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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Going With the Floe: How a Canadian Province Uses Icebergs to Attract Visitors

Prize-winning marketing campaigns can put distant destinations on the map.  In the case of Newfoundland and Labrador, the easternmost province in Canada, “Find Yourself,” an umbrella marketing theme in existence since 2006, has been a launchpad for creative promotions that have won more than 300 domestic and international awards during the past 12 years.
“Find Yourself is about creating an emotional connection. It’s designed to tap into the heart and ultimately the wallets of the people we are going after,” said Dave Sullivan, part of the creative team behind Find Yourself.
Just this year, the province received six awards at the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International’s Adrian Awards. Top prizes went to iceberg tracking website IcebergFinder.com,  the Symphony of Sound integrated campaign, and a television spot entitled Conductor.

“Tourism as a travel and trade industry is so globally competitive. Award-winning campaigns making waves around the world [can lead] to success…and a competitive edge,” said Catherine Kelly, director of account management at Target Marketing and Communications, which helped create the campaign.
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Fogo Island Inn
Isolation be the newest thing in luxury travel. Still, gaining a competitive edge is not easy for a destination called one of the four corners of the earth by the Flat Earth Society, noted Christopher Mitchelmore, Newfoundland and Labrador’s minister of tourism, culture, industry and innovation.
"We face an exceptional challenge because of our location…the most easterly point in North America in the middle of the ocean,” he said. “It takes a determined effort to come here, in terms of distance, time and cost.”
That said, when visitors arrive, they find a destination “as far away from Disneyland as possible. It’s not a contrived destination. We have whales, icebergs, four UNESCO heritage sites, and unique cultures.”
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Highlighting the province’s attributes in original ways is key to the success of the award-winning campaigns, and by extension, to tourism growth.
“Our biggest opportunity group is curious people looking for the unexpected and intriguing. We looked at the marketing landscape and found a lot of the work is so similar and linear, covering places to go and things to do. That created a big opportunity for us to differentiate ourselves,” said Sullivan.
“We look at the province’s inherent creativity from a tourism perspective–its people, its culture, its natural landscape.”
Ah, that landscape. Wild, ancient, craggy coastlines filled with icebergs, which are a top travel motivator.

“Every spring, there’s a parade of 10,000-year-old icebergs waltzing along our 18,000 miles of coastline. But visitors need to know where to look for them. Our solution was launching Iceberg Finder. It was a responsive and interactive way to connect people by plotting icebergs on a live interactive map. Visitors could also upload photos. Iceberg Finder became a unique way to help people hear about the experience,” said Sullivan.
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In fact, the site was chiefly designed “to facilitate the visitor experience while icebergs are here,” said Kelly. “The publicity was secondary.”
One of the other elements making the province’s experiences sing is sound.
“Experience here is felt through sounds. For example, there are the creaks and groans and fissures of the icebergs, which tell the story of their journey through the North Atlantic,” said Sullivan.
He adds that natural instruments, like the wind and waves crashing against the shore, along with man-made sounds–from music to the voice of storytellers, “demonstrate how we hear things very differently here.”
Thus, Symphony of Sound, an integrated campaign focusing on sound – both man-made and natural. Among the elements is Sounds from the Edge, a website allowing visitors to scroll through radio frequencies of both natural sounds and the region’s 200 dialects. The site includes a Play It by Ear contest. Visitors to the website were asked to build their own soundtrack, based on indigenous sounds. One composer won an all-expenses-paid trip to the province. The integrated campaign also incorporated a literal symphony inspired by natural sound. The symphony serves as the soundtrack of a seven-minute video.
This year, the focus is on storytelling. “The digital prong will be a website campaign page, a space where people can come and travel through the stories that exist here. There’s also a 90-second TV spot in the form of a long-form poem highlighting the oral traditions that exist here. It all goes back to the emotional connection with place and people, and where they can reconnect with themselves,” said Sullivan.
Will the new campaign win more awards? According to Kelly, that’s not really the point. “Awards won is not the measure. Success comes from visitors and spend and awareness and potential for future visits. Specifically, our job as the destination agency is to get it on the radar and create interest and drive visits to the trip-planning tool. We measure interest and intent to visit. The industry then has to convert interest to action.”
Apparently, it’s working. “Tourism spending is at an all-time high. Moreover, there are now 2,800 tourism-related businesses employing 20,000 people (making tourism the largest non-government employer in the province). Every region is seeing a benefit,” said Mitchelmore.

This article originally appeared on Skift,a publication for which I am the luxury correspondent.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Laura on TV: Talking Bargain International Travel on WGN in Chicago

Looking to take a bargain international vacation this summer? Here are some of the suggestions I offered today on WGN's Midday News. And here's the segment itself for those who prefer watching to reading!

