Young Travellers And Price

I liked this piece from HotelInteractive. I’ve shortened it a little. I’m also happy that at Chanters Lodge we have newly introduced low and high season rates, special rates for Zambian travellers and have resisted the temptation/need to raise rates in line with increased costs. In Livingstone we are in a very competitive environment, and yes, Customers are shopping on price.

“Here’s confirmation of what many of us already knew: Millennial travelers don’t express hotel brand loyalty like their older brethren when it comes to booking leisure travel. And that could be a problem in the coming years for hotel industry executives trying to pin down this increasingly important group. Leisure travel makes up more than 75 percent of all hotel bookings in the United States, says U.S. Travel. So this emerging trend has the potential for massive upheaval of the status quo in the coming years.

Millennials are becoming an increasingly critical part of the hotel room buying mix, and at some point during the next decade will supplant the importance of Gen X travelers and Baby Boomers to the hotel industry’s bottom line. Millennials currently drive billions of dollars in spending decisions with many of those dollars going to hotels and travel related activities. And they have yet to reach peak spending!

And their travel buying behaviors are way different than the aforementioned older groups. Remember, this is the first generation that has never known a world before the internet and the way they have integrated technologies into their lives is wholly different than older generations. That’s going to make it tricky for hoteliers to capture Millennial’s loyalty for the long term, but they are trying! Worse yet, the problem seems to be seeping into the Generation X mindset as well which is making online bookers inherently less loyal as they are increasingly driven by factors such as price more than loyalty.

The new study “Who’s Sleeping with You? A Detailed Look Into the U.S. Online Hotel Guest,” reports that 123 million travelers researched hotel options online in 2013, with 92 percent subsequently booking rooms online. And by looking at an incredible one billion monthly travel transactions per month over a three month period, the study determined that because of an “expanding array of hotel options”, a “let-the-best-deal-win” mindset is now in place among the younger class of travel consumers.

This confirms a study earlier in the year from Driftwood Hospitality Management that queried the general managers of its managed hotels. In that survey released in September, 43 percent of Driftwood general managers believe price is the number one concern of millennial travelers when choosing where to stay for leisure travel.

Separately from this study another recent study released last month and conducted by
Harris Interactive and commissioned by and Egencia, said to book business travel, 32 percent of Millennials report using a smartphone, and 20 percent report booking on a tablet. Just 12 percent of those older than 45 used a smartphone, and even fewer used a tablet to book travel. Millennials are also much more likely to use mobile devices to enhance their travel experience, the study concluded.”


Hotel Excellence

This is an interesting piece from Mr. Larry Mogelonsky – CHA on HotelInteractive
Abigail’s Hotel (above) is a not-so-hidden gem coming at you from Canada’s prime real estate along the west coast. It’s likely not on many consumers’ bucket lists or hoteliers’ ‘leaders to watch’ catalogues. After all, the property is not affiliated with a major chain or a representation firm such as Leading Hotels of the World, Preferred Hotels & Resorts or Relais & Chateaux. Yet, with Abigail’s near perpetual ranking as the top property on TripAdvisor for Victoria, British Columbia (out of a total of 57 listed hotels), I decided that a further inspection was warranted.

Victoria is the capital of British Columbia – Canada’s westernmost province – with a population of 330,000. Located off the mainland on Vancouver Island, Victoria is considered a haven for Canadian retirees and my quick survey of the tourist scene confirmed this. The downtown waterfront district is dominated by Fairmont’s majestic Empress Hotel, with other major chain properties located snugly around the rejuvenated port area.

Abigail’s Hotel is about five minutes by car (ten minutes walking) from the center of town. I was encouraged to walk, but not knowing our way, felt more comfortable driving – a trip we did several times each day as parking was just a few dollars a day and free in the evening.

