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Olive Garden Is Offering 7 Weeks Of Unlimited Pasta For $100

Olive Garden is trying a new tactic for drawing in customers.

The struggling Italian chain is offering a “Never Ending Pasta Pass” for $100 that buys seven weeks of unlimited pasta, breadsticks, salad and Coca-Cola beverages, USA Today reports.

There are only 1,000 passes and they will be sold on the company’s website beginning at 3 p.m. If a customer uses the pass once every day for the 49-day period, they would effectively be paying about $2 per meal.

The chain’s pasta dishes average around 1,000 calories for a single serving.

“What we’re trying to do is get some attention,” Jay Spenchian, Olive Garden’s executive vice president of marketing, told USA Today. “It’s sure to provoke a reaction.”

Olive Garden’s same-store sales dropped 1.3% in the most recent quarter.

Olive Garden

The new promotion is running at the same time as its “Never Ending Pasta Bowl” offer, which lets customers eat unlimited pasta for $9.99.

This is the latest in a string of promotions offering unlimited food by struggling casual dining restaurants.

TGIFridays launched a $10 “Endless Appetizers” deal in July and Red Lobster is currently offering “Endless Shrimp” for $15.99.

When Marketing Personalization Fails

Imagine a company that addressed single women about their pending nuptials or congratulated women on their first child even though they never have been pregnant. These are just a few of the marketing snafus in over recent months by big companies (Pinterest and Shutterfly, respectively).

All the hype in marketing these days is about personalization. The idea is making every interaction highly relevant and tailored to a specific individual, based on his or her online, social or app behavior, shopping history, preferences, tastes, family and lifestyle details.

The proliferation of mobile devices has accelerated the desire by companies to personalize marketing efforts, but with embarrassing gaffs happening — and consumers all too eager to share their experiences on social networks — marketers need to protect themselves. Here’s four ways to do so:

1. Cross-reference all data.

Integrate and cross-reference data from all available first-party data sources (email, customer-relationship management tools, apps and transactions) and second-party sources (social media). When dealing with subjects about which emotions run high (such as pregnancy or other life-changing events), companies should have a double-confirmation system.

Was there a status change on Facebook? Did the customer purchase related items? Did this customer change her status within a profile on the company’s site? Only when there is second nod of validation, should companies use certain criteria to target a customer for the purchase of a product.

In the Pinterest case, the social site sent out emails to users who had pinned any wedding-related content but these people weren’t necessarily engaged. Some women start dreaming about a wedding day as little girls. Teens might use sites like Pinterest to save inspiration ideas for a future wedding even without a suitor yet on the horizon. Just because a person shows interest in the topic of weddings does not mean she is tying the knot.

2. Always act in context.

To increase the chances of delivering a relevant message or experience, companies need to not only leverage the data that makes a message personal but also be sure to trigger it when it’s contextual or appropriate to a person’s immediate circumstance and intent.

The context surrounding a consumer is what’s trending around her and what’s viral among her peers. Using a variety of big-data tools, such as semantic and virality analysis, a company can better understand what a given person might want at a certain moment. Virality simply refers to how viral something is online, on social or other channels.

Acting in context, a hotel would send to a 25-year-old guest in town with friends a message about an Oktoberfest beer event that’s trending on Instagram and issue an alert for a symphony concert in a park to a couple in town to celebrate an anniversary.

3. Learn from the past.

Create user segments based on customer behavior, interests, needs, demographics and psychographics. By segmenting and then analyzing the behavior of long-standing customers, a company can predict the actions led to certain profile attributes, such as recent marriage or being a new mother.

An over-the-counter allergy-medicine company could anticipate what additional allergies a person may experience based on long-standing customers’ shopping and in-app behavior and user-generated profiles. Thus, the company could predict that a person with a strong allergy to ragweed might be wrestling with a specific allergy rampant in a town she’s visiting and provide an offer or tip.

4. Monitor sentiment in real time.

By tracking real-time feedback and chatter about a company online and applying a sentiment analysis, employees will be able to see almost immediately if a mistake has been made, enabling them to stop further damage from being done and to apologize to those affected.

