and service across the spectrum of same-starred hotels.

It Does Not Address The Needs Of Hotels Today.

The systems include criteria that are no longer relevant today, failing to address many hotels’ strategic needs to differentiate and serve a very niche market. While the ratings award all-around players, hotels win the game today by serving a clear segmentation of customers and playing to their unique needs and desires.

The systems also fail to take into account some key factors that impact customer experience and perception of hotels – for example, location, design and competitive set.

A Consumer Perspective

The Official Rating Is Not In Consumer Language

It Is Not Universal.

Rating standards vary by country. Therefore, guests are likely to encounter varying facilities and services at each star level in each country they visit.

It Is Confusing.

The rating criteria are not known by the public. As survey respondents reveal, “the travelling public has little or no knowledge of what is required to achieve different quality ratings”. Moreover, the self-supplied star ratings on third-party websites are inconsistent and misleading.

And Most Critically, It Does Not Reflect Guest Experience.

Official star ratings tell little about the guest experience. The systems fail to effectively communicate the uniqueness of the experience, innovation or the way a hotel meets the needs of a distinct target market.

Even the same-starred hotels within the same locality present differing guest experiences and perceived customer value. For example, one 5-star hotel in Bangkok has 83% of its TripAdvisor reviews marked as “Excellent”, whereas another nearby 5-star property has only 30% – a noticeable discrepancy of guest experience. Similar disparities are also present in the customer ratings on Booking.com, where some 4- and 5-star hotels score significantly higher than their counterparts in all major aspects throughout the guest journey.

Some survey respondents stress that the official ratings are less reliable than consumer reviews online, and that the actual experiences often fall short of guest expectations.

Understanding Today’s Travellers

Travellers Today See The Official Rating As Only One Source Of Reference. They Increasingly Value Brand And Embrace Citizen Media.

As travellers indicate, they “often look at the brand, whether it’s an international chain or a member of a global alliance” and “check multiple sources of information to be reassured of the quality”. Many speak of the value of customer reviews, asserting that “personal recommendations carry far more detail and credibility, and are so easy to access nowadays”. For hotels, this phenomenon poses a crucial need to switch tactics – from being product-focused, to being experience-driven and socially engaging.

Hospitality Industry Views

The classification system needs to be reviewed and updated more often, to capture the new trends, and to incorporate the feedback from the industry.

Mark Dardenne
CEO
Patina Hotels & Resorts 

 

Software assessment is a more subjective view. It needs to get feedback from the guests.

Peter Henley
President & CEO
Onyx Hospitality Group

 

The rating needs to mirror the global perspective.

Kevin Beauvais
Co-founder & CEO
Zinc InVision Hospitality

 

The system fails to look at the business today – the new need for boutique and budget hotels.

Cyndy Tan Jarabata
President,
TAJARA Leisure & Hospitality Group

 

For us, the brand identity matters most.

Gregory Meadows
General Manager
The Sukhothai, Bangkok


We don’t use star classifications to refer to our brands. There are many different rating schemes which makes it very subjective.

Simon Scoot
Vice President
Global Brand Management,
InterContinental Hotels & Resorts

 

I think a rating system based on ADR works best. It’s consumer-driven, reflecting how much people are willing to pay for the product and service, providing a clear gauge of a hotel’s perceived quality as ranked by its achieved price.

Robert Hecker
Managing Director
Horwath HTL Asia Pacific

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

More ‘Social’, Less ‘Media’

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More ‘Social’, Less ‘Media’

Last Updated
27 December 2019
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QUO believes social media content should be more ‘social’ than ‘media’ to win against ever-changing algorithms. By QUO Brand Strategist Rica Facundo.

Many hospitality marketers panicked about the recent change to Facebook’s algorithm, which now decisively favours user content and meaningful engagement over promotional posts from businesses. While brands ultimately need to adjust their approach to media planning, data crunching does not address the crux of the problem. Neither do content strategies with no real-world implications.

QUO believes that the answer to social media content strategies is simple yet easily overlooked: create meaningful experiences in real life that guests will naturally want to share with their communities online.

That is why the Facebook algorithm change actually works in favour of hospitality brands.

Share-worthy experiences have always been at the heart of the industry. People seek out novel adventures for their next online #humblebrag. They document, then relive fond travel memories through throwbacks. They cultivate their communities through photo tagging and inside jokes left on comments.

A shift to more meaningful interactions is also an emerging theme evident in the hospitality industry, with travellers seeking more wellness and purpose-driven experiences. Now more than ever guests will advocate and recommend hotel experiences that align with their personal beliefs, instead of those that just pay lip service to them.

This strategy defined the new social media campaign and long-term social media approach that QUO created for Wink Hotels, a new hospitality brand aimed at tech-savvy ‘Indochine 2.0’ travellers.

After the Wink Hotels brand launched in October 2017, the first posts on its Facebook page were standard press releases that pushed the product without giving compelling examples why the brand was relevant to the lifestyle or mindset of an Indochine 2.0. traveller. This is a stark contrast to the ‘Indochine 2.0’ campaign that is currently underway. Even though Wink Hotels is still being built, the brand aims to create content that demonstrates its ethos in order to resonate with a new generation of travellers in a meaningful way.

