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ICTA 2008 keynote Baton Rouge

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Kindred spitits presentation

  1. 1. KINDRED SPIRITS: Building Community and Bottom Line Through Memorable Food & Wine Events A Presentation byJ. Gary Ellis – President, Compass MarketingInternational Culinary Tourism Association 2008 Southeast Symposium April 2 – 4, 2008 Baton Rouge, Louisiana Kindred Spirits - Page 1 of 8
  2. 2. Good afternoon. I am reminded today of a story I heard of a farmer herding his flock in a remotepasture when suddenly a brand new BMW appears out of a dust cloud before him. The driverleaned out the window and asked the farmer, “If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have inyour flock, will you give me one?” The farmer looked at this man, obviously not a local, thenlooked across his flock and calmly answered, “Sure. Why not?” The guy parked his car, whippedout his notebook computer, connected it to his cell phone, surfed to a NASA page on the internetwhere he pulled up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location, which hethen fed to another NASA satellite that scanned the area in an ultra-high resolution photo. The guythen e-mailed it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within seconds, he receiveda message that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accessed a database withhundreds of complex formulas. He uploaded all of this data and, after a few minutes, received aresponse. Finally, he printed out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized laserjetprinter and finally turned to the farmer and said, “You have 1,586 sheep.” “That’s right,” said thefarmer, “so I guess you can take one.” He watched the guy select one of the animals and looked onamused as he stuffed it into the trunk of his car. Then the farmer said to the young man, “Hey, if Ican tell you exactly what you do for a living, will you give me back my sheep?” The guy thoughtabout it for a second, and said and then said, “Okay, why not?” “You’re a consultant,” said thefarmer. “Wow! That’s correct,” said the guy, “but how did you guess that?” “No guessingrequired,” said the farmer. “You showed up here even though nobody called you. You want to getpaid for an answer I already knew – to a question I never asked. And you don’t know anythingabout my business. . . .Now, give me back my dog.”While it’s true that I am here today to help you grow your business, I can assure you that I am just abit more familiar with it than the “consultant” I just mentioned. Compass Marketing has beenhelping people just like you to improve market share for 19 years. And I promise not only to leaveyou with all your sheep, but to show you ways to grow your flock.What an exciting time to be in the hospitality business! To be on the cusp of a movement destinedfor phenomenal growth. Culinary tourism has been described as the intersection of food, culture andtourism. Our own Erik Wolf compares todays culinary travel with ecotourism 20 years ago."Culinary travel is starting to achieve the same level of importance," he says. Its becoming part ofnational tourism marketing plans. And its appeal, he thinks, is universal: "Not everyone shops, playsgolf or goes to museums. But food and drink are products everyone seeks out three times a day." Iagree.We know that food gives us sustenance. Physically, of course, but also psychologically andspiritually. And that sustenance is magnified - it’s compounded and enhanced - when shared withlike-minded people in a memorable setting. Think of it. One of the oldest and most well knownstories about food and wine dates back to the Bible. Who doesn’t know the story of Jesus turningwater into wine so that the celebration of a marriage would not be cut short. This story to me isillustrative of just how deeply the community bond of food and drink is embedded in our humanhistory.People crave community. Even in this technological age – especially in this technological age. Forproof, just look to social networking sites. Did you know that if myspace were a country, it would Kindred Spirits - Page 2 of 8
  3. 3. be the 8th largest in the world? Two years ago, it was the 11th largest, and I’m convinced that in thenear future, it will be the largest. Why? We crave connection. We long for kindred spirits.Our love of food is primal. True, we need it for our very survival, but our survival has nothing to dowith the unbridled creativity we devote to its preparation and consumption. We could survive on ahandful of nuts, some fruits and vegetables, and maybe an egg or two. By the way, those whosubscribe to such a diet insist it helps you live longer. I maintain that it only seems that way.Good food - and the fellowship associated with sharing good food - enriches us. It adds to ourenjoyment of life. Quite simply, it makes us happy. When you market to the culinary tourist, youare packaging that happiness. You are generating memories that will last, perhaps for