The heritage property houses 23 rooms and was built in 1930, having been converted from an apartment building in the 80s. Comprising two separate buildings wrapped around a small motor court, the property’s Tudor style façade is quaint and inviting. My room comprised a well-decorated, modest-sized bedroom with fireplace and a somewhat triangular-shaped bathroom. Well equipped, comfortable for sure, but certainly not fully up to the modern standards one would expect in a luxury property.

The well-appointed common rooms comprised a reception room flanked on either side by a living room to the right and a breakfast room to the left. Walk straight ahead and you are in a small but very pleasant courtyard. With no elevator, this property would not meet any accessibility requirements. Regardless, it was an exceptional experience.

What I just described in the past few paragraphs would have you scratching your head as to how Abigail’s has achieved its top TripAdvisor rating. It certainly isn’t the physical attributes or amenities of the property that delivered these accolades.

What drives the excellent rating is the service: personalized and professional. With a small but dedicated staff, Abigail’s has found the expert balance between helping and being overly obtrusive. Breakfasts are made to order by a chef and supported by efficient and happy waitstaff. A complimentary happy hour provided excellent snacks in the pre-dinner hour. Free wireless was also on tap. Throughout the stay, it was impossible to find fault. This level of service would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in a property of 200-plus rooms without enormous (and not affordable) staffing levels. This supports my hypotheses on achieving high TripAdvisor ratings.

1. Service is more important than physical structure.

 2. Guests do not like to pay for extras and your ratings may suffer as you add costs. The final bill at Abigail’s had two lines: room and tax.

 3. Positive staff attitude trumps any fancy new room features. This is something to keep in mind as you seek to add items: the guest benefit might not be there!

4. Creating a relationship between staff and guests is paramount.


1983 And All That…..

I’m grateful to Edem Djokotoe for his memories of the Ridgeway (now Southern Sun Ridgeway Hotel) in Lusaka, of which I was General Manager from March 1979 to May 1992. I have edited parts of the piece – if you’d like to read the whole story go to Soul To Soul on Facebook. The photo? Taken around that time ‘at home’ in Tiverton, Devon with my late mum and second born Jan-Martyn – washing up and not singing!!

“I first saw the man who’d be President in a hotel bar in 1983. The hotel: Ridgeway. The bar: the Copper Horse. He sat alone at a table in a corner, nursing a solitary Mosi in a noisy, smoky bar bustling with animated punters. He stuck out like a sore thumb. Like a man in a place against his will. To be honest, I didn’t notice his discomfiture until Oscar, the fellow who’d invited me to The Copper Horse for a few pints, asked me if I knew who the man was.

I shrugged because I really didn’t. “Should I know him?”
“You should. I’m sure you must have heard of him or read about him. His name is Frederick Chiluba. He’s a trade unionist and a big thorn in Kenneth Kaunda’s side as well as his harshest critic.” I looked at Lonely Man again with a mixture of surprise and disappointment because in all fairness, he seemed too pint sized a David to take on KK’s intimidating Goliath.

“So if he’s such a hotshot, how come he’s sitting by himself?” I asked.

Oscar looked at me like I’d said something really stupid. When he spoke, his tone was hushed: “Edem, that’s because nobody wants to be seen talking to him, even though they know him. You see, Copper Horse is a popular hangout for government spies watching to see who is talking to who. When you are here, you better watch what you say because someone could be listening…”

My friend, Oscar, an Economics student at UNZA, was one for conspiracy theories. He believed that half the students at university were government spies who vanished once their cover was blown, only to surface at another tertiary institution in another town. I knew the regime had a generous sprinkling of agents everywhere, but I found many of Oscar’s theories absurd and far-fetched. However, something about the lonely man drinking a beer in a crowded hotel bar convinced me that this was one yarn that contained a nugget of truth.

But the Ridgeway was more than the hotbed of intrigue and eavesdropping government agents he made it out to be. It was by far the most accessible and most happening hotels in the city. Anything that was anything in Lusaka happened there.