Strategies for Finding Inexpensive International Destinations

  • Look for countries where the currency is weak against the U.S. dollar
  • Look for airlines that offer low international fares 
  • Look for destinations where summer is the off-season, like the Caribbean

Bargain European Destinations

  • Portugal, including Lisbon, The Algarve Coast, the Duoro Valley and Sintra. New nonstop air service from Chicago to Lisbon via TAP Portugal starts in June.
One of the castles of Sintra

  • Greece, including Athens, the islands and all those historic ruins. New seasonal nonstop air service from Chicago to Athens via American Airlines starts in May.
  • Turkey, including Istanbul, Cappadocia and the the Turquoise Coast.


Other Money-Saving Strategies

  • Be flexible with dates and destinations
  • Comparison shop on last-minute deal websites or flight scanners like Hopper and Skyscanner
  • Use airline-branded credit cards to book flights. The caveat--you must book the flights on the airline's website. But in return, you get free checked bags and early boarding, so you don't have to scour the plane for overhead bin space.
  • Look for hotels that include value-added extras in the room rate, like free parking or an ample breakfast (stale doughnuts don't count). At the same time, make sure the hotel isn't tacking on a daily resort fee.
  • Book on Airbnb

Monday, March 18, 2019

Ooh, La, La: A Tasty Luxury Hotel Arrives in Paris

Courtesy: Fauchon

Fauchon has long been in fashion among epicureans. The Paris-based gourmet food purveyor has been around since 1886, and has outlets in 20 countries around the world. And now, it has a hotel.
Last fall, the company opened Fauchon L’hôtel Paris by  Place de la Madeleine. There are plans for 19 more openings around the world in the next decade. Next up is Kyoto in 2020.
We know…ho-hum, another new luxury brand. Except that, after speaking with Jacques-Olivier Chauvin, president and CEO of Fauchon Hospitality, it does appear that this one is actually fashioning itself in ways that might differentiate it from the competition. The idea is to win guest hearts through their stomachs.
Fauchon L’hôtel Paris has a certain je ne sais quoi 
“Fauchon has deep roots in French culture and French gastronomy,” said Anders Justenlund, a hospitality consultant and lecturer at University College Northern Denmark. “When you are talking about branding today, you are talking about engaging with the product, which in the case of Fauchon is food and beverage products. Fauchon Hospitality offers them a new way to market their main business.”
Indeed, in creating the new hotel, Chauvin said the idea was to enhance customer engagement by “finding the essence of what Fauchon is about and capitalizing on that. We asked ourselves what can we bring to this industry? Since everything we do is about glamour and gourmet experiences,” the answer was to create a hotel brand with an emphasis on French food and beverage, “from street level to the top floor.”
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At street level, guests find Grand Cafe Fauchon, naturally a gourmand affair. But the in-room food and beverage offerings are what distinguishes Fauchon from its competitors.
“To us,” said Chauvin “room service is the future of a different hotel experience.”
Reinventing in-room dining starts with the choice of furniture. Instead of wall-facing desks, rooms come with a table and chairs oriented toward windows. In other words, Fauchon guests will be using their dining tables for work, instead of using work spaces for dining.
Rooms come stocked with a tablecloth and Limoges tableware. So, transforming into an in-room restaurant is as simple as unfurling the linens, setting the table, ordering from the complete restaurant menu via tablet voice technology, and then awaiting the meal, brought to the room in individual courses.
Each room also sports a customized gourmet bar, designed by Sacha Lakic for Roche Bobois. It’s packed with Fauchon treats, from truffles and foie gras to macarons and champagne. And what guests don’t eat, they can take home with them, gratis, a smart move, said Justenlund, for extending the brand experience beyond the hotel stay.
Image result for fauchon hotelThese in-room food offerings might be considered part of Fauchon’s X factor, as in the desire to appeal to Generation X (aka The Forgotten Generation among travel marketers). Chauvin says Xers are Fauchon’s sweet spot, with their interest in “elegant comfort, food and their interest in learning about other cultures.”
Unlike many so-called millennial brands, where room space is sacrificed in the name of creating cool lobby hang-outs, Fauchon wants guests to luxuriate in their rooms.
“A room is where you want to enjoy the city where you are,” said Chauvin. “We are providing more than a place to sleep. We want the room to be spacious. To provide a view to the city. To allow guests to have a proper dinner experience.”
Fauchon is smart to distinguish itself through food, said Justenlund: “What is making the difference is that this is not a hotel company; it’s an F & B company opening a hotel to lift the entire brand.”
Naturally, Chauvin, a veteran of both Louis Vuitton and Relais & Chateaux, agrees.“We are capitalizing the Fauchon name, providing a thorough brand experience, and putting an umbrella over the brand…from food to cafes to hotels,” he said.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Little-Known California Surf Town Looking to Become the West Coast's Newest Luxury Destination