If a company makes a mistake, the worst thing it can do is ignore it. During Hurricane Sandy, for instance, companies like Gap and Urban Outfitters promoted free-shipping offers to those in affected areas. These tactics quickly blew up on Twitter with harsh criticism about insensitivity. Apologies followed.

These recent high-profile personalization flops should not deter marketers from personalizing their efforts. Tailoring experiences is not a nice-to-have item. It’s a must-have in today’s customer-centric society.

Luckily, technology systems are becoming more advanced to put safeguards in place so marketers can personalize with confidence.

Visit Florida launches hospitality training program

With officials expecting Florida’s tourism number projections to grow to 127 million visitors by 2020, the state’s chief tourism marketing agency is launching a new training and certification program aimed at the state’s hospitality employees.

Visit Florida says the new training curriculum is aimed at strengthening and growing guest satisfaction in all Florida markets and driving repeat visits through a variety of industry-specific topics. Executives estimate an additional 315,000 hospitality jobs will be added in the next six years to support the tourism industry.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association will present the online curriculum modules starting Nov. 1.

Topics will focus on increasing employees’ knowledge of tourism in Florida, understanding visitor diversity and differences in communications, creating positive personal interactions with guests, and the reinforcing the importance of tourism to Florida’s economy.

Hotel Social Media Strategies in 2014

Strategy #1: Identify and target social media personas

Hotels often try to be all things to all people in social media, but you’ll be more effective if you identify and focus on key target markets. “Traditionally, hotels have broken target markets into categories like corporate, group and FIT and by geography or demographics. But those segments often miss critical questions,” said panelist Robert Cole, founder of RockCheetah.

Cole recommended targeting social personas. Identify who they are, what they want and why they stay with you. Give them a name such as “adventurous honeymooners” and write down everything you know about them: income, lifestyle, hometown, needs, etc. “Then identify the services you can provide to give them an incredible, unforgettable time,” he said.

Strategy #2: Integrate content

Panelist Suzie Wotton, vice president of marketing at Red Carnation Hotels, recommended integrating three types of content in marketing campaigns to amplify visibility and reach.

Paid content includes cost-per-click, display ads and OTA listings, whereas owned content includes your website, blog, media releases, Facebook page and Twitter feed. For both types of content, you control the messaging- but its influence is limited.

Earned content is what other people say about your hotel. It includes user-generated reviews and imagery, media and blogger coverage, and social endorsements such as “likes,” “pluses” and shares. You don’t control the messaging, but it has high influence because consumers trust other consumers more than advertising.

“Traditionally, marketers focus on paid and owned content, which often involves ‘aspirational’ brand messages,” Wotton told ReviewPro webinar attendees. “Social media provides an optimum platform for integrating all three types of content. The key is to understand how all three types work together.”

As an example, she cited a recent post to Red Carnation Hotels’ Facebook page about gift certificates. The post is owned content, controlled by the brand. It received several shares and over 500 likes, which is earned content. The company advertises it as a sponsored post, which is paid content.

All three content types increase reach, but, “It’s the earned content in the form of guest comments that authenticates the message,” said Wotton. To maximize opportunities, she recommended “creating unique, bite-sized pieces of content that encourage engagement and can easily be shared across multiple channels.”

Strategy #3: Make reviews the priority

Review sites must be the priority because people visit them to shop, whereas social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are primarily used for socializing. Moreover, reviews are a valuable resource for guest feedback. That’s not to say social networking sites aren’t important; they have emerged as important marketing and guest service channels.

Panelist Adele Gutman, vice president of sales, marketing and revenue at Library Hotel Collection, shared the remarkable story of how her four New York boutique hotels climbed the ranks on TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index.

“We started out in 2004 with no budget for advertising whatsoever,” said Gutman. “When one of our hotels, Hotel Giraffe, reached the top-seven on TripAdvisor, our phones began to ring off the hook.” So they set a bold goal: get all four hotels within the top 10. Six years later, they occupied the top four rankings, and today they consistently rank within the top 10. As a result, “the majority of our bookings come direct from our website,” she said.