For instance, when boxing was alive and well in Zambia and Lusaka hosted many international bouts, courtesy of the Nigerian promoter Gibson Nwosu, Ridgeway was the closest thing to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Of course, the fights didn’t take place there, but practically all the boxers who came through stayed there. The weigh-ins, the stare downs and all the pre-fight hype took place there—in the Natwange Room.

These are only some of the memories that the old Ridgeway Hotel evokes whenever I drive past or walk into its newer reincarnation. Lusaka diminished in many ways when the old Ridgeway died.

The old Ridgeway owed much of its reputation as the most happening hotel in town to its General Manager: Richard Chanter. Well, that’s what his job description must have been on paper, but I remember on many a New Year’s Eve, he’d be performing with the house band, The Cool Nights, in the Musuku Restaurant. Before the night was over, you could bet he’d be singing Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon and his favourite, the theme from The Greatest American Hero, “Believe It Or Not”.

Many a musical career was launched on the Musuku Restaurant stage and on a vehicle Chanter created called Folk Night. Not exactly Show Time At the Apollo, but it played a big role in helping hopefuls hone their skills performing with a live band in front of a live, discerning audience. It was where Maureen Lilanda, now a doyenne of the local scene, then a high school student at St. Mary’s cut her teeth and learned how to evolve into a cabaret artiste. Back in the day, her older brother, Douglas, one of my closest friends, would mobilize his friends to go sit in front of the stage to cheer her on. Name them, they all graced that stage, backed by the Cool Nights. Percy Phiri…Dozy Musakanya…Lazarus Tembo…Ackim Simukonda…Muriel Mwamba…Simwinji Zeko…

On New Year’s Eve 1983, Richard Chanter unveiled a band that was virtually unknown in Zambia—the Lubumbashi Stars. The guys took the stage just before midnight and brought the house down with its brand of soukous and tightly choreographed dancing. By the time the night was over, they had succeeded in upstaging the versatile house band in a big way.

The Lubumbashi Stars became an instant hit and were a major attraction to the Ridgeway until the band relocated to Botswana where the grass was greener a few years later. They were not the only herd of humans to head south in search of rich grass. By 1990, more university lecturers, college tutors and high school teachers were leaving Zambia to seek their fortunes in Botswana than ever before. Apparently, word had filtered across the Zambezi River that even high school teachers in Botswana could afford to buy Toyota Cressidas from their salaries and booze every day of the week without getting broke.”


The Hard Working Justin Phiri

Being a full time employee at Livingstone’s world famous top 5 star hotel – Justin is a bartender in the Royal Lounge at the Royal Livingstone Hotel – as well as holding down a DJ’s job at some of the top night spots in the city at weekends, is no easy task! Hence my headline ‘The Hardworking Justin Phiri’, as that’s exactly what Justin (pictured above) does, week in week out. I believe it’s the first time we’ve had an employee of one of the big hotels as our Guest on the Chanters Lodge Experience with the Milli Jam Ingredient, our weekly Sunday night radio show on Zambezi 107.7 fm, Livingstone’s leading local radio station, and it was a great pleasure!

“How do you manage such a heavy schedule”? We asked Justin at the top of the show, and he explained to listeners that the only way he could fit everything in is because he’s on day shifts at the Royal, so he’s able to rest and relax after work, before heading for the Livingstone clubs – exciting late night venues that often don’t start to rock until the wee small hours. Justin told us that he’s currently playing at Fezbar to crowds of above 200 at weekends, dropping all types of music – everything from rock “for the muzungus” (white people), to African and Zambian jams, as well as tracks from just about every other genre in between!

The music on this show was good, we opened with a new version of  ‘Feel The Love’ (our theme tune) a remix by WOZ featuring Childish Gambino – “that’s funky” commented Milli Jam. We also played new tracks from Clean Bandit and James Blunt before Milli Jam spun a Zambian track from Macky 2 featuring K’Millian. We also featured David Guetta and Ne-Yo with Akon and Will-i-am. Our oldie of the week was Brandy’s ‘Piano Man’ and the prize we give each week to the first person to text us the name of the artist was quickly snapped up! A dinner for two with drinks at the lodge for the lucky winner.