a lifetime.Quick, try to remember what you got for Christmas when you were 10 years old. I bet you can’t.But if I asked you to tell me about Christmas dinners, I’ll bet you could share some stories,especially if yours were anything like this.See, we don’t remember things. We remember experiences. Why do we buy souvenirs on vacation?Because we need another widjet to dust around? No, it’s because we want to remember the feelingwe’re experiencing right then. Do you think it’s a coincidence that Disney – arguably the master ofmarketing - has souvenir shops at the end of its rides? It’s not. They know you’ll buy while you’restill feeling the “wow.”Today, I hope to show you how you can package your destination to generate the “wow.” To drawthe culinary traveler to you, to encourage his spending, to make that traveler part of your marketingteam, and to encourage his return.What is it about culinary tourism that offers such enormous potential? What is the culinary touristlooking for? What options are available to you in getting started? And why do I and many othersbelieve this is a largely untapped market? Good questions, but before we answer those, let’s answerthis essential one: Who is the culinary tourist?In January of last year, the Travel Industry Association released the results of the first-everqualitative survey of culinary travelers. They surveyed nearly 2400 leisure travelers to gauge theirbehaviors and attitudes toward culinary travel. Unless I state otherwise, the facts and figures that Iuse today will be taken from the results of that study. I believe it offers great insight into thepotential of culinary tourism. Here’s what they found.Overall, 17% engaged in some type of culinary or wine-related activity while traveling within thepast three years. This equates to just over 27 million travelers.These 27 million are further divided into 3 groups:Deliberate culinary travelers took one or more trips where the availability of food & wine-relatedactivities was either a key reason to take the trip or a factor in choosing between potentialdestinations. The food was the reason.Opportunistic culinary travelers took one or more trips where they sought out food- and wine-related activities, but these were not a factor in choosing their destination The place was the reason,but the food was important. Kindred Spirits - Page 3 of 8
  4. 4. Accidental culinary travelers took one or more trips where they participated in food- and wine-related activities simply because they were available. The food was simply there.As you can imagine, the biggest bang comes from targeting Deliberate and Opportunistic culinarytravelers. And you should direct your marketing efforts toward them. Let’s talk about how to dothat.At Southern Breeze Wine & Culinary Festivals, we invite our guests to “uncork an experience.”Today, I want to encourage you to “uncork” the potential of culinary tourism as it relates to yourbottom line.Offer an experience that is UNIQUE & memorableRecognize events as business NETWORKING opportunitiesDevelop CROSS-PROMOTION tie-ins with other local attractionsOFFER products for sale at the eventREACH the culinary tourist effectivelyAnd finally, promote the connectedness of KINDRED spiritsThe TIA study found that nearly all wine and culinary travelers – over 90% - are looking for uniqueexperiences For most, culinary travel is clearly related to the need to have unique culinaryexperiences that are not available in one’s home area.Unique is a word that certainly describes Michael Scott from The Office, if not his choice in NewYork pizza places. And nothing against restaurant chains; they certainly have their place. Just notwithin the culinary tourist market.Culinary tourists specifically want:Flavors and/or foods that are not available in their home areaA restaurant atmosphere that is uniqueFood that is unique and differentPlease keep in mind that “unique and different” does not have to mean formal and expensive. Infact, the study defines culinary travel as travel to learn about or enjoy unique and memorable eatingand drinking experiences – not necessarily just those that are exclusive or highly acclaimed, butall memorable eating and drinking experiences.Also, please, not so unique as to be exotic. One Andrew Zimmern is enough. If you’ve ever seen hisshow, Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel, you know that his definition of food is, shall we say,loosely defined. When you’re touted as having a stomach of steel, I think it’s safe to say, you’ll beeating alone a lot. It’s best to stick with foods most of us consider not just edible, but desirable. Kindred Spirits - Page 4 of 8