Gutman’s advice for achieving similar success? “Start by imagining the kind of reviews you want, and become the hotel that inspires those reviews,” she said. “Share your vision with your team. Expect the best and don’t settle for less. Give staff the coaching they need, and let them know you’re all striving to reach the goal together. Your reward will be the thousands of people who visit your page on TripAdvisor.”

Strategy #4: Get social with Google

Google reviews still lack in terms of volume, recency and helpfulness, but their integration with Google products like Search, Maps, Places and Hotel Finder make them an essential part of a hotel’s marketing strategy. Once you receive five reviews, your star rating will be displayed in gold.

By now, you should have verified your Google Places listing. To take things to the next level, create a Google+ business page and merge it with your Places listing. Then link it to your YouTube channel.

Referring to The Milestone Hotel’s merged page, Wotton said, “This is the perfect example of owned, paid and earned content working together to quickly present the consumer with an informative, localized and socially inspired page with which they can engage at any stage of travel.”

Strategy #5: Optimize Facebook for Graph Search

Graph Search turns Facebook into a search engine for friends, and friends have more influence than strangers. The more Facebook users like your page, check in, tag photos, the higher the likelihood you’ll show up in searches. You should also optimize your About page much like your website for search engines.

And now that star ratings and review boxes appear on Facebook brand pages, Facebook reviews must become part of your reputation management program.

Strategy #6: Engage guests visually and interactively

“Social visuals are more important than ever,” RockCheetah’s Cole said. He encouraged hoteliers to use social in creative ways to make the experience “very visual and personal”.

As an example, Cole sited Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts’ “Pin. Pack. Go” board on Pinterest. The trip planning service allows users to create a board based on an upcoming trip, and local experts will pin recommendations. “It’s a remarkably creative and effective use of social technology,” said Cole. “It shows how social media can truly be leveraged-not just for broadcasting information.”

Remember that social networks are searchable, so tag imagery with your brand name, location and description, and use consistent hashtags across platforms.

Strategy #7: Make your website the social hub

Your website remains the primary platform for promoting your business online. Make it a living, breathing entity by integrating social content.

As an example, Wotton showed Red Carnation Hotels’ Get Social page, which features streaming content from various social channels. “This way, all owned, paid and earned sits on,” she said.

Strategy #8: Manage guest expectations

A huge part of success in social media lies in setting realistic expectations. Said Gutman, “At Library Hotel Collection, to minimize negative comments we ensure that descriptions on our website and OTAs are as authentic and honest as possible.”

As an example, she cited the “Petite” room category at the Casablanca Hotel. “Is it bad marketing to tell our guests these rooms are small?” she asked. “I don’t think so. Why mislead them? If I don’t tell them, they will tell everyone. I’ve disarmed them with a painfully authentic description.”

“If there’s no view,” she said, “we tell them up front there’s no view. We’d rather they be happy somewhere else than unhappy at our hotel. This drives brand loyalty. Also, it helps sell the bigger rooms. And it prevents guests from booking wrong room. So everyone’s happy.”

Gutman also discussed the importance of synergy between operations and the sales and marketing department. “Front desk and all staff are our stars, our secret sauce, who guests will fall in love with and rave about,” she said.

Gutman considers it her job to be their advocate, and to make sure that they have the tools and support they need. “Happy, empowered staff create happy, loyal brand ambassadors who give great reviews. This generates far more demand that I could knocking on doors.”

Strategy #9: Use social media for service

Red Carnation Hotels dominates the charts on TripAdvisor in London, occupying four of the five top positions of over 1,200 hotels. But managing all social channels is important, said Wotton. Increasingly, travelers turn to Facebook and Twitter for service, often in real-time. “We’re looking at implementing an infrastructure and procedures to support the monitoring and responsiveness of these platforms 24/7 next year,” she said.

Wotton acknowledged that not all hotels have the resources for this, but she thinks 24/7 social media coverage is where the industry is heading. “If a guest calls the front desk at 4:00 am, do we ignore it?” For any category of hotel, the key is to provide a consistent level of service online and offline.

Wotton added that 2014 is said to be “the year of help, not hype.”