While the initial headlines after Facebook’s recent change were screaming every variation of ‘RIP Facebook for Marketers’ in the long-term the change will become a return to the essence of social media – that it’s a behaviour, not a channel.

A social-savvy hotel brand needs to understand the nuances of human behaviour, particularly when it comes to what their guests desire and believe, to create travel experiences able to spark this kind of ‘shareability’ online. If brands focused more on the ‘social’ than ‘media’ in their content strategies, this will ultimately give guests a more compelling reason to share the brands they love with their social networks.

Follow Wink Hotels on IG @winkhotels and FB @winkhotels

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Cool story, bro

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Cool story, bro

Last Updated
27 December 2019
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Customers crave stories. For travel and hospitality brands, it’s no longer enough to market your products with only high-res images and a stable of glowing reviews. Let’s look at how three major hospitality players are giving the people what they want.

Storytelling may be an ancient artform, but it only recently emerged as an essential branding tool. Propelled by an online explosion in video content and a desire to harness social-sharing trends, a successful branded storytelling campaign has become the holy grail of content marketing. Well-crafted stories shine a spotlight on your organisation’s narratives. These can range from in-depth origin stories on the ‘About Us’ page to sharable vignettes broadcast on social media. Some brand stories document real events; others are engaging works of pure fiction that embody the company’s values. But virtually all branded stories have at least one thing in common – emotional content.

“Promoting a brand through emotionally charged narratives is an effective way to raise awareness and boost engagement. But telling stories for stories’ sake isn’t enough. You have to know your audience, tap into their psyche and spin tales that resonate with their needs and values. Pull this off, and the rewards are substantial.”

Tales Worth Telling

Industry leaders are coming around to the need to take charge of their narrative – to shape it and distribute it themselves. Here’s how a few heavy hitters in hospitality and travel are accomplishing that:

#1 Airbnb Took Charge of its Narrative with Storytelling

Airbnb has always had a knack for storytelling. Even the company’s unusual name is a story prompt that connects back to the founders’ early days of renting out an inflatable mattress in the living room of their San Francisco loft. It’s an origin story – one that survived full-on rebrands and continues to inform the company’s reason for being.

But they also understand that their core product is difficult to articulate. It’s not as tangible as a mainstream hospitality provider’s. Local hosts are on the frontlines with customers providing all the experiences – from lodging to city tours. They’re the ones doing the meeting and engaging.

In reality, Airbnb exercises little control over its users’ experiences. To counter this, the company has made a concerted effort to shape the way consumers think about its core product – and they’ve used storytelling to accomplish this.

A few years ago, they relaunched the brand with a video that spoke of a world ‘full of cities and towns’ that are ‘constantly growing larger’, one with disconnected people ‘yearning for a sense of place’. Then they move in for the kill:

“What would it be like to feel at home, even when you are away? Imagine having that anywhere.”

In one succinct brand video, Airbnb has taken hold of the narrative and framed itself as an agent of connection. This has freed it up to tell stories about the people it brings together, to tell stories about exceptional experiences offered by Airbnb hosts and to showcase the globe-trotting escapades of its users. This has become a main focus on their website. Have a look at Airbnb’s ‘Stories’ page, where they curate a mix of host bios, user-generated content and other stories related to their network.

#2 Jetblue Connected their Brand to Feel-good Stories

JetBlue was an early adopter in the new wave of branded storytelling. The airline’s social campaign – ‘Fly It Forward’ – focused on Twitter, where it encouraged users to nominate admirable candidates that deserved recognition. These nominees had nothing to do JetBlue.

But a new narrative was about to change that.

Judges selected a few outstanding nominees and offered them a free round-trip ticket. These winners then became goodwill ambassadors and were asked to ‘fly it forward’ by nominating other worthy candidates. The process continued.

By showcasing this goodwill and rewarding it with free flights, JetBlue aligned itself with these stories of selflessness and sacrifice. Of course, all of this was documented on social platforms like Twitter and YouTube. The result was a series of sharable stories about community organisers, survivors and other previously unsung heroes.

What emerged was a kindness chain with JetBlue at the centre. The fact that none of these stories had anything to do with the airline was beside the point. Or maybe it was the point. Twitter swooned.

This is just one example of JetBlue’s successful forays into storytelling. The airline’s ‘Recurring Dream’ video tells a feel-good fictional story about a pigeon who dreams of a better flying experience. It’s cute, memorable and highly sharable – and it links directly to the brand’s key messages.

Then there was the ‘FlyBabies’ campaign, which documented a so-called social experiment where crying babies on airplanes went from a fussy annoyance to a source of free tickets and a cause for applause. Talk about changing the narrative.  

#3 Marriott Entertained Audiences with Pure Fiction

Marriott was one of the first major hospitality players to go all-in on using stories to market their products. In 2014, they launched a full-on creative studio to create, produce and distribute content on behalf of their vast portfolio of brands.