Justin told listeners that he had been married to his wife Agatha for one year and one week, and that they had met when he was playing shows at Fairmount Hotel – she had been working there. He could even remember the first track she’d asked him to play and we assumed, therefore, that it had been love at first sight, which Justin confirmed though we had no chance to ask Agatha! They have no children as yet. We learned that Justin is also studying business organization and hopes soon to be able to finish his course. Also that his favourite music is R&B. He had gained his love for music from 80’s TV shows. He had first started as a DJ at Sizzlers in Livingstone (then Rhapsody’s) and had been employed at the Royal for five years – he was proud of being a permanent employee as opposed to being on contract. Justin gave listeners some idea of the Guests’ favourite cocktails and the trials and tribulations of stock taking in a large busy bar.

Asked where he would like to be and what he would like to be doing in ten years’ time, Justin replied that he quite fancied being on radio, rising to other challenges and making good progress in the hotel industry. We guessed that being the non-drinking, hard working guy that he is, he would definitely succeed.

As an added bonus I was given a Sun International pen!!


Ridgeway Hotel – 60 And Still Going Strong!

Southern Sun Ridgeway Hotel turns 60 years old this year – as one of the longest serving general managers in the hotel’s history I was asked to write a short piece for Lusaka Lowdown. Out of many memories this is what I mustered!

“Well it’s happy 60th birthday to the ‘old lady’ of Lusaka hotels, Southern Sun Ridgeway Hotel, formerly Holiday Inn, formerly Ridgeway Hotel – like many rich old ladies she’s had plenty of face lifts over the years! My time as general manager of the hotel stretched from March 1979 to May 1992. The hotel faced intense competition in 1979 with the opening of the Taj Pamodzi Hotel across the road (initially managed by British Caledonian – remember them?) and The Ridgeway had to re-invent itself to survive the inevitable exodus of Guests to the new project next door. I was appointed just in time for last minute preparations for the famous 1979 Commonwealth Conference, the one that heralded independence for Zimbabwe, and just before the opening of the Pamodzi! Tough times!

We managed to achieve our market share in the face of this competition by concentrating on our Zambian market, providing the best entertainment in the city with a succession of great bands, including the Cool Knights and the Lubumbashi Stars. Zambians love to dance and they flocked to the hotel. In the mid 80’s you had to book well in advance for a seat in Musuku Restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights with top Zambian cabaret stars like Akim Simukonda, Muriel Mwamba and Lazarous Tembo wowing their audiences, while Guests tucked into famous Ridgeway buffets – or, of course, ‘chicken-in-the-basket’.

We were known for hosting great functions and many were memorable – the ‘stand out’ was, perhaps, the Show Society Annual Dinner of 1982 for 250 of Lusaka’s great and good, with KK and Prince Phillip in attendance. In the mid 80’s we also had a regular weekly radio show, a highly successful football team on the verge of a place in the Zambian super league and regular TV shows at Christmas and Easter.

We put crocodiles back in the central area of the hotel when we redeveloped the restaurant on the other side of the pond, renaming it ‘Rancho’ and making it famous for great whole Zambezi Bream as well as for the chicken-in-the-basket and wonderful huge T Bone steaks. The beautiful weaver birds inhabiting the pond formed the logo for the hotel in those days, drawn for our letterheads and stationery by Gabriel Ellison.

Initially I managed the hotel for Hallway Hotels but for most of the period of my management I worked directly for Anglo American the owners. John Phillips and Sharon van Reenen formed the rest of the management team and we were proudly responsible for training many Zambians in catering and hotel management with sponsorships and scholarships to both Kenya and UK.