  5. 5. The local rib joint, the diner known for fabulous biscuits, the local pie baker can all be just asappealing to the culinary tourist as the renowned 5-star restaurant, and all can have their place inyour marketing efforts.In fact, fourth on the list for Deliberate and Opportunistic culinary travelers was low prices anddiscounts. Just last Tuesday an article in the St. Petersburg Times noted that worries over theeconomy are causing middle-class travelers to look at ways to make their vacations shorter, lessfrequent and not as fancy. A survey by Ypartnership, on Orlando marketing and advertising firmspecializing in travel, found that nearly a third of travelers took fewer trips in the last half of 2007due to money concerns. They noted, though, that roughly the same percentage of people were stillplanning to travel.The same article cites another survey by AIG Travel Guard reporting that nearly half of all travelersexpected to change their vacation plans for 2008 to save money. Their most popular choices:Eating at cheaper restaurantsTraveling closer to homeStaying at less expensive hotelsThose of you with more upscale offerings have no need to panic. Also noted was that concernsabout the economy haven’t slowed down high-income travelers at all, and that their very priceyexotic tour business is taking bookings for 2009. These 4 & 5-star diners are still very much in thepicture. We’ll discuss some other options for unique and different in a moment.For many years, when you thought of networking in business, you often thought of the golf course.But even that is starting to change.An article in the February 21, 2008 edition of the New York Times notes that “over the past decade,the leisure activity most closely associated with corporate success in America has been in a kind ofrecession,” with the number of people who play declining from 30 million to 26 million (even now,the number of culinary travelers already exceeds this!) and the number who play 8 times ormore per year had fallen from 17.7 million to 15 million.The “old boys clubs” made many deals made on the course. The problem is that there are quite afew women in the “old boys club” of business these days. But even that does not entirely explainthe decline in golf’s appeal.While the experts debate time versus expense, I’ll submit this: much of the networking that occurswithin golf happens at the 19th hole. God knows most of us need a cocktail to shake off the game’sinherent frustrations. Then there’s the dilemma of making sure the boss wins, or the client wins. Ofknowing how well or how “less well” to play. And, yes, the expense can be high. The cost of a goodset of clubs, of membership dues, of green fees and cart fees, really adds up. And all this was abecoming a problem even before recent economic conditions. But to me the ultimate problem withgolf is one I just mentioned. It’s a competitive game. Someone wins and someone loses. To me,that’s not the best environment to generate good will. Kindred Spirits - Page 5 of 8
  6. 6. Wouldn’t it be far easier, more pleasant, to network with prospective clients or colleagues over aleisurely dinner or wine tasting? Enjoy a great meal or nice wine in a setting conducive torelaxation? Where no one is keeping score? No one loses. Everyone wins.To illustrate this point [Wine festival dinner with Ark. Physicians]Please keep in mind, too, that the culinary “tourist” may be local. Cooking classes, wine tastingsand other events offer excellent networking opportunities for local business people, who should notbe overlooked in their promotion.Restaurants may be the obvious draw for the culinary tourist. But they’re by no means the onlyattraction.While going to restaurants for unique and memorable experiences topped the list, at least 70% ofthese travelers were also interested in:Visiting farmers markets (29%)Sampling traditional artisan products (27%)Attending culinary festivals (24%)Touring wineries and tasting locally made wines (21%)Touring local breweries and tasting local beers (20%)Driving a wine trail (13%)Attending wine festivals (11%)As you can see by this list, you have much more to offer the culinary tourist than simply arearestaurants.Because culinary tourists are active travelers, they are also more likely to:Participate in cultural activities such as concerts and museumsEnjoy spa servicesVisit state and/or national parks and historic sitesParticipate in a variety of outdoor activitiesThe common interests of wine and culinary travelers and the overlap in their demographics andtravel behaviors suggest there are many opportunities for cross-selling to these visitors. You cancombine food and wine experiences with any of the above activities. How about a spa weekendfeaturing a wine tasting? An informal yet upscale luncheon at a popular shopping venue. TheScottsdale Culinary Festival hosts a champagne tasting at the Museum of Modern Art. The Tucson Kindred Spirits - Page 6 of 8
