“Aloha” to be heard at JFK come June, 2012

We have just received word that Hawaiian Airlines will launch non-stop service between Honolulu’s International Airport and New York’s JFK Airport next June. While there is current non-stop service from Newark Liberty to Honolulu on United-Continental Holdings, this new service is a vote of confidence in the travel industry’s growth particularly to such a heavily tourism dependent state.

This is not just another airline starting a new route – here’s where the impact begins: The battered tourism industry in Hawaii will be receiving over 100,000 new seats annually. This translates into millions of dollars in tax revenue for Hawaii, and over $156 million in additional consumer spending (these figures courtesy of Mike McCartney, Hawaii Tourism Authority). And yes, New York will obviously gain from the new connection in terms of visitor spending, taxes, etc.

Now onto the best part – the brand! Hawaiian Airlines is in the midst of an aggressive fleet renewal which includes brand new wide-body Airbus A330 equipment (which will be featured on flights to/from JFK), new seating designed to increase legroom throughout, extensive on-demand seatback entertainment in all classes of service, and free hot meals for all passengers on these long-haul flights.

Very special rates are available now and for a limited time; please visit the official press release at:


Hotel 1000 in Seattle showed the key is Customer Service

Many of us first think about a product or service in terms of cost and functionality. A very important component would be the level of customer service. Profit margins in the travel industry are very tight so each vendor needs to provide the best experience possible for their guests. Recently I had the chance to test a hotel’s willingness to help me in preparing details for my sister’s wedding in very short notice.

The Hotel 1000 in Seattle, part of Benchmark’s Northwest Collection, is as dynamite as the staff they employ. Since I had previously stayed there and knew I would be in town for number of upcoming nights, I started interacting with the Social Media Marketing Manager via Facebook. With short notice of the event, he promptly returned my requests and helped me through the process of hiring premium transportation, providing additional rooms, and connecting me with other key staff that I needed to make my sister’s special day as relaxed and elegant as possible. The service I received was amazing! It still makes me reflect about how strong customer service impacts repeat business and the bottom line.

In many cases it is not just the interaction of the guest and employee that shine. It is also how staff interact with each other both at the front and back of the house. The Hotel 1000’s Social Media Marketing Manager helped me adjust room needs, confirm services, and worked as a liason between me and the Sales Manager at BOKA bar & kitchen to design a custom wedding cake. On the day of the event the restaurant Sales Manager and General Manager both came to introduce themselves, confirm everything was as wonderful as expected, and offered further assistance. The flow of communication was seamless which was equally as “wow-ing” as the luxurious accommodations and gourmet food we enjoyed.

For a luxurious experience in Seattle, visit http://www.hotel1000seattle.com

American Airlines and the departure from Traditional Advertising

Both consumers and travel industry insiders have seen all sorts of advertising methods evolve. While social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare are in the midst of becoming traditional, still newer forms keep evolving especially in the guerilla marketing segment of advertising. Enter a recent trend: Flash Mobs! I just watched a YouTube video (watch below) of American Airlines using a flash mob to create buzz about adding 10 new destinations from Los Angeles.

Yes, I think it is a cleaver way to generate brand buzz, especially if the flash mob performs in multiple locations of high traffic in a particular city or region. Not only are people talking to others about witnessing the experience, but they are recording and posting videos of it onto social media. The actual exposure is not just the 30 people who witnessed it live but potentially thousands more.

The cost of hiring a few actors for a day –or longer– is much more cost effective than buying air time on major TV networks. And since these highly organized flash mobs come and go so fast in public places, there is a quick impact on the public. Expect to see more creative flash mobs popping-up around you in the near future at rail stations, public parks, and malls.

Spirit Airlines: Buzzing from L.A. to Vegas for a Buck

The airlines have discovered a nifty way to really get the attention of consumers and competitors. Just yesterday, Spirit Airlines announced service from Los Angeles International (LAX) to Las Vegas McCarron (LAS) with introductory one-way fares of just $1.00 per seat, plus applicable taxes. While this bargain fare is heavily restricted to travel on certain days and flights, it is creating quite a buzz.

Spirit Airlines is one of few airlines that focus on leisure travel. By this, I mean they fly to very leisure oriented destinations such as Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Atlantic City. They have also been part of the pioneering group of airlines that started charging for everything from pillows to advance seating assignments. So why has Spirit Airlines not already targeted LAX to Vegas? So many competitors – both low cost and legacy carriers – already serve the market. They needed a bold way to introduce their brand and get attention in order to make the five daily flights a success.

The industry impact has been interesting. Some airlines like jetBlue and Allegiant Air did engage in a “fare war” while much larger Delta Air Lines and United Airlines did not. My guess is that much of the passenger traffic on Delta and United is connecting through LAX and therefore they feel the discounted fares would not help to gain market share.