To that end, her company is focusing on publishing more helpful content on social channels. “We research questions travelers are asking on forums like TripAdvisor and integrate them into our content strategy,” she said.

Strategy #10: Measure performance

Lastly, Cole stressed the importance of measuring performance. “You don’t know if you’re doing well unless you have your goals quantified and are measuring performance against those goal. Measure the gap and either close it or set a new goal,” he said.


Airbnb Unveils Birdhouse Exhibition Inspired by Host Spaces In First Ever Marketing Campaign

Airbnb, the community-driven hospitality company, has worked with artists to create a series of intricately carved birdhouses modelled on real homes offered on its website as part of its first ever integrated marketing campaign.

Developed by Pereira & O’Dell San Francisco, the campaign has been titled ‘Every Traveller Needs a Home’ and has taken a creative spin on travel to offer the ultimate home experience to the ultimate traveller – migratory birds.

The company worked with a team of 50 artists to create the birdhouses, which have been hung from Audubon Park’s Tree of Life in New Orleans as part of an exhibition running until 22 December.

At the heart of the campaign is, a dedicated website which shows all of the birdhouses along with their original listing on It also houses a short documentary-style film which shows how the artists crafted the birdhouses.

“We created these birdhouses inspired by real Airbnb homes and the accompanying film as a metaphor for the hospitality about which our company is built: Our hospitality is completely individual and designed by our hosts who know that making people (or birds!) feel at home anywhere in the world comes from warmth, intuition and an attention to detail,” said Amy Curtis-McIntyre, CMO, Airbnb. “We love the world’s real travellers and this is an invitation to travel in a new way.”

The campaign has also rolled out across TV, in cinemas and online with media partners including Travel Channel, Afar, Gawker, Huffington Post, BBC, Dwell, Brit + Co and Lonely Planet.


Centara Hotels and Resorts Chooses Discover The World Marketing for its U.S and Canadian Sales

Centara Hotels & Resorts, the leading hotel operator in Thailand, has chosenDiscover the World Marketing for sales and marketing representation in the U.S. and Canada.

“We needed an established organization that could deliver broad distribution throughout the market, especially among the leisure (wholesale and retail) and MICE market segments,” said Chris Bailey, Centara Hotels & Resorts’ Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “Centara also has a unique culture and business style, so finding a company that could embrace this was essential.  Discover ticked all the boxes in our search.”

“As we expand our portfolio of 67 properties and operations in six countries, we felt it was the appropriate time to invest in the North American market more directly,” added Bailey.  “Our five brands are four and five star luxury properties that are a good fit for this market.”

Jenny Adams, CEO of Discover the World Marketing, said, “Centara is a fast growing, industry friendly hospitality business, which sees the North American market as essential to support its continued growth. Centara already has an extensive range of wonderful locations, but plans further expansion into China, Africa and the Middle East in the near future. Discover is pleased to represent Centara and primed to deliver great results for this new client of ours.”


2nd World Research Summit for Tourism and Hospitality

The 2nd World Research Summit for Hospitality and Tourism will provide a timely and interactive international platform for academics and industry practitioners from diverse backgrounds and interests to meet, discuss and debate critical issues that will affect the future direction of hospitality and tourism research and practice. The Summit intends to promote mutual dialog, interaction and understanding of various stakeholders of hospitality and tourism research outputs, including academic researchers and scholars, industry professionals, and government/quasi-government officials. As such, in addition to academic research presentations, the Summit will feature key industry practitioners who will share and highlight industry trends and research gaps from a pragmatic and applied perspective.
Presentations and discussions will include, but are not limited to, the following themes/topics within the domain of hospitality and tourism:
Tourism Statistics and TSA
Policy, planning, and governance
Marketing, branding and management
Consumer behavior, decision making, experience and satisfaction
Sport tourism, festivals and events, lodging and MICE marketing and management
Competitiveness, sustainability and corporate social responsibility
Service excellence and service quality
Social media, emerging technologies and e-tourism
Human resources management and strategic leadership development
Innovation, creativity and change management website
Economics and forecasting
Education and training
Financial and performance management
Emerging research methods and methodologies
Other topics of contemporary significance in hospitality and tourism with a global focus

The Star Receives a Star Communications and PR Director

Travel and tourism industry professional Diane Glasson recently joined The Star as director of Communications and PR.