  7. 7. Culinary Festival features signings by notable cookbook authors at their Grand Tasting event,sponsored by Barnes & Noble.Cross-promotion can also help extend the culinary traveler’s length of trip, resulting in higherspending by the travel party. More heads and beds. Plus, by combining activities into a package,you can help ease the travel “hassle” for these visitors by offering them a long weekend full ofexciting activities.This is precisely what we do with our Southern Breeze Wine+Culinary Festivals. As you mayknow, our next event begins tomorrow on the grounds of the old Louisiana state capitol, a beautifullocation with cultural and historical significance. After five years of hosting these festivals, we’velearned much about the event and the travelers who attend. Let’s take some time now to discuss thedetails about our festivals, including how they’ve evolved over time.[Case study here]Contributing to our guests’ satisfaction is the fact that we have the wines they’ve sampled availablefor sale at the event. This saves them the trouble of trying to locate the label when they return home.The TIA study results bear this out, which brings me to my next point. Offer your unique productsfor sale at the event.Culinary travelers are very likely to take local foods and wines back home to share with family andfriends. Not only does this increase spending at your destination, but it also presents a secondaryopportunity for you to spread the word about your unique offerings. The product creates a muchmore powerful marketing tool than word-of-mouth alone. These tangible examples of what youhave to offer can not only add to your bottom line at the time of purchase, but also draw additionalvisitors to you. When a visitor shares your local fare with friends and family back home, yourmarketing network expands and you are more likely to attract additional visitors.In addition to wines, artisanal breads and cheeses are currently very popular. As are honeys, andother baked goods. Products need not be limited to food and wine, but could be related to the placeor event. If you have a locally made product in keeping with the theme of your event, make itavailable to your guests – subtly please. Remember, event posters and other artwork make greatyear-round advertising!Okay, Gary, you’re thinking, I’ve got great restaurants. I’ve got great attractions. I’ve packaged agreat trip. I’ve got the product. How do I get these people here? Which brings us to how toeffectively reach the culinary tourist.The good news is that culinary travelers are readers. They read a lot, both print and online. Culinarytravelers are significantly more likely than leisure travelers in general to:Read print materials, including specialty newspaper sectionsRead “official” materials like vacation guidesRead culinary publications Kindred Spirits - Page 7 of 8
  8. 8. Read travel magazinesUse online resources for trip research and planningThese people are active information seekers. The fact that serious culinary travelers read highlyspecialized publications that cater to their interests confirms that magazines remain a viable channelfor reaching this travel segment. However, keep in mind that large percentages also rely onrecommendations from friends and family, as well as online resources. Your best bet for reachingthis market is a multi-facteted, yet integrated marketing campaign to reach this market.[Compass “guide plus interactive” here?]Finally, keep in mind what that pioneer foodie James Beard famously said. “Food is our commonground, a universal experience.”He was right. Food unites us. It brings more than physical sustenance to our lives. It enriches usemotionally and spiritually, too. And for those of us in the hospitality industry, food will continue togrow into our “universal experience,” as well. It will be our common ground in filling beds, inattracting tourists and growing market share, and ultimately in growing profits.Overall, about 60% of American leisure travelers surveyed said that they are at least somewhatinterested in taking a culinary-related trip with the next year. That’s a big number. By my maththat’s about 96 million travelers. I hope you can see the benefit of capturing a share of that market.The bottom line is that those interested in culinary travel in the near future is significantly largerthan current numbers, offering you a tremendous opportunity to develop new business in anincreasingly competitive travel environment.There’s an old story that says when NASA first started sending astronauts into space, they quicklydiscovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASAscientists spent a decade and millions of dollars to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upsidedown, underwater, on almost any surface, and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300degrees centigrade.The Russians simply used a pencil.You don’t need a million dollar pen to grab a bigger share of this market. You just need to sharpenyour pencil. Your greatest investment in this will be your creativity. In large part, these resourcesalready exist at your destination. It’s simply a matter of creative packaging and effective marketing.Join the culinary travel revolution! Enjoy the success of kindred spirits.I’ll leave you with scenes from one of our Southern Breeze Wine+Culinary Festivals, after whichI’ll be happy to take your questions. Kindred Spirits - Page 8 of 8