While the $1.00 fare seems ridiculous, it is a proven sales tactic that generates traffic to Spirit’s website, talk in the industry, and gets the seats filled.

The Baby Boomers are Coming – Make sure you are ready!

The baby boomers are arriving at early retirement and those of us in the travel industry have been waiting patiently. This gigantic group of more than 76 million Americans have huge spending power: One estimate suggests that the baby boomer generation accounts for about 50% of all discretionary spending and about 80% of today’s leisure travel (data from http://www.thirdage.com). Keeping in mind the changing characteristics of the maturing adult, now is the time to make your adjust your brand image and product offering to meet their needs.

People approaching retirement today have become much more technology savvy than previous generations. If you advertise online, do not assume that a senior discount is the only way to draw attention to your brand. Incorporate pictures of seniors in graphics, create special web pages showcasing target products, and stay on top of online forums and groups where you can highlight your product and create an impact.

Senior citizens will continue to like packaged products. A hotel that works with a nearby restaurant to provide a special meal package allows both venues to increase sales…. Just be sure that your brands compliment each other! Value added travel experiences are not new but with the size of the upcoming retirement population, it is worth revamping your product image and cooperating with others to create an experience the mature consumer will enjoy.

If you are in the hospitality industry, make sure your interior and exterior lighting is good, stairs kept to a minimum, entertainment is age-appropriate, and product has the retirement crowd in mind. A great suggestion would be to contact a local senior citizen activity center and invite a few folks over to visit. Show them what you offer and ask for their thoughts.

In any case, get ready because the baby boomers are a big crowd with a big impact!

Beaches Brand for Target Markets

With so many beach destinations available, it really is the case of which one matches your specific needs. Each beach brands and then markets itself to a specific demographic first and then widens the scale by promoting how there is “something for everyone” there. Then there are the various reputations, which often sway different travelers either to or from a particular destination.

Back in the mid 90’s, much of the state of South Carolina’s annual tourism marketing budget was spent in the state of Ohio. I do not want to miss-quote the actual figure, but I believe it was something like 75% of allotted funds. As a college student, we would take trips from Charleston up to Myrtle Beach and notice that almost every out-of-state license plate was, in fact, from Ohio! Guess it worked! Myrtle Beach has both branded itself and built a reputation as an affordable family-friendly beach area with a host of attractions, great golfing, loads of entertainment, and a within a day’s drive of it’s largest domestic target markets.

In contrast, however, Miami’s South Beach brands itself as a whole different kind of beach destination. As a party like atmosphere where cocktails and music flow all night long, South Beach brands itself as a hotspot of fun with a strong connection to Latin America. Drawing the wealthy, yuppies, and international tourists, South Beach has the über-luxurious marine amenities to support their brand. Miami also attracts other industries (fashion and film, in particular) that help support the local travel industry.

So which beach is for you? These are just two of thousands of global examples. First consult your budget, decide how far you want to travel, the season in question, and what you enjoy most from a beach destination. Make a list, narrow it down, and then start using your favorite search engine to find the beach…. err…. BRAND that is best for you!

Take a look at this promotional video on Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and notice how they feature and repeat some key drawing factors for tourism.

For more information visit http://www.visitmyrtlebeach.com

Hospitality industry and the “element” behind branding green

A few years ago I was at the National Tour Association’s “Spring Meet” in Uncasville, Connecticut. Tour operators, suppliers, and destination management companies converged to discuss a number of industry issues. Hot then – and still hot now – is how to turn brands “green” (toward environmental sustainability), capture customer appreciation toward this, and reduce costs. That last bit was challenging in 2006; I remember one hotel sales executive saying that using bio-friendly washing detergent for linens was extremely cost prohibitive. I wonder where things have gone since then?

The trend to become green was and is not going to stop. In 2008, Starwood Hotels launched the “Element Hotels by Westin” brand in Lexington, Massachusetts. Element is the first major hotel brand to mandate all properties adhere to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The hotels feature expansive natural lighting to reduce energy costs, public spaces and flooring developed from recycled content, smart in-room recycling techniques, water and waste reduction technologies, and even… get this…. the old paper “do not disturb” cards have been replaced with magnets! Smart and functional, Element is definitely part of the eco-chic revolution in hospitality.

The travel industry as a whole has lot of responsibilities: We have to protect and ensure safety of the consumer and ourselves, we have to provide value to the consumer; and we must move toward environmental responsibility in the products and services we provide. Consumers of all kinds are now choosing to patronize brands that reduce the impact on the world’s natural resources. So if you ignore your impact on Mother Earth, you might just lose a sale!

Will you come up with a new way that the travel industry can improve sustainability?

Leave a comment here or email david@thetravelimpact.com