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Small, sophisticated, personal

1st B2B fair Loop a complete success: Mirror for luxury trends

  Loop 2014 360 Grad Networking Kameha Suites
  Luxurious ambiance: Networking party at the Kameha
Suites Frankfurt after 2.5 days of business networking.


Frankfurt/M (March 21, 2014). Nothing plays a greater role in the luxury hotel segment than the person. This also applies for B2B – there, it's the personal relationship between hotelier and purchaser. Those looking for holidays for demanding private travellers and high net worth individuals (HNWI) or companies looking for the latest event kick like to sharpen their senses at luxury trade fairs.

The ILTM in Cannes is considered a hot spot for B2B in the international luxury business; last week though 'Loop' ("Luxury on our planet") set a new emphasis as the first B2B luxury trade fair in Frankfurt for the important Germany, Austria and Switzerland source market. In conversations with hoteliers from 31 countries as well as with hosted buyers from 12 countries, hospitalityInside.com also got a feel for what well-heeled guests are looking for and how hotels are looking to benefit.

Over two and a half days, as recently reported (see link), 70 hotel representatives met 70 pent-up purchasers. In 15-minute intervals, they switched business partners. The result was as challenging as it was efficient, as both parties admitted. The sales professionals generally found this quarter of an hour enough to find out whether the offer was attractive or whether the wishes of their interlocutor were capable of being fulfilled.

Motives for taking part at the Loop premier differed greatly: Joseph Dajana, Sales Manager from Dolder Grand in Zurich, expected new contacts "in this very difficult German market", for Xavier Echeverria from the tour operator Latin Trails from Ecuador, Loop was an appealing follow-on to the ITB in Berlin, for Daria Nykyforova and Galina Martynyuk from the design hotel 11Mirrors in Kiev, it was a glimmer of hope in these politically turbulent days around the annexation of Crimea, and for Séverine Montoni from the luxury hotel Les Suites in the French Courchevel, Loop provided a forum for detailed explanations for personal USPs...

The participating hotels ranged from small boutique hotels under private ownership, consortium hotels (e.g. Design Hotels, Relais & Châteaux and Leading Hotels) all the way to renowned brand hotels (e.g. Kerzner, Sofitel, Six Senses, Virgin Limited Edition). The range of tour operators/travel agents and individual buyers was also broad - from Thomas Cook to Lufthansa City Center travel agents as well as niche operators and individual purchasers.

Loop 2014 Gespraechskreise  
Information in the "loop": Hoteliers welcomed tour operators
and buyers.


 

Trust decides - on all sides

"For our clients, the destination is of primary interest, then the hotel" Steven Becher reported, Junior Product Manager of Thomas Cook Selection, which brings together the travel agent's luxury hotels. "The decision per booking is ultimately taken by the person in the hotel," he said on the fringe of the event. For this reason, he was

looking for trustworthy hotel sales managers. After all, no travel agent tests every hotel for its wealthy clients.

Stefan Laubner, owner of the travel agency Mannheimer Hof, a Lufthansa City Center partner, has just as many business as leisure clients. Its leisure clients include many demanding individual travellers. "Our guests ask for everything, in particular travellers from the US demand a lot," he said. For this reason, he invested two days in the Loop circle in order to make contacts to destination agencies.

The atmosphere at the conference hotel, the Kempinski Gravenbruch near Frankfurt, was relaxed and personal from the very beginning. It was also the first large event in the newly refurbished and elegant banquet hall of the luxury hotel. Lobster Experience, the organiser of the new B2B trade fair, underlined the personal nature of the event by sending its team members dressed casually in jeans and Loop shirts; their job also included ensuring that each person complied with the rotation principle. This got conversations going right from the very start and these continued without further prompting into the breaks and over lunch among the 140 persons taking part.

Special kicks and a lot of privacy

A trend could be discerned from the conversations with hoteliers: Even the smallest boutique hotel is independent, is extending or is directly incorporating a cooperation partner. The aim: Even mini hotels would like to offer indulged guests an all-round service and bind these to the hotel for as long as possible. The background: Competition in this segment is becoming palpably more difficult - across all countries and continents, as luxury travellers think and compare on a global basis.