Jay Fuse On The Experience

It’s not often on The Chanters Lodge Experience with the Milli Jam Ingredient featuring Kaufela that we have a live performance, so on the latest edition we were delighted when Jay Fuse (pictured above) sang the lead single off his latest album live on the show. ‘The Experience’ is our weekly Sunday night radio show airing on Zambezi 107.7 fm, Livingstone’s leading local radio station, from 20.30-21.30 hrs and streaming on the internet. Jay also gave us a copy of his new CD to give away as a prize on the next show. We give a prize every week to the first person to text us telling us who’s singing our oldie of the week. On this show George chose ‘I Love You Daddy’ by Ricardo & Friends. Sneaky! No-one won, all the responders thought it was Michael Jackson!

Jay Fuse (real name Jay Phiri) is an up and coming Zambian musician, the lead single on his new CD is ‘Little Child’ – a touching track about the plight of orphans in Zambia. His album is titled ‘After Light’  and a jolly good listen it is too! It has nine tracks and is a mixture of English and vernacular. “Fused in fact” said Jay Fuse! “How did you get that name?” Milli Jam wanted to know and Jay explained that he gave himself the name because he loves to fuse his own feelings into his music. Jay is currently in cabaret at Chrismar Hotel in Livingstone and performs a three hour show every Friday and Saturday nights. “Gosh, you must need a huge repertoire!” We commented, and Jay agreed that he did need a lot of material to fill the time. He mixes covers with his own songs. More fusion!

Apart from Jay’s great live performance, George dropped the new ‘Zonefam’ single ‘Lobola’ featuring Shom C in the Zambian sector of the show. We opened proceedings with ‘Antenna’ by ODG featuring Wyclef Jean, a huge hit in UK. Milli Jam played ‘Carry You’ by Union J back to back with Beyonce’s ‘Rise Up’ as well as Naughty Boy with Sam Smith and their hit ‘La La La’. My pick of the week was Miley Cyrus’ ‘We Can’t Stop’.

Jay told listeners that he was single and not dating. “Calm down!” I urged the Chanters Girls listening back at the lodge, before doubting whether any musician anywhere could be single and not dating! He explained that he had been introduced to music by his late dad, a member of the very successful 80’s Lusaka band ‘Rising Stars’. He told us that he had been playing the guitar and singing for about 9 years. His own music preferences are oldies, South African tracks and ‘Kalindula’ (Zambian). His greatest influence in music in Zambia he listed as ‘Uncle Rex’.

Asked where he would like to be and what he would like to be doing in ten years’ time, this good looking, personable and talented young Zambian musician said that he would like still to be a musician going to more places and doing new and different things. We did not doubt his future success!


Hotel Brands

Loved this from Mr. Larry Mogelonsky – CHA on HotelInteractive

When it comes to the hotel landscape, how people feel is far more important than what they think – by a factor of two. And that’s not all. Turns out that a hotel room purchase decision is more emotionally charged than when it comes to selecting an airline, choosing a brand of beer or buying a smartphone. Moreover, the three most powerful hidden drivers of these emotional choices were excitement, surprise and acceptance, of which hotels have plenty of room to improve.

That’s according to a study conducted by Protean Strategies, which shows some very fascinating results as to how consumers are engaging major hotel brands as well as a fresh perspective on where to take your brand in the near future. A further derivation of the analysis distinguished eight major hotel chains by class with premium ‘inspiring’ brands (Hilton, Hyatt and Westin), middle tier ‘competent’ brands (Marriot, Sheraton and Wyndham) and discount ‘familiar’ brands (Best Western and Holiday Inn). The study identified what each class was doing right and where they can develop relative to the three chief drivers of emotional decision making.

