Travel and leisure marketing: Is it time to re-think your policy on single travelers?

September 4, 2012


Solo travelers now account for over $28 billion in travel spending.

There are a lot more single Americans than you realize.  It’s time travel and hospitality marketers started catering to them.

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans are single, and over 50 million Americans have never been married.

  • 105 million adults in the U.S., nearly one-third of all Americans, are single.
  • Almost 40% of the single population are divorced, and 60% have never been married.
  • Marriage rates have declined from 72% in 1960 to just 52% in 2008.

Recently, Gary Leopold, CEO of ISM, one of the top travel and hospitality marketing firms in the U.S., explored the subject of solo travelers in a blog post for Media Post.

According to Gary, the statistics on singles travel spending are staggering.

  • Singles account for $2.2 trillion in annual buying power.
  • 1 in 4 Americans who travel domestically or abroad now do so alone.
  • 25 million singles age 42 or older spent over $28 billion on travel in 2008.

Women are more likely than men to travel alone.

  • According to Gary, women aged 42 or older are twice as likely as men to vacation alone.
  • More than 80% of users listed travel as one of their interests.

A few travel and hospitality markers are taking advantage of this trend.

  • Norwegian Cruise Line launched a ship, Epic, that has 128 “studio” suites and a private lounge designed for the single traveler.
  • Some of the all-inclusive resorts like Breezes have packages just for singles.
  • REI Adventures partners with to offer adventure travel trips to singles.

I did a Google search on the keywords “singles travel” and found dozens of  singles travel specialists.

They’re focused on a wide variety of singles travel niches, including:

  • Cruises
  • Adventure travel
  • Over 40s travelers
  • Luxury travel
  • Jewish Singles
  • Singles Travel Clubs

It’s harder to find restaurant chains and other hospitality brands that cater to singles.

That surprises me, since the mothers of newly graduated 20 somethings and recently divorced adult children will tell you they eat out more than their married brothers and sisters.

What you can do to attract singles to your travel or hospitality brand

  • You can start by developing packages and promotions just for singles.
  • If you’re a travel brand, experiment with eliminating your use of single supplements.
  • When marketing to singles, stop pricing on a per person/double occupancy basis.
  • If you’re a restaurant, consider a singles’ menu and options for people who don’t cook at home.

What are you doing to reach the single traveler or diner?

Have you tried special packages or offers? What’s worked? What hasn’t? Tell us about it.


Travel and tourism marketing: Alabama tourism focuses on food as a destination

June 22, 2012

This famous Decatur BBQ joint is one of the featured eateries in the campaign.

In 2005, the Alabama Tourism Department created  “The Year of Alabama Food” campaign to draw attention to Birmingham’s culinary delights.

The campaign proved so successful, that 7 years later, the state’s tourism agency has decided to bring it back.

The $1 million marketing effort will feature the popular “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die”, an Alabama BBQ Hall of Fame, and an Alabama Restaurant Week.

The campaign will focus on state dining treasures like Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, the original Wintzell’s Oyster House in Mobile, and dozens of other favorite eateries.

The state decided on this direction because they realized they don’t have beaches or major theme parks to attract tourists.

But local chefs and food trends have attracted visitors from around the region to the state for its great food and chefs.

Fine dining in Birmingham is the jumping off point, but to take the concept statewide, state tourism officials came up with a theme that also highlights country cooking, barbecue and seafood.

Since its inception in 2005, the popular “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die,” has become so popular it’s updated annually.

In fact the state distributes 200,000 brochures on the subject through state welcome centers and local chambers of commerce each year.

Many restaurant owners in the state who have made the list proudly display the designation on the windows of their businesses and mention it in their advertising.

The 2012 “Year of Alabama Food” campaign will feature a 30-second TV spot and a website– –that includes directions to restaurants across these the state.

There’s also a big social media push, with a Facebook page, Twitter feed, and blog posts from many of Alabama’s top chefs that include recipes of some of their favorite dishes.

The blog will also have a section where visitors can take pictures of and post comments about the places they visited and the dishes they tried.

Throughout the year, “The Year of Alabama Food” will also highlight food festivals and events around the state.

In August, restaurants throughout the state will offer fixed-price lunch and dinner specials during the inaugural Alabama Restaurant Week.

What do you think of Alabama’s efforts to use food as a differentiator? What are you doing to differentiate your travel brand from your competitors?

If you’re interested in reading more, here’s a link to the “100 Alabama dishes” brochure. 