  Loop 2014 Arlberg Hospiz Michaela Seyrling im Gespraech
  What makes Arlberg Hospiz so unique? Michaela
Seyrling (right) explains.


Ponta dos Ganchos, a 25 villa resort in Santa Catarina, Southern Brazil, would like to benefit from the Football World Cup this summer and is marketing itself as a hideaway for relaxation after the event - with bungalows in the tropical rainforest, sea view and private beach. And the kick: Breakfast is comprised of ten courses and the guest is free to take this meal at any time through the day. Of course, "breakfast" changes daily, Virginia Klenner Peluffo added with a smile, Director of Sales & Marketing. The mega-meal is also included in the room price which starts at EUR 450 per night.

"Even more privacy" is one of many trends on the increase in the luxury segment. In the upmarket ski resort Courchevel, Les Suites Hotel & Spa opened 15 suites (55 and 90 sq.m.) and a penthouse suite (415 sq.m.) six years ago. Rates are meanwhile set at between EUR 1,000 and EUR 3,000 per suite per night. The mini hotel must generate its earnings in six months - and that means an absolute focus on personal service. Up to 45 members of staff look after the needs of the few guests and General Manager Frank Citerne, who has lived in Courchevel for 30 years, is himself the best concierge.

"Even more service" is the next of many trends in the luxury segment. The luxury Châteaux Bagnols in France with 21 suites will add six new contemporary rooms this summer, and a spa. The new owner (since 2011) aims to indulge his already very specific target group - couples and honeymooners - even more. After all, the PR effect of the pool, which was built especially in the nineties for Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, won't last forever.

Bettering the knowledge of the traveller

Such details interest people like Melf Wolfgang Tuerkis from IntoSol (International touristic Solutions) in Garbsen near Hanover. He offers individual travel and advises clients who have long since gathered basic information from the Internet. Now, they look for detailed advice: "Why should I travel specifically to this hotel or to this destination?" is their central question. "We must be able to top customer knowledge," Tuerkis describes the challenge he faces, "we must ask the right questions in accordance with their requirements." And only the detailed knowledge on the hotel by the individual seller will help. Three photo galleries with over 60 pictures per hotel, as is standard on the IntoSol website, even bind the demanding client to the advisor.

Loop 2014 Viceroy Hotels Sylvia Fletcher  
Viceroy Hotels and Resorts: Their German representative
knows her client very well.
/ photos (3): map

 

"The customers are increasingly more heavily requesting the smaller, informally-controlled hotels with a more personal address," Klara Recker with ReiseArt from Muenster also confirms. Their recommendation to hoteliers as well as travel agency colleagues is simply: Listen to the demanding guests, put yourselves in their place! Why is it that a saloon service is important to this customer, why is a suite in a south-facing location important to another? Who is then able to tell a small "story" about a destination that can also make a fan of Greece a convinced Bali vacationer? Consulting is becoming increasingly more important and is taking up more and more time. Therefore, she also does not believe that "normal" travel agencies will survive.

Conversely, hoteliers also look for highly-specialised buyers and tour operators. "I took part in Loop because I'm interested in niche providers and small creative tour operators," Rolf G. Hinze from Finest Hotel Collection said, from Neu-Isenburg near Frankfurt. The representative of 52 international luxury hotels has also recognised another nuance in client behaviour over recent years: Many travellers get their information from large tour operators and book with smaller providers. Their advantage is, as well as the detailed knowledge of the hotel, often their organisational flexibility and knowledge around the networks on site: If, that is, large tour operators don't manage to organise chauffeur and personal guide for the wealthy client looking to play golf in Thailand for three weeks.

A specialist among larger luxury travel providers is Designreisen based in Munich. Michaela Kuegler, Head of Product Management, describes how the demands of wealthy travellers have changed over recent years: "Today, two central needs dominate for luxury travellers: Security and trust - that is, to know that their money is in the right hands in terms of quality promises with respect to exclusivity, comfort and care, and to know that they will be astounded and given lasting positive memories."