With the inspiring brands that is, ones which already excites and amazes akin to a rousing leader – gaining acceptance is the biggest challenge. For luxury hotels, there’s not enough balance between the exhilarating aspects and the personal connection. As such, many brands come off as pretentious and arrogant. If your property falls into this category, think about how you can bridge the gap between guests and your services, and ease people into your hotel experience.

For the competent brands, the problem appears to be a dominance of rationality. These middle-of-the-road hotels are perceived as hardworking, discerning and trustworthy. However, while the expectation holds these brands are of quality value, they are coming off as unpleasant. There’s a definite lack of emotional connectivity. More should be done to instill a sense of warmth to foster personal relationships to each hotel.

Familiar brands are almost a mirror image of the dilemmas faced by inspiring brands. Discount hotels relish in acceptance but lack excitement and consumer boredom sets in. The study finds that these brands need to add some flair and rethink how they deliver modern thrills. Such hotels need to be more active and bold in their presentation.

Hotel brands are about feelings no matter which way you try and sell people on benefits and otherwise logical choices. Aim to make your décor, staff attitudes, amenities, features, website and advertising copy all congruent around one dominant and emotionally charged theme.

The survey was done using Hotspex’s proprietary MarketSpex™ methodology and a sample survey of 800 North American travelers, the researchers have found that choosing a hotel is dominated by emotional drivers (67% of the decision process) – such as connection, warmth, excitement and pleasure – over rational features and benefits (33%).


Lost and Found!

Loved this on Travel by Graham Padmore.

It seems that some people should spend a bit more time checking what’s under the bed and in the wardrobe when leaving their hotel rooms, as there are some pretty strange things being left behind for the cleaners to find. While you might expect people to forget laptop chargers and mobile phones, there have been numerous items left behind that you’d expect guests to notice were missing when they checked out. From feedback from hotels around the world here are a collection of some of the strangest…

Like their hair or their teeth, for instance? Apparently it’s quite common for hotel staff to find false teeth left behind in guest rooms – and wigs as well. It’s safe to say you’d have to be fairly distracted if you neglected to notice your mouth was all gums and no teeth, or that your head was feeling a bit breezy on top.

Prosthetic limb
But perhaps they’re not the strangest body parts left behind. According to one UK hotel chain, guests left behind a total of 80 prosthetic limbs in a year back in 2003. Surely a prosthetic limb has got to be something you would miss?

Or what about breast implants? Hotel staff at a Queensland hotel in Australia discovered a pair of breast implants left behind by one guest. When she came back to retrieve them, the guest explained she had bought them online in the US and was on her way to the clinic to have them fitted.

Pets are also quite commonly forgotten. Poor Monty the python was left behind by his owners, while a small shark was found in a bathtub in the Algarve, and Porsha the prize-winning cat was forgotten while her owner went to the cat show without her.

Micro Pig
Percy the micro pig was also left to his own devices in a hotel room, a thoroughbred race horse was forgotten in a hotel car park, and a pet cockatoo was flown back home in a private jet after being left in a Tenerife hotel room.

While you might think the worst thing you could do was forget a body part or a pet, there have been dozens of other strange things left behind in hotels. Such as a trunk of chocolate bars left behind after a trip to Cadbury World, an 8-foot pop-up spray tanning booth, masks of Queen Elizabeth’s face, and a pantomime horse costume.

When it comes to the expensive stuff, you would think guests would be a bit more careful, but no, they’re not. There has been a $75,000 Rolex watch left behind, a diamond-encrusted iPhone, keys to a Ferrari Testarossa and a Bugatti Veyron, and Harry Potter wand, worth around $3000.

So, when it’s time to leave the next hotel you’re staying in, it could be worth double-checking under the bed, behind the curtains, in the drawers, in the bathtub, on top of the wardrobe…


Generation Y

Ignore ‘Generation Y’ at your peril, says a recent piece in HotelInteractive. Here’s some of the piece.
Generation ‘Y’ is celebrated for its youth, momentum, propensity for bold statements and for always going to new places. That’s how Starwood describes Aloft, a relatively new generation of its hotels being welcomed into the hospitality world. A baby born in June 2008, Aloft Hotels could well be called the ‘Millennials’ of the marketplace. This upstart is defined by loft-like interiors, dynamic public spaces for socializing without a loss of privacy, a bar scene showcasing up and coming music talent and guest rooms offering easy hookup to personal media.

