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Rudy Maxa on Travel Branding, Hot Destinations and Taking Hotel Luxury Home

8 March 2005 No Comment

This is the last of today's conversations with Rudy Maxa. If you have questions or comments for Rudy, you can leave them here, and we'll try to hunt him down in India to get answers. — Don Dunnington

What does it take to create and secure brand loyalty in the travel industry today?

A great product delivered at a fair price with some warmth and a sense of accountability should something go awry.  Same as it ever was before the Internet or blogs or AOL were invented.  And this is no easy task, as travel has become a commodity thanks to the transparency the Internet provides shoppers.  We certainly see it in the airline industry, for example.  People want cheap seats to get ‘em from Point A to Point B.  Only a few airlines make an emotional connection with passengers—JetBlue is an example.  Otherwise, Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch America don’t much care if they fly Continental or United, as long as it’s well priced and efficient.  About the only exception to that is the passenger working a frequent flyer program, which still help some airlines retain brand loyalty by offering upgrades and other perks to frequent customers.  But the person who only flies four or five times a year usually doesn’t much care what airline they’re flying

Hotels, because they can be so hands on and the experience of sleeping and bathing in a place, still can distinguish themselves by brand if they’re good at it.  So can cruise lines and tour companies.
 
What are the hottest destinations today? Has the Internet had an impact on what falls in or out of fashion as a travel destination?

The fall of the dollar has made Europe very expensive, though, surprisingly, numbers of Americans headed across the Atlantic are holding up just fine.  Asia is coming on strong.  After September 11th, domestic destinations shot up in popularity.  Canada is always the sleeper that so many Americans forget to consider.  I’d go to Buenos Aires right now if I wanted a well-priced, sort of exotic vacation—the US dollar is king there today.  India is coming on big, as is China

Of course, in the US, the standard favorites are Orlando, Las Vegas and Hawaii
 
Another growing fashion is the market for personal items associated with luxury hotels. Your latest Maxa venture has you cast on Home Shopping Network as a towel merchant… with your own branded Concierge Series of robes, towels and bedding now selling online
. Is  this the next big thing in destination branding… cross-selling branded stuff that people use everyday? Are we going to have Four Seasons paint just like Ralph Lauren paint? 

Hotel design is making its way into the home.  Folks spend $500 a night or more at a luxury hotel and wake up and wonder why their home bedroom and bath don’t look more like the hotel or resort they’re staying in.  So you see all kinds of upscale hotels selling their hotel room items to the public.

I can tell you, however, the prices are very high.  I sought out the manufacturers of many of those luxury hotel goods and cut a deal, using the buying power of Home Shopping Network and cutting out the middleman, and in late February launched the “Concierge Collection” on the air on Home Shopping Network.

Both HSN and I were startled at the reception the initial products—great robes, comforters, mattress tops, duvets, towels, and so on—received.  Especially because the price was probably 30 per cent above other bath and bedding products HSN offered.  The quality, however, is untouchable.  And I feel sorry when I see folks shopping for sheets and towels and other products touted as luxury hotel products in department stores, specialty linen stores, and glorious places such as Renovation Hardware.  The prices are so high.

Anyway, that’s how I’ve gotten into a totally new business suddenly.  My next, on-air HSN appearance is March 23rd when I do a couple of one-hour shows.  The only time I can recall off hand is a 6 p.m, East Coast time show.  But you can always check out the goods on www.hsn.com by typing in “concierge collection” in the search box in the upper, left-hand corner of the home page. 

Oh, and Joe Sharkey just the other day (New York Times, Tuesday, March 8, 2005) wrote an “On the Road” column about the growing confluence of hotel and home design.  Go to www.nyt.com and click on “Business” and access Joe’s “On the Road” columns.  Here is the direct link but I’m not sure if you can go directly there or not.

Thank you for taking time from your busy travel schedule to be with us today on This Week On IAOCblog.com.

And thank you for having me aboard!

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