As we are shaking off the last of this long, long winter, our thoughts turn to sunny Florida in anticipation of the hard-won Summer of 2018. The Lowenstein family of Lionstone Development planted its roots in Miami in 1966 with the purchase of their first hotel in Miami Beach. Since then, the family has been proud to be a part of South Florida’s evolution into a world-class cultural, leisure, and business destination. The Lowenstein family also continues to invest selectively in the Caribbean, particularly in the upscale resort and luxury all-inclusive hospitality sector, in addition to partnering with Sir Richard Branson to create and open the first Virgin Hotel in Chicago.
Diego Lowenstein has been part of the family’s varied business interests across several countries since 1990. Before relocating to the U.S. in 1999, he held executive positions with several of the family’s companies in Argentina, including its real estate holdings and development firm, food service and restaurant, operating, and franchising ventures. Lowenstein’s active involvement and know-how in acquiring, developing, revitalizing, and repositioning hotels and casinos throughout Florida and the Caribbean have helped lead the entrepreneurial firm to new heights. In partnership with service industry leaders including The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Kimpton Hotels, AM Resorts, the InterContinental Hotels Group, Virgin Hotels, and Hilton Hotels, Lowenstein has fulfilled developments in markets that include South Beach, Downtown Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and a half dozen markets in the Caribbean. His knowledge in multinational operations and marketing has supported Lionstone’s further expansion into luxury residential real estate and mixed-use hotel developments.
Lowenstein took some time to share some tips, strategies, and predictions for the coming months.
Lionstone Development is based in South Florida. What is the summer outlook travel for the region? Have you seen any shifts in the type of travelers over the past decade?
Diego Lowenstein: South Florida is no longer just a vacation spot for snowbirds and Latin Americans who, because of close proximity, have been visiting the Sunshine State for decades. During the last 20 years, the region has undergone arts and cultural resurgence that has attracted travelers from as far as Asia and Europe. While the beaches are still the main attraction, visitors are flocking here to also experience South Florida’s vibrant diversity, whether it’s by eating at one of the many award-winning restaurants or visiting an arts and culture institution. South Florida has also diversified its business sector, expanding into industries such as technology, financial services, and start-ups, paving the way for not only leisure guests but business travelers, too. With so many reasons to travel to South Florida, we do expect to see strong tourism and plenty of business travelers this summer.
What are some summer travel trends for millennials, and what can hoteliers do to enhance their vacation and make it unforgettable?
Diego Lowenstein: Millennials are all about experiences and look for customized and unique ways to travel that will be memorable and authentic. This generation wants to avoid the usual go-to places in a city, and instead enjoy the places off the beaten path, immersing themselves into an area’s culture. They want adventure, and to take part in activities that promote wellness, mind, and body. This often means excursions or activities beyond hotel grounds, particularly in urban areas such as Miami or Chicago. Hoteliers should be cognizant of the millennial mindset and trained to meet their needs to deliver an unforgettable and customized experience. Concierge and other staff should be able to offer guests a selection of restaurants, attractions, and activities with a local flair to appeal to this generation. By demonstrating customized attention and knowledge of the “road less traveled,” a hotel can enhance the guest’s experience, thus increasing the chance for positive recommendations and return visits.
Another way hotels can enhance a millennial’s stay is by keeping ahead of technology trends, understanding what guests want and how they want to use it. For example, hotels can create an opportunity for guests to have full control of their experience through app-based technology, which lets them check in, change the room temperature, order room service, and more while freeing up client-facing personnel to spend more time providing top-of-class service to guests.
Let’s take a closer look at the baby boomer generation: What differentiates their travel desires and motivations?
Diego Lowenstein: This generation is less about adventure than millennials, and more about relaxation and rejuvenation, according to a new study by AARP. For baby boomers, it’s simply about stepping away from their everyday life. A majority of boomers prefer to stay in hotels over renting a private home because they enjoy the amenities such as concierge, room service, and the spa. What’s even more interesting about baby boomers is that they treat travel abroad as a “bucket list” trip, yet most prefer to travel domestically. However, make no mistake, baby boomers do have similar viewpoints to millennials when it comes to certain things. For example, baby boomers are also turning to technology to enhance their experience, and they look for activities that promote health and wellness.
For those who can’t get out of town for vacation this summer, many are looking to their hometown to find fun ways to enjoy the season without having to leave the area. How can hotels appeal to locals?
Diego Lowenstein: Locals are a huge market for hoteliers, and a great opportunity to attract more business especially during slower times of the year, as well as cement a positive reputation through more online reviews. There are plenty of tools available to engage with the locals, and hotels that offer unique F&B and spa experiences can stay ahead of the curve this summer. These options offer hotel owners and developers an opportunity to capture the attention of a local who is looking for a relaxing day off, a night out on the town, or a place to grab a bite to eat and be seen.
The F&B offerings at a hotel can be a great way to attract locals looking for a completely unique dining experience. Whether hotels bring in celebrity chefs or simply create an unmatched atmosphere that leaves a great impression, locals will talk about it and want to go back. From a design standpoint, hoteliers should consider creating spaces that encourage gatherings that best fit the locale, like group or lounge areas, or a private social room for a VIP experience. Overall, by putting in the effort to develop places where locals can work, relax, eat, and enjoy their city any time of the year, hotels can build in a steady revenue stream to help boost the bottom line.
Aside from F&B, a solid spa with a true experience is a key attraction for locals. Case in point: the Exhale Spa at the Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour in South Florida offers multiple products for treatment and relaxation for hotel guests. Additionally, the hotel also features specific amenities and classes in aerobics, core training, yoga, fitness, and meditation that appeal to residents of the local community as well. Many hotel spas don’t do that, and it’s a missed opportunity.
This strategy captures not only a traveler who wants a massage but also a local user who has the potential for a higher frequency of use. In Bal Harbour, many nearby residents come in regularly for those classes during the week and then transform into traditional spa clients as well.
By Ashley Atkins