Travel and hospitality marketing: Do you know how internet users are searching for your restaurant?

October 14, 2011

Every month people do millions of searches for the perfect restaurant.

Information  about your location, quality and type of food you serve will drive customers to your website. And restaurant.

As an expert in travel and hospitality marketing, it’s my job to understand how people choose one brand over another.

Today many of those decisions are now being made with the help of search engines.

Take restaurants, for instance.

According to SEO expert Mark Sprague,  in one recent month alone Google reported 23 million searches for specific information on restaurants.

The top three categories after general informational searches? Location, quality and type. As in “Where are the best Italian restaurants in Denver?”

Together, those three categories account for 3 out of every 10 searches. The first keyword, “location”, alone accounted for 13.5 million or over 50% of those searches.

When searching for quality, people put the word “best” in their query 1.2 million times, and the word “top” 345,000 times.

If they’re searching for a type of restaurant, people search by nationality (Chinese, Italian, etc), food (seafood, burgers,etc), style (family, romantic, buffet, etc…) or delivery.

When searching for content, the top 3 requests are for reviews, guides and menus.

Recommendations on how to optimize your website for search engines:

1.  Weave the themes of location, quality and type into your website copy.

2. By a 3-1 margin, consumers are more interested in quality than value. So stress quality over value in your website.

3. When consumers search by brand, they already know you. But if they’re searching for new restaurants, they focus on quality and look for positive reviews. So make sure you are encouraging happy customers to review your concept in Yelp and other online directories.

4. Since  location is so important, add your business to the local search service databases of Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Top 10 types of searches people are doing for restaurants:

  1. Informational – 65,650,450 searches
  2. Location based – 13,577,700 searches
  3. Type of restaurant – 4,261,540 searches
  4. Quality of restaurant – 1,835,520 searches
  5. Restaurant business – 1,299,270 searches
  6. Restaurant by brand – 1,236,530 searches
  7. Request for content – 850,020 searches
  8. Value – 500,660 searches
  9. Industry events – 376,600 searches
  10. Restaurant directory – 218,000 searches

If you’d like to go deeper into this subject, Mark Sprague wrote an excellent post that recently appeared on Search Engine Land on restaurant searches.

Hospitality Marketing: Are you taking advantage of the hottest dining trends for 2011?

December 3, 2010

Sustainability, locally sourced foods and children’s nutrition top the list of emerging trends in 2011.

We’re hearing a lot about the rapid pace of change with technology and the internet these days.

But if you’re a leisure marketing specialist competing in the hospitality industry, you’re also seeing culinary trends evolve at an unprecedented pace.

Recently, NRA asked 1,527 chefs from the American Culinary Federation to name the top trends in culinary science in the coming year.

Chefs see local, sustainable, nutritionally balanced foods sharing the spotlight.

Other interesting themes you can expect to see at the nearly one million American restaurants include gluten-free and allergy-free foods, offering smaller portions for lower prices and ethnic-inspired breakfast items.

The Top 20 Culinary Trends for 2011:

  1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
  2. Locally grown produce
  3. Sustainability
  4. Nutritionally balanced children’s dishes
  5. “Hyper local,” such as restaurants with their own gardens and chefs who do their own butchering.
  6. Children’s nutrition
  7. Sustainable seafood
  8. Gluten-free food and being food allergy conscious
  9. Simplicity/back to basics
  10. Farm/estate-branded ingredients
  11. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
  12. Locally produced wine and beer
  13. Smaller portions for smaller prices
  14. Organic produce
  15. Nutrition/health
  16. “Culinary” cocktails, for example ones that have savory or fresh ingredients
  17. Newly fabricated cuts of meat such as the pork flat iron and the beef petit tender
  18. Fruit and vegetables as children’s side items
  19. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items, such as Asian-flavored syrups, chorizo scrambled eggs and coconut milk pancakes
  20. Artisan cheeses

Survey respondents offered their top 3 strategies for prospering during difficult economic times:

  1. Simplifying menus to save on labor and food costs
  2. Offering value specials
  3. Increasing marketing efforts

American chefs also predicted the 3 hottest operational trends for 2011:

  1. Mobile food trucks and pop up restaurants
  2. Restaurants with gardens
  3. Social media marketing

When asked how restaurants could better promote nutrition, respondents offered these suggestions:

  • 21% recommended creating diet conscious menu items
  • 19% recommended more fresh produce options
  • 17% advocated getting more involved in school nutrition and children’s education

What kinds of new requests are you getting from your dining guests? What changes are you making to keep up with these trends? Tell us about your experience.