So it comes as no surprise that Aloft Hotels are, in fact, something of an architectural counterpart to the very generation of guests they target: travelers born sometime in the early 1980s and beyond, now ripening into successful and peripatetic young adulthood. These Millennial Generation guests are gaining recognition as an enviable catch for anyone, and Aloft in particular. The brand recognizes that youthful thinking isn’t just found in the very young. “Who is actually coming to our door?” “As you know, this model appeals to a larger variety of the population, depending on their mindset. The self-driven early adopter, tech-savvy social person isn’t just limited to an actual age segment.” Say Aloft.

Indeed, as Millennials come of age, suitcases in hand, they become a force the greater industry cannot ignore. Even the most traditional bed and breakfast segment has had to come to grips with the question of whether to shake the dust off its doilies, and strip its floral wallpaper, judiciously, to attract them.

“It’s not that baby boomers are exiting, they are still going to travel,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive officer of the Luxury Institute, a ratings and research company that focuses on high-end branding. “But the emerging Gen X and Gen Y, the Millennials, are traveling too. Their world is so interconnected, they learn about new destinations and want to go sooner than we ever did as baby boomers. Global travel today is second nature, especially to these American consumers.”

“And unlike the backpack-toting, hostel-focused youngsters of their predecessor generations”, said Pedraza, “they are not into roughing it. They want to experience luxury and at least a minimum level of quality in the premises and amenities. They are not willing to compromise on that and they shouldn’t. The world has much higher standards now for travel and hospitality and a lot of options.” The rapid expansion of Aloft bears this out. Some 63 hotels have been launched so far, with another five to open this month.
Generation Y is poised to become the largest consumer buying group. They are a very quickly growing group defining the present and will continue to define our future. But inns and bed and breakfast establishments, which grew popular by serving up tidy slices of the past, have been rethinking their Millennial strategies too. The inn and B&B segment is the market’s most Millennial friendly because of its easy flexibility. You always have to be conscious of who is the next traveler, and how do we maintain the balance of appealing to our current guests while appealing to our future guests. Finding something that appeals to everyone. B&Bs can do that. You are not coming to a hotel where the whole hotel appeals to one type of traveler.

But whether the property is an inn, a major hotel or even a cruise line or tour, the ingredients for appeal are the same. “You need to have a bold customer culture, something that differentiates you and the way you deliver your experience,” said Pedraza. “The way people greet you, check you in – the people you interact with have to create a fabulous human experience.”

In the end, he said, it comes down to living up to the Millennials’ own expectations. “They think: ‘You have collected data on me, you know my needs and my desires and you had better deliver them, or I will consider your kind a dinosaur in the digital age.’

So don’t neglect the Millennials, they are the future.”


Hotels And Nollywood

Nigerian movies are very much something I expect my teenage daughters to be watching when I get home from work at night, but the last thing I expected to pop up on HotelInteractive one of my very favourite hotel sites. With hotel chains in Nigeria ‘chasing the business’ it makes one wish that Zollywood would start in Zambia and bring that business here. No doubt the Victoria Falls – just 10 kms away from our lodge – would make an awesome backdrop to some dramatic scenes! Here’s the piece by Caryn Eve Murray.

