Innovate, Don’t Imitate

The Royal Suite has a large living room with a sitting area and a pool table, dining table for six and a separate bar.
I’m Pictured here with Guy Young, president of Uniworld, on the inaugural cruise of the SS Maria Theresa in Amsterdam. Watch for my full report on the beautiful new ship in a future issue.
I’m pictured here with Guy Young, president of Uniworld, on the inaugural cruise of the SS Maria Theresa in Amsterdam. Watch for my full report on the beautiful new ship in a future issue.

With online media, it’s easy to gauge in real time which stories are the most widely read by using Google Analytics. To boost traffic ratings, the editor can then run stories similar to those that are trending. This could be a Kardashian-related Web brief or something equally sensationalistic. In the travel world, it could be a story along the lines of “The 10 Dirtiest Luxury Hotel Rooms in the World” that goes viral because it pushes our pain buttons and we want to read more, even though it’s of little use to our business.

Social sentiment is making its way into other industries. Google says it will issue fashion trend reports based on user searches twice a year so that “fast fashion” companies — those that rapidly produce thousands of garment pieces based on the designer styles that were well received on the runways — can make more of what consumers are looking for online. This, according to a New York Times report, would mean that we might be seeing more tulle skirts and jogger pants and fewer dresses with peplums (thank you) and emoji tee-shirts.

In both these examples, we’re listening to what the consumer wants and pushing it to them. But what about those products the consumer will fall madly in love with, but won’t know it exists until it’s pushed to them? Think iPads, iTunes and the Apple Watch. Maybe I’m pushing it with the Apple Watch but the general public wouldn’t have come up with any of these innovations on its own and now can’t live without them.

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I say there’s a danger in relying simply on social sentiment to develop your product offerings. Travel advisors have long had to deal with this challenge. A client wants to go glamping in Wyoming because their country club friends impressed everyone over cocktails with tales of treks in the forest and sipping champagne in front of a fire pit. You, however, know your client is a mosquito magnet and is scared of wild animals (including squirrels and possums), and are able to reason them away from taking a copycat vacation.

Gary Davis, president of Acendas, who is profiled on our cover in this issue, shares that his vacation clients tend to be sophisticated business executives who are now traveling with their grown children. As a family, they’ve already “been there and done that,” including lying on a beach and seeing the obvious attractions in popular destinations. They want to be impressed and enriched, to take back memories that are based on unique experiences. That’s where the value of the luxury travel advisor comes in; you need to listen to your clients, however they want to be heard, whether it’s e-mail, phone or text, to draw out how they want to feel while they’re on the trip you’re planning for them, and perhaps more importantly, how they want to remember it when they’re back home and their grown kids have scattered again, returning to their newly independent, adult lives.

The take away is simple. Be cognizant of what’s trending so when your client wants to go to a hot new hotel, you’re ready with several great options (See our Jetset Report). Be sure, though, that you’ve got a portfolio of experiences to push to them that make you stand out as a true, enterprising professional. Keep surprising and delighting them and you’ll have them for life.

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