3 Days in Dubai: Looking Back on the Luxury Hospitality Summit

By Ryan Clarke

After back-to-back red-eye flights, I found myself in Dubai for 3 days. I would have stayed longer, but Canadians are on a short leash due a disagreement between Air Canada and Emirates Airlines.

Travelling alone inevitably leaves ample time for good old-fashioned tourism. So, between meetings, I set out to see the Dubai I had seen on YouTube; the world’s tallest building, the 7-star hotel, the Palm Jumeirah, the man-made islands shaped like the world (almost) and of course, the indoor ski-hill (which was, for a Vancouverite, equally hilarious and sad).

I was in town for the Luxury Hospitality Summit, where I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on the emerging challenges of brand reputation management for hotels in the digital age. The panel was moderated by Amit Vyas, CEO of Nexa, and I was joined by Trip Advisor’s Dan Cross, Territory Manager for Middle East and North Africa. Aside from a good excuse to escape December in Vancouver (our rainy season) and experience a new culture, it was a chance to connect with some of the brightest minds in the industry to discuss a subject that is top of mind for hoteliers on every continent.

“Please like us!”

Before the Summit, I wrote an article on social media for our friends at Boutique Hotel News, a digital publication out of London that is, most certainly, worth following if you’re in the industry. In the article, I outlined my thoughts on how hotels should use social channels in light of emerging mobile technology. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think many people read it. It was long and wordy, and generally speaking, people are pretty sick of reading about “the power of social media”. I know I am.

In all honestly, it wasn’t my intention to write another article making the tired argument for the ubiquity of Facebook or the power of #hashtags. There are more than enough of those. In fact, I don’t even think your like-count is a worthy indication of success, digitally or in the real world.

At any rate, the message I was hoping people might take away from the panel discussion was simple: human beings use social networks to connect with other human beings, not brands. If a hotel’s “social media strategy” for 2012 was hiring a Social Media Manager to sit in an office and tweet about how unique the hotel is and flood people’s news-feeds with deals and promotions, they had done more harm than good.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that a good story will spread, regardless of the medium. Once you’ve done the work of distilling your story into something that will capture people’s attention, then set about finding the most compelling and authentic way to tell it. At Wallop, we argue that commissioned, high-quality content, where the brand lives in the background, is what you’ll find most commonly shared amongst real humans (which is afterall, your demographic). In terms of content, quality trumps quantity, and social media is most certainly not a war of attrition. There’s no excuse for a luxury brand to bombard their audience with mindless, corporate drivel hoping people will eventually break down and retweet you.

First, develop a strategy for producing digital content that is consistent across all fragmented channels and devices of the social world. From there, use social channels as a way of listening to your customers’ feedback, finding new ideas, and supporting organizations with shared values.

Here’s a good example from our friends at the Ace Hotel. 5 At 5 is an ongoing series of intimate, free live performances by touring bands in the lobby of Ace Hotel New York. The film quality is superb, the musical tastes are well-aligned with their demographic and the whole thing just feels natural. Best of all, it gives Ace an excuse to showoff the design features of the property and the subtle accoutrements that make up the Ace experience. It sure as hell beats a 360-degree room tour.

Watch it here.

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