You can read more about the survey here.

Travel and leisure marketing: Getting inside the minds and shopping bags of frugal consumers.

October 13, 2010

Frugal consumers can be swayed to buy something that's not on their shopping list, if it catches their attention at retail.

Recent studies show that consumers are using shopping lists to curb their spending.  But they will buy on impulse if you make the right offer in-store.

Is your travel and leisure marketing targeting the frugal consumer?  Several recent studies may help you better understand and market to them.

A recent study by the Integer Group and M/A/R/C Research confirms that shoppers are showing more flexibility at retail than we thought.

  • 24% say they do deviate from their planned purchases because they were swayed by something on the shelf.
  • Of those people, 8 in 10 say they have bought on impulse if the item was on sale.
  • 3 in 10 have made an unplanned purchase because they wanted to pamper themselves.
  • 17% say they bought because an item looked fun and attractive.
  • 16% say the bought an item because it would make a good gift.

Are you wondering how much of this new frugality is going to last past this recession?

A study released this summer by Roper for the Private Label Manufacturer’s Association asked consumers what shopping habits will they continue when the economy improves.

  • 9 in 10 consumers say they now make a shopping list and avoid buying on impulse.
  • Almost 9 in 10 shop at a variety of stores to find the best price.
  • 8 in 10 delay buying something until it goes on sale, and buy store brands in categories where they used to buy national brands.

Booz & Company’s most recent Shopper Marketing 3.0 study confirms that shoppers are forming new habits.

  • 2 out of ever 3 shoppers they interviewed say they’ll shop at a different store with lower prices even if it’s less convenient for them.
  • 1 in 2 say they would rather get the best price than the best brand.
  • But the same study found that shopping for lower prices is a category by category decision.
  • They do it for apparel, household products and food. They don’t do it for alcohol, tobacco and health and beauty aids.

If your leisure marketing is geared to the frugal shopper, consider the following in-store promotional strategies.

  • Use a location-based service like Shopkick or Placecast to send out mobile offers to people walking into (or in the vicinity of) your business.
  • Offer in-store only promotions on items that make shoppers feel pampered, bring a little fun into their lives, or make a great gift.
  • Highlight your best-price guarantee if you have one, and incent consumers to put your brands on their shopping list the next time they make one.

What are you doing differently to appeal to the frugal consumer? Share your ideas with our readers.

Leisure and hospitality marketing: 5 reasons McDonald’s prospered during the Great Recession.

September 25, 2010

It's not well-known menu items like the Big Mac, but other strategies that have accounted for most of McDonald's recent revenue gains.

Leisure and hospitality marketing pros take note. If your brand has suffered during the recession, borrow a page from the McDonald’s playbook.

Joshua Ritchie, writing for the MintLife blog, analyzed several reports on McDonald’s recents sales gains, and outlined 5 strategies that have helped the QSR giant ride out this recession in style.

1. Recession-friendly pricing.

As early as November of 2008, Forbes was reporting that McDonald’s recession-proof pricing was helping it weather the economic tsunami better than Burger King and other competitors.

Specifically, Forbes gave credit to two pillars of the chain’s low-price strategy:  a.) the chain’s dollar menu; and b.) the fact that McDonald’s is the low-cost producer in the industry.

2.  New products for new markets.

CNN reported that McDonald’s current strength is due to the fact that the chain has “given more kinds of people more reasons to head to its stores throughout the day, buying an ever-wider range of products.”

The report cited the company’s successful introduction of premium coffees as just one example.

3.  Reduced advertising costs.

CNN also reported in August that the fast food chain has taken advantage of lower costs for local TV.

Other sources have reported that the company’s president and COO pushed the company’s ad agencies to negotiate hard with local TV stations.

4. Improved operations.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that McDonald’s also benefited from a push to improve the efficiency of its operations by then President/COO Richard Alverez.

Some of his changes included pruning gas-guzzling cars from the company fleet, and putting the brakes on building new outlets on street corners where nearby development showed signs of weakness.

5. Rapid price adjustments.

McDonald’s now closely analyzes everything from whether customers are trading down to smaller value meals or dropping coke from their orders to exactly how much they’re willing to pay for a Big Mac.

This allows its restaurants to rapidly adjust prices based on current customer demand.

That’s what McDonald’s is doing to prosper during the downturn. What is your leisure or hospitality brand doing or not doing, and how’s it working? Let’s talk about it.


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