IT DOESN’T TAKE long for excitement to build whenever the topic of travel is brought up. Travel to where? It doesn’t matter. Consequently, the idea of travel brings with it visions of plush hotels and expansive resorts—places where promotional opportunities abound. However, the products should not be confined to the four walls of the edifices they represent. They can be used for a variety of applications not associated with sunny skies and white, sandy beaches.
New York University and Deloitte pulled together a team of professionals to develop a “Vision 2010” of the global hospitality industry. A key finding in the study titled, “Hospitality 2010: A Five-Year Wake-up Call” showed “while currently location is usually the deciding factor for customers when choosing a hotel—with more than 97 percent of affluent leisure travelers and 93 percent of affluent business travelers considering location to be ‘extremely influential’—this picture is gradually changing.” The report said, “given the market saturation in gateway cities worldwide with leading brands sited close to one another, location is likely to become increasingly less important.” Vision 2010 predicted “tomorrow’s travelers will be far more influenced by brand, and—importantly for the financial health of a hotel—guests who are loyal to their preferred brand are likely to stay more and spend more.”
The findings present a clear role for promotional products. “As with all promotional campaigns, distributors’ first consideration should be finding out what the customer is trying to accomplish,” explained Murray Siegel, marketing director at Towel Specialties, Baltimore. “Then, they need to examine the budget and logistics so they can establish the category of products necessary to succeed.”
Branding a hotel or resort doesn’t come without a price tag and some creativity. Siegel said if a particular niche “points to high-quality/high-impact incentive or gift items, distributors should try to get the most value for [their customers’] dollar.” He added: “The old adage holds true— ‘expensive is cheap and cheap is expensive’. Products with high aspirations, but low quality often fall into the ‘throwaway’ category. They are a waste of money for the advertiser and that can also lead to negative [press] and bad impressions.”
Michael Schreiber, vice president of Denville, New Jersey-based Latico Leathers, agreed. “When considering travel goods, distributors need to consider the cost/value equation more so than in other categories,” he said. “End-users look for and appreciate quality products, and are often willing to pay a little more for designs with a high ‘wow’ factor.”
To Latico’s credit, the company offers a diverse line of high-quality travel leather goods, including weekenders, messenger bags, wallets and cosmetic bags. Schreiber noted the high-perceived value and durability of leather make the items ideal for promoting and establishing brands. “Leather travel items [make] owners feel good about themselves when they use them,” he said. As a by-product, “those positive feelings generate lots of goodwill toward the gift-giver.”
Another important finding in Vision 2010 showed air travel and hotels are “joined at the hip.” According to the report: “Analysis confirms that any disaster that hits airlines, such as a terrorist attack or the outbreak of war, also impacts hotels dramatically. Likewise, positive events, such as major sporting events or conferences, gives both airlines and hotels a boost.” In the wake of government-imposed restrictions on the types of liquids that can be transported in luggage as well as the baffling extended wait times certain carriers recently imposed on travelers, distributors would do well to suggest useful gifts to customers within the travel and hospitality industries. “Travel kits with shampoo, conditioner and suntan lotion are useful giveaways at resorts and hotels, since many people arrive without their confiscated items,” noted Siegel.
Towel Specialties has been known for its beach towels since its inception in 1985. Last year, the company increased its selection of beach accessories to include mats, umbrellas, chairs and sun hats; and this year, it introduced a new line called Cabana Bay, part of its Fine Spa Collection. The Cabana Bay line features an assortment of quality Turkish robes, slippers, spa towels and spa kits that are offered separately or as ensemble gift sets. Price points range from under $10 to more than $100.
Schreiber said Latico’s weekenders and carry-on bags are its two strongest categories. “[Using these items], we are able to differentiate ourselves via a combination of visual appeal, functionality, quality materials and workmanship, and high-perceived value,” he said.
When asked how distributors can sell travel, hotel and resort items more effectively, Siegel said the category offers many unique opportunities for those that are forward-thinking. “While [the items] make desirable pillow or lobby gifts at a hotel, I have also seen these products distributed with gift cards inviting recipients to an event,” he said. “Robe, towel, slipper and spa accessory gift sets are used as ‘thank you’ gifts for referrals, holiday gifts or recognition. It’s great that distributors think outside the box and recognize hotel and travel items have appeal on the home front as well as at a resort.”
Since there is no shortage of destinations to visit and airliners to take travelers there, it is inevitable the sales of promotional travel and hospitality items would increase. So lucrative has this category been, Siegel suggested distributors can “write a minimum order for 36 pieces and earn $500 to $1,000 in commission,” in some cases. He said one of the reasons for this success is that suppliers such as Towel Specialties are no longer just providing products but are focused on
providing a complete promotional package. “Our Cabana Bay line has gift baskets, gift cards and ribbons that elevate the overall gift-giving experience for all parties involved,” he said. “We feel we’ve gone beyond the ‘here’s your robe’ or ‘here’s your towel’ experience to ‘here’s your gift’.”
Although the travel industry has taken a hit in recent years, it remains steadfast. “The word I would choose to characterize the travel and tourism industry is resilience,” noted Gene Sperling, former White House Economic Advisor, speaking at the World Travel & Tourism Council 2006 Summit in Washington, D.C. “There are now reasons for optimism, but even when things have gone wrong, what we have seen in travel and tourism is resilience above what one would have expected. Travel and tourism recovers from disasters with remarkable speed, even exceeding previous levels.”
If Mr. Sperling’s assessments are correct, then expect excitement to continue to build around the idea of travel for many years to come. “Americans need to travel for business and they love to travel for pleasure. They need and appreciate items that enhance and simplify their travel experiences,” concluded Schreiber.