Susan Magrino (l), chairman and CEO of Magrino Agency, and Allyn Magrino, president and COO of Magrino Agency. Magrino Agency, New York, NY, is an award-winning, pre-eminent lifestyle public relations and marketing agency with more than 20 years of experience and success. The agency specializes in public relations, marketing, and communications for luxury brands in travel, real estate, food, wine & spirits, and consumer goods. www.smapr.com
Leading industry experts gathered in mid-November at the Travel Trends Summit to discuss 2017 trends. Held at NeueHouse Madison Square in New York City and hosted by the Magrino Agency — a lifestyle public relations agency for brands in hospitality, consumer and luxury goods, and food, wine and spirits — the inaugural Travel Trends Summit issued its forecast for 2017 trends in luxury travel and hospitality.
“There is a megatrend with diners being more conscious of the ingredients on the menu. We now have a responsibility to nourish — not just feed — our guests.”
— Chef Matthew Kenney
The summit was moderated by Susan Magrino, chairman and CEO of Magrino Agency, and Allyn Magrino, president and COO of Magrino Agency. The event brought together the industry’s top leaders to discuss the factors that are shaping travel trends for the coming year, including millennial preferences, technology integration, social media and the luxury customer. The panels of experts included:
“This event came together in an effort to create an environment that invites influential leaders to engage in thought-provoking conversations,” says Allyn Magrino. “We wanted to fill a void by sourcing input on today’s trends from the experts in the industry who are actually on the front lines.”
According to Jack Ezon, head of the global travel agency Ovation in New York City, millennials can no longer be looked upon as young travelers between the ages of 18 and 24. In fact, he says, being a millennial is a much more diverse mindset. “We define that group by their behaviors,” Ezon adds. “For the first time, we’re seeing parents trying to act like kids rather than kids trying to act like their parents.” He says once businesses can move beyond the misconception of age, they will find a wide demographic of travelers who share similar interests and needs.
In the world of ever-evolving technology, there is one belief that holds true, according to the panelists:
“Wi-Fi and bandwidth are like hot water and plumbing,” states Brian Young, managing director of the boutique Castle Hill Inn in Newport, Rhode Island. “Wi-Fi is a utility, and it’s basic to the guest experience.”
Beyond Wi-Fi, experts also note that simplicity is key when exploring new technologies. “If it’s just technology for technology’s sake it becomes a distraction,” says Alexandra Walterspiel, CEO and cofounder of the hotel management firm Imprint Hospitality, with offices in Denver and Chicago. To explain further, the panelists note the rise of certain off-brand options for luxury guests. “We are reading and hearing so much about the keyless entry. In the luxury segment, I think it’s a miss,” Ezon explains. “You need to make your staff more efficient to connect with guests.”
Young supported this sentiment, noting “remote check-in or mobile kiosks miss the basic human connection that anyone who is a traveling guest needs to have — and it’s just not luxury.”
Airbnb, the online house sharing network valued at $30 billion, is a hot topic within the travel industry and one that is not likely to fade away. For Nikheel Advani, COO of the luxury Grace Bay Resorts in Turks & Caicos, the competition from home rentals is a challenge hoteliers must embrace.
Noting that the company has filled an obvious void in the industry, Advani stresses that businesses need to study the behavior patterns of their guests to make themselves stronger. “We need to listen to our customers, and if we cannot satisfy them, someone else will.”
When choosing a destination that meets their needs, experts say food is the motivating factor. Guests are constantly researching notable restaurants, award-winning vineyards and trendsetting bars to experience during their travels.
“Food and beverage is the No. 1 priority in terms of every type of trip planned,” said Judy Stein, co-president of Ovation Vacations.
There also is an interactive, culturally immersive element to the food experience. Young says restaurants are flipping the table on the “farm-to-table” trend bringing guests directly to the farm, whether it is truffle hunting in Tuscany or catching your own clams off the coast of Newport.
Peter Jon Lindberg, an award-wining travel writer who has explored culinary destinations around the world, notes there also is a return to fine dining after years of casualization. “There’s a certain specialness that’s coming back.” This manifests equally in the storied hotel bar, which has seen a renaissance alongside the continued rise of cocktail culture. “The hotel bar is the pinnacle of our industry,” says Charlotte Voisey, director of brand advocacy and portfolio mixologist for William Grant & Sons. “There is a sense of occasion about them, which inspires the new generation.” The hotel minibar is another place where innovation is seen, containing a more discerning collection of offerings, since people are becoming more aware of what they are consuming.
To that end, wellness also has played a part in people’s culinary decisions. Today, guests are more informed than ever about the food they eat.
“There is a megatrend with diners being more conscious of the ingredients on the menu,” says chef Matthew Kenney, founder of Matthew Kenney Cuisine. “We now have a responsibility to nourish — not just feed — our guests.”
Experts agree word of mouth is one of the strongest promotional tools with social media networks giving a voice to the consumer, while also allowing brands to connect directly with their guests
“It’s a tremendous way of storytelling and sharing a brand ethos,” says Kenney. “Before companies could only rely on media to tell their story.”
But in the golden age of information, Lindberg stresses guests can sometimes become overwhelmed sifting through sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor to find the best recommendations. They struggle to find sources they can trust.
“There’s a part of me that misses this expert that was the conduit to your knowledge,” he says. “It’s mindboggling how much information we have to sort through.”
In regards to negative reviews, Alex Glasscock, who cofounded The Ranch, a healthy lifestyle brand, says social media allows companies to showcase their brand’s integrity in a genuine manner.
“Occasionally we have someone who writes something that is not favorable. We address those people by being authentic, and we are consistent in how we respond to those comments.”
But the industry also has had to adapt to a tech-savvy generation of travelers. Voisey notes a demand has been placed on the hospitality industry to provide products that are Instagram-ready. “It used to be favorable to have a drink consumed while it’s still live — meaning seconds after it’s freshly prepared — whereas now, we’re tasked with making sure it can withstand a full minute of perennial Instagramming.” C&IT