Dana Point, the starting position of California’s Pacific Coast Highway, is currently known, among outsiders as that place just south of Laguna Beach. But Dana Pointers think their community, which they consider the surfing capital of California and the whale watching capital of the West, deserves greater accolades.
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Courtesy Dana Point Chamber
For now, though, while Orange County neighbors like Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, and Laguna Niguel revel in the reputation of the California luxe life, Dana Point is largely anonymous.
The area’s recently-formed destination marketing organization, Visit Dana Point, is looking to change that. The goal, according to executive director Jonny Westom, is to position Dana Point as a competitor to its OC neighbors, along with other upscale California destinations like Palm Springs, Monterey and Santa Barbara.
In the crowded California luxury marketplace, Dana Point has a chance to exploit its under-the-radar status.
“In markets that are oversaturated,” said Daniella Middleton, vice president of destination marketing consulting firm Development Counsellors International, “people are looking for lesser-known nooks and crannies. Luxury travelers are looking for off-the-beaten path destinations, not wanting to go where everyone else goes. An elusive destination that is down to earth is luxurious in itself.”
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Courtesy Dana Point Chamber
Dana Point isn’t starting its efforts entirely from the ground up. After all, the town incorporates four major hotel properties: The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, The Monarch Beach Resort, the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa, and the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Doheny Beach. In some ways, these hotels have contributed to Dana Point’s anonymity over the years, although they are now a big part of the solution.
According to Westom, when he started in his position a year ago, he assessed the reasons why Dana Point was not well-known. He observed that “none of the hotels here have ‘Dana Point’ in their name.”
Since “the hotel mega-budgets promoting the area don’t have the name of the destination in their marketing presentations,” there is a gap in consumer recognition of the actual destination.
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Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point
But the quartet of hotels has stepped up to the marketing challenge. Back in 2009, they formed a tourism business improvement district in order to create a unified marketing voice. By mid-2016, the TBID had transitioned into a destination marketing organization, funded by a flat fee room tax.
In 2018, after Westom came on board, MMGY Global was hired to identify the area’s key assets, and to assess the perception of Dana Point among potential consumers. It was the beginning of “a rebranding exercise,” according to Westom, “that would help us identify what separates us from other destinations.”
Stewart Colovin is chief creative officer for MMGY Global and has been the lead on the rebranding project.
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“You have to understand the waters in which you are swimming,” he said. “To find the essence of a place, we first go and talk to everybody we can in a destination. That’s because the brand has to start at home, so that visitors can ultimately connect with locals.”
After speaking with locals, a study of visitors — actual and potential — found that while Dana Point evoked images of beauty and friendliness, some of the descriptors which it scored high on were local and proud, active and healthy, natural and picturesque, and homegrown and distinctive–the area was not necessarily seen as luxurious nor cool.
Compared to its competitors, Westom said, Dana Point rated low on descriptors like “surf-centric and soulful: stylish and chic; artsy and eclectic: and cool and trendy.”
In looking at these perceptions, Colovin said the survey suggested Dana Point could capitalize on offering a more relaxed experience than its competitive set.
“It’s an approachable place. People dress more casually; it’s not pretentious, it’s easy to get around. People here aren’t doing things because they are trying to impress everybody else; they are doing things because it’s what they love to do.”
After sifting through the studies, MMGY developed a brand architecture for Dana Point around brand essence; brand values; brand experiences; and brand voice.
The overall brand promise, which will be conveyed in everything from a new tagline and logo — currently a work in progress — to advertising and marketing campaigns. The promise: “In Dana Point, you are one of us. We make it easy to connect with the ocean and others around you.”
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Dana Point's Harbor is Undergoing a Major Overhaul
Branding aside, there has to be some real-life architecture in place to draw tourists. To that end, quite a bit of luxury development is already in progress. The harbor and marina are undergoing a five-year, $400 million renovation. The facelift will incorporate new restaurants and shops, plus a 126-room upscale boutique hotel and a 100-room luxury property (the latter owned by the group behind Newport Beach’s Lido House). 
Westom sees the development as the anchor in plans to become Southern California’s next great luxury destination. In fact, he is hopeful that within a few years, Laguna Beach will be seen as that place just north of Dana Point.

A longer version of this story ran in Skift's New Luxury Newsletter, for which I am a correspondent.