Glasson, who had been working at The Star as in a contract position of Acting Head of Public Relations, expressed her excitement at the new role and becoming a part of “the nest chapter of The Star’s journey.”

“The opportunity to join such a strong and passionate team and work for one of Sydney’s finest tourism offerings is an honour,” Glasson said. “2013 has been a year of significant milestones for The Star, with the opening of the Event Centre and the recent unveiling of Sky Terrace firmly cementing their position as Sydney’s premium entertainment destination in the eyes of Sydneysiders and international guests.”

Glasson’s resume includes working in senior communications roles with Destination NSW and Tourism Australia. In addition, Glasson has also worked on the development and public relations strategies on some of the country’s largest events, including VIVID Sydney, Sydney International Food Festival and The Oprah Winfrey Show visit, among others.

Jakki Temple, general manager sales and marketing, The Star, said that Glasson is a welcome addition to the team.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to have Diane joining the team. Her experience and her passion for Sydney and the Australian tourism industry makes her the perfect fit for The Star as we move into the next phase,” Temple said.


Eko Hotels Builds Signature with N2.5bn

An additional 171 suites, that is estimated to have cost N2.5 billion, has been added by the owners of the Eko Hotel & Suites to its existing 654 suites.

The new building called Eko Signature is close to the old Eko Hotel building and shares the same border with the popular Eko Convention Center.

The head of Sales and Marketing, Eko Hotel, Iyadunni Gbadebo, who conducted travel journalists round the property disclosed that the Eko Signature affords a brand new experience of sophistication.

“With a bold contemporary style and 171 exquisitely furnished 5 star suites, every detail has been designed and created to relax and indulge senses. Each room has an elegant yet modern setting, with a contemporary European touch.

It is tastefully designed and furnished with the professional executives and guests in mind as our suites embody elegance.”
Explaining that that Eko Hotels group consistof Eko Hotels, Eko Suites, Eko Gardens and Eko Signature, she said that Eko Signature recently started improving on existing facilities at the premises.

“The idea is to make Eko Hotels a one-stop hotel destination in Africa that can compete with similar establishments globally.
“We have 654 rooms available at Eko Hotels and with the 171 rooms added at Eko Signature to give us a total of 825 rooms and this will give us competitive edge over other hotels in Africa.”

She said that improvement of facilities was in line with customers’ demand and to meet up with the growing market.
“We are committed to delivering excellent services to customers and investing on unique products.

“Our objective is to take the hotel to the highest level. We believe in the future of the hotel and the Nigerian market,” she said.
Gbadebo said that aside from the new 171 rooms, the hotel had other facilities like a bar, six meeting rooms, butler service, room service, spa and library.

The director said that the workers were well trained to understand the business environment and to offer excellence services to guests.


Kempinski Ambience Hotel Delhi appoints Sunil Rawat as Director of F&B

European luxury brand Kempinski’s flagship hotel in India, Kempinski Ambience Hotel Delhi, announced the appointment of Sunil Rawat as the Director of F&B recently. In his new role, Rawat will overlook and ensure smoother operations of the specialty restaurants, bar and banquet events. He is responsible for concept creation, business plan and budgeting, staff recruitment and training, vendor development and marketing and F&B positioning. His operational responsibilities involve revenue generation, customer satisfaction, employee engagement and corporate compliance.

Formerly, Rawat has been associated with some of the best hotel brands. Before joining Kempinski Ambience Delhi, he worked for the Tangalooma Island Resort Moreton Island, Australia as F&B Manager. He started his hospitality career with a very distinguished name in the industry called The Oberoi Vanya Vilas, Ranthambore, Rajasthan. He then moved to Umaid Bhawan Palace (Luxury hotel of Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces) Jodhpur, Rajasthan and went on to work with Leela Kempinski Hotel & Residences, Gurgaon (Delhi NCR) as the Assistant F&B Manager. Rawat has dedicated more than a decade of his life to the Hospitality industry.