“The plot is the stuff of movie-screen dreams: a young and well-liked upstart struggles in the complex realm of the entertainment world, hoping for that big break, whether in the form of a kindly casting director, a friend-of-a-friend with an eye for talent, or – in a more magical vein – an alignment of the planets in the heavens. To fans and followers of the Nigerian movie industry, Nollywood could well be that wide-eyed young understudy. Nollywood, which produces, by some estimates, more than 2,000 popular films on famously low budgets, is the nation’s second-largest employer, according to the research group, Consultancy Africa Intelligence. And lately, Nollywood is being cast by many as the potential catalyst for fame and upbeat fortunes for growth, especially in travel and tourism.

But whether the planets align for this still-nascent industry, creating that ripple effect, remains to be seen. With commercial movie theaters less ubiquitous throughout the African continent, and film distribution channels still immature, Nollywood instead relies heavily on its robust sales of videos for home viewing. Published estimates place the industry’s value at well above $250 million. In recent years, a number of hotel companies have not only become Nollywood fans but are auditioning to become its best supporting players – among them, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which already has five hotels in Nigeria and is poised to open two more in 2014 and another in 2015.

Nigeria has become “the company’s largest growth market on the African continent,” said Penny Biram, a Starwood spokeswoman. “Nollywood’s popularity has become a major growth driver in the leisure sector – and in turn boosted Nigeria’s tourism sector,” Biram said, writing in a recent email from South Africa. “Arrivals to the country are growing and this trend is expected to flourish even more over the next few years, attracting film fans and business travel boosted by the growing economic importance of the film industry,” Biram said. “Euromonitor recently reported that in 2013, the region is poised for continued strong growth in arrivals, incoming tourist receipts, air travel and hotel value sales. Intra-regional travel is crucial for the African tourism industry, due to strong business, linguistic and cultural links between many countries.

“As Nigeria’s movie industry develops and produces films of improving quality, movie stars will also become another attraction for tourism in the region, so it is imperative that hotel groups expand to meet this demand.” But for such projections to become reality there needs to be expansion in one crucial area: public safety, said international consultant Peter Tarlow, a specialist in tourism risk management. “I think the real issue for them is can they get their security under control,” said Tarlow said.

He said the entertainment and tourism industries, as well as local governments, must follow the example set by Nigeria’s leading industry – crude oil production – and invest in measures to ensure adequate policing in a region well-known for its crime rate. Protecting workers, as well as travelers arriving to do business with the industry, is critical, he said. “Just filming a film is not going to bring people to Nigeria,” Tarlow said. “What they are going to have to do is really change their image. I would say to them, ‘get your safety under control.’ It won’t happen any other way. A film will give a temporary boost to a place if it is a world smash film and people want to see that particular place. But if travellers get there and are ripped off or if it is crime-ridden, that will boomerang into something negative.”

Some view one recent Nollywood release, “Streets of Calabar,” as a signature for change. The film received acclaim throughout Nigeria, and not just from movie critics. The comedy-thriller was hailed for its departure from the norm for being a higher-budget, more painstakingly produced, slicker movie than its predecessors. “Streets of Calabar” scenes showcase tourist magnets throughout the Nigerian state of Cross River, a feature that moved the country’s Minister of Culture and Tourism Edem Duke to herald the production as a blockbuster. Duke endorsed it as well for its portrayal of strong local law enforcement – a clear and not-so-tacit message in the film, designed to present an image of greater physical safety.

“The film portrays Nigeria and especially Cross River State to the outside world as a good tourism destination, also shows Calabar [the state’s capital city] with adequate security,” said Paz Casal, travel and tourism analyst for Euromonitor International. Euromonitor had forecast Nigeria’s growth as a travel destination in its Global Trends Report and released those findings last year at the World Travel Market.
But images, even positive ones, are the stuff of dreams and movies and still do not change reality, said Tarlow. And in his eyes, entertainment needs to go beyond the amusement factor to take root in a meaningful way to grow business and to ensure safety.

“The film-industry alone,” he said, “no matter how slow-growing at this point, is not going to be the sole engine of hospitality growth. Without added security measure, it just won’t happen. For it to really grow, you need political security, economic security and physical security.”

Well said!!!

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