This studio set about producing a steady stream of polished video content designed primarily to entertain. A trilogy of Two Bellmen films are the crown jewels in this new endeavour. These highly choreographed action films run from 17 to 35 minutes and are shot on location at specific Marriott hotels. Each has racked up several million views on YouTube.

David Beebe, who founded Marriott’s Content Studio and ran it for nearly three years, once explained that the why behind the content was more important than the what. In other words, they weren’t making content for content’s sake. Most of the content they produced connected back to specific sales packages, thereby driving bookings.

What’s Your Story

One of the reasons a well-crafted branded story is so compelling is that it’s uniquely yours. It sets your brand apart in the market and provides customers with a human connection – something they can engage with.

You might even say that the way to your target customer’s heart is through a story, which begs the question: What’s yours?

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How to Lure Overlooked, Lucrative Mid-Lifers

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How to Lure Overlooked, Lucrative Mid-Lifers

Last Updated
27 December 2019
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Millennials are getting all the attention from hoteliers, but another ‘m’ category – mid-lifers – is being ignored as a potentially lucrative target.

According to a study by Euromonitor International, mid-lifers (those in their mid-40s to mid-50s) have the highest spending power of all age groups. HOTELS magazine interviewed David Keen, founder and CEO of QUO, about how hotels can capture the loyalty of this overlooked category of traveller.

HOTELS: Where should hotels focus to attract – or at least acknowledge – mid-lifers?

DK: Public and co-working spaces: Most hotels miss the mark by creating ‘cool and funky’ communal spaces that solely aim at young people. Everyone enjoys hanging out in a cool space that gives them a sense of community, ‘mid-lifers’ included, and mid-lifers generally have more money to spend on a hotel that provides these spaces.

When designing co-working spaces, hotels seem to ignore the mid-lifers need to feel comfortable, so while they are cool, the spaces are not cosy, or they’re noisy or lack privacy. The ideal mid-lifer co-working space is aesthetically pleasing, but also comfortable and quiet enough to spend a few hours working. Mid-lifers are going to local cafes to fulfil this need, as hotels seem to be missing that balance between hipness, comfort and functionality.

Design: Most mid-lifers have travelled extensively and are looking for stunning design – dramatic spaces, hotels with character and ‘sexy’, desirable spaces. They want places that capture the imagination and ideally the locale in their design. Bland is banned for this demographic. Brands such as M Gallery, or any brand with a ‘curated’ collection, tap into this need.

Rooms: Mid-lifers want the basics done right. Surprisingly few luxury hotels focus on doing so. The basics are a shower with good pressure, consistent hot water and enough space to turn around. Quality, high thread-count bedding with a mix of pillows. Good coffee. Fast, free WiFi. Fast check-in and automated check-in. Quality TV channels, adequate desk space, enough space to fit an extra bed or crib in the room. Quality amenities.

Menus: Health-conscious mid-lifers want nutritious options on the menu. Not just options but menu concepts built on health and nutrition. Club sandwiches are banned. Quinoa salads, wraps, more vegetarian and vegan options – that kind of thing.

Gyms: Gyms should have approachable staff (not intimidating personal trainer-type staff), to supply personalized advice on machines. Exercise machines differ from place to place, so easily obtained information on gym equipment is needed – information that pertains to this age group.

H: Is there anything unique about mid-lifers that hotels could be targeting?

DK: This demographic travels frequently for work and they’re more health-conscious while doing so than baby boomers. They need healthier and more diverse menus. They also enjoy socializing and checking out local bars and clubs after dinner. Late-check out, all-day breakfast, in-the-know locality guides and hotels with ‘cool’ bars are perks for them.

Mid-lifers with children don’t want to stay at a bland ‘family hotel’ where kids are relegated to a kids’ club or otherwise separated from parents. They’re looking for hotels with family experiences that are engaging for all ages, with rooms, restaurants and facilities that help them bond as a family. And they value personal space, so spacious rooms and communal areas that facilitate ‘isolated togetherness’ are highly prized. Basics are more important than fawning service.

Mid-lifers have the highest spending power of any age group

H: How does this age group define luxury – or do they even care about luxury?

DK: Mid-lifers define luxury as the perfect hotel for the purpose of their trip, so their exact needs change whether it’s a couple’s escape, family trip or business trip. A must is ample physical space and stunning design. Selecting a hotel for them is 70% to 80% based on design. Design should be beautiful but also functional and not detrimental to enjoyment – all the basics should be effortlessly provided. This demographic is quite independent, so services are less important, as long as service itself is friendly and efficient.

H: Hotels that target “millennial-minded” travellers fit a broad description – usually around technology and a more casual, local approach to design and F&B. How would you define a mid-lifer hotel?

DK: Desirable design; menus with healthy and diverse options; friendly, efficient service; spacious rooms with all the basics done right; a cool, communal workspace that is also comfortable and functional (like a living room); useful, high-quality amenities; and children’s and family facilities that aren’t just an after-thought.

Hotels that want to become more accessible to this cohort should focus on stunning design, better, healthier menus and an affordable, accessible, quality wine list.

This interview was first published on the website of HOTELS magazine.

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