Nature, culture, experience - all in demand

All sales managers, representatives and tour operators surveyed confirmed the trend towards "small, exclusive with as much nature as possible", to Africa and safari in luxurious lodges, for experience holidays in South East Asia, to specific cultural travel in cities and countries, towards specific R&R holidays...And always, there's the word 'privacy'. Demanding travellers prefer to lodge in villas with a pool and want private butlers. They also like to visit unknown destinations at atypical times.

  Loop 2014 Oberhummer Astrid und Mueller Andreas
  Astrid Oberhummer and Andreas Mueller:
Loop was a great idea and success.  


In a nutshell: There is no longer one luxury trend, but many luxury trends alongside each other. Travellers have long since been spoilt for choice. For the tour operator/buyer and the hotelier, the - intensified - competition has begun, not only vis-a-vis the direct rival, but also vis-a-vis the Internet. Money is obviously becoming less important. True luxury in the 21st century is time and relaxation. And it's exactly this that somebody has to "take care of".

Loop to take place on an
annual basis in future

Astrid Oberhummer and Andreas Mueller, Managing Directors of Lobster Group, are pleased with the success of their Loop premier: "There is, meanwhile, a strong sales market for luxury travel, but no corresponding platform on the German-speaking market on which providers and sellers can meet and exchange ideas on developments, trends or business relationships. For this reason, we have developed this concept to fill the gap. We are proud to have achieved such success at our premier and have already made arrangements for 2015. We have already received enquiries for next year," Astrid Oberhummer says. The plan is for Loop to take place annually from now on, Andreas Mueller adds (www.lobster-experience.com and www.little-lobster.com). / Maria Puetz-Willems

LOOP: AN AWARD FOR THE ENTREPRENEURS FROM KIEV

It is only about mirrors and reflections at the 11Mirrors Design Hotel in Kiev – a young, stylish 49-room hotel in the heart of the city, only a few streets away from Maidan Square, but, nevertheless untouched by the turbulence there. Two representatives from 11Mirrors emphasised the matter close to their heart at "Loop": Daria Nykyforova, Brand Director and Galina Martynyuk, Director for Sales & Marketing, marketed their hotel in an extremely charming manner. The name of the owner, Vladimir Klitschko, naturally helps with this, but more importantly, it was up to the ladies last week to build trust and break down current prejudices. The media would never mention that two streets off Maidan Square, all people followed their normal life …

Loop 2014 Award Entrepreneur Martynyuk Galina Dressler Andreas  
Galina Martynyuk thanking for the
11Mirrors award, accompanied
by Andreas
Dressler of Connoisseur
Circle.
 

Therefore, the hotel itself also provides a great deal of peacefulness and warmth: In the huge lobby fireplace, a sea of real candles burns with a cosy flicker and much wood is not only a contrast to cool design materials, but also provides new energy. Ukrainian artists designed 11Mirrors and have played a great deal with the number as well as with the reflections.

Service has priority: "We have only one restaurant with 26 seats in the property, but cooperate with other restaurants and a spa in direct vicinity," the active ladies report. And every room disposes of an "open bar" with prices that certainly lie under those of the restaurant.

Hotel sales for a crisis destination are a real challenge, however: "We ourselves do not change," say the ladies, "and we also do not reduce our expenses. Considering this, we have more time at the moment to plan and think about, e.g., operational processes. And we have more time for internal training." Before the riots, the occupancy lay at 70%, now it is right down at the bottom. However, the lively sales associates are also turning this situation around and are now offering the weakly-visited hotel to TV and film producers for photo shoots or are cooperating with fashion magazines.

"We are thinking of the future, we will show Ukraine from her modern side. The guests will come again," they are firmly convinced, "they are already writing many eMails and enquiring after the welfare of the staff."

11Mirrors Design Hotel received the "Entrepreneur Award of the Year" during the Loop luxury trade show party. With this, the two hosts and organisers of the evening, the Lobster Group and Connoisseur Circle Magazine honoured the most successful newcomer to the 5-star hotel industry. Vladimir Klitschko thanked the audience with a personal video message. / map

 

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