The Langkawi Domestic Travel Bubble has been considered a success by Malaysians, with majority of respondents being satisfied and having high confidence to travel, according to a survey of 1,005 respondents by Tourism Malaysia last year. That coupled with the possible reopening of Malaysia's borders in the second quarter of this year, as said by health minister Khairy Jamaluddin recently, might spell good news for Malaysia's tourism industry.

According to Expedia, the "Splurge-cation" is among the biggest travel trends in 2022, with travellers ready to make up for the lost time by having the trip they deserve. For Ritz-Carlton Langkawi, Millennials are the new generation of affluent travellers and are socially present, making them a powerful marketing avenue for the hotel. 

The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi's director of sales and marketing, Zulkifli Rahman (pictured), told A+M in an interview that Millennials are often perceived by many as economy or bargain travellers due to their limited spending power or travel budget allocations. However, this trend has shifted since the beginning of the pandemic. The hotel is now seeing a strong increase in Millennial travellers looking for a stay experience in its private pool villas or luxury accommodation.

The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi specialises in traditional shamanic spa rituals and also offers guests a hands-on experience with its Sea Cucumber Reproduction Project. They can also participate in an experiential cocktail masterclass to create their very own cocktails while enjoying the sunset over the Andaman Sea.

Another aspect that draws Millennial travellers are food and food photography. To this, Zulkifli said the hotel needs to pay more attention to food presentations and specialty cocktails.

"If done right, it will give you the extra marketing mileage without investing too much money on advertising," he said, adding:

[Millennials] do the advertising for you and the engagement is instant.

Having experienced lockdowns, affluent Malaysian travellers, especially the Millennials, seek places to showcase their refreshed lifestyle through their social media platforms. Zulkifli explained that they seek meaningful activities, immersive experiences, and explore Instagram-worthy destinations that carry "bragging rights" so they can share them with their family and friends. 

As such, Zulkifli and his team understand the importance of social media in building user-generated content (UGC) and having guests act as its ambassadors. According to him, Guests often tag The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi with hashtags such as #RitzCarlton, #RitzCarltonLangkawi and #RCMemories. 

"Our guests are truly our ambassadors as they create real conversations to post on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and other social media platforms. They also take some of the best photos of our resort, which enhances our UGC and keeps it interesting," he explained.

This trend of Millennials being socially present isn't evident only among Malaysians. In fact, Zulkifli said the affluent Southeast Asian travellers have plenty of similarities. "I used to think that the Thais were so 'hooked' onto their phones when they travel, taking selfies and food pictures. However, I noticed the same behaviour in Malaysians," he said.

Also, affluent travellers seek personalisation and align brand experiences with their personal values. "They have a voice on social issues, as well as a real commitment and responsibility in terms of sustainable development. We are motivated to meet the expectations of the affluent travellers," Zulkifli said.

For the year ahead, The Ritz Carlton Langkawi plans to double down on digital as a medium to reach out to local and international guests while working with luxury magazines to create stories focusing on families, couples, and those seeking wellness. It also plans to work with selected influencers and celebrities to further enhance its social media channels. Last November, the hotel hosted a social networking afternoon event themed "The Influencer Village", bringing together top local influencers from various backgrounds. The influencers comprised top socialities, singers, creative designers, and business owners.

"We work with carefully selected influencers that carry the same values – appreciating the beauty of the resort and the island and the importance to preserve it. We work with people who not only have a good following but more importantly a high ratio of engagement that will attract the right circle of clientele – real, successful people wanting to live up their lifestyles enjoying the simple pleasures in life and respecting the natural surroundings at the same time," he said. At the same time, The Ritz Carlton Langkawi will also be running dining promotions to entice guests, including Guest Bartender Series, Afternoon Tea with a View, In-Villa BBQ, and Dining Beyond. 

An 80-20 focus for its marketing budget

Currently, 80% of its marketing budget is parked under digital and social media, with the remaining 20% for PR and other related marketing activities. According to Zulkifli, this split has worked well for the team. It invests in Google AdWords, Expedia TravelAds, and social media ads to create brand presence and develop a high level of visibility for online searches.

"We have not been spending anything on print and instead, have been heavily focused on digital as well as investing in SEO on popular search engine platforms to drive traffic to the website for brand presence," he explained. The pandemic has also pushed the team to select imagery and videography that reflect the new normal when crafting social media content. 

Nonetheless, the channels of top priority to The Ritz Carlton Langkawi will still be its brand website and social media platforms. According to Zulkifli, these two channels bring in the most visits and engagements, aside from online travel agents. Additionally, with special offers created by Marriott Bonvoy exclusively for its members, the hotel is also seeing higher traffic of bookings coming in from its website. As for social media channels, they typically see see guests booking offers directly from those platforms for the festive seasons and year-end celebrations. 

Zulkifli is optimistic that 2022 will be a year of recovery for the travel industry overall. Hopefully, with fewer travel restrictions, Zulkifli said more travellers will seek to reverse the effect that the last two years had on their mental and physical health by enhancing the design of its products and services to contribute to consumers' health reset. 

Expedia predicted that one of the travel trends for this year is consumers stepping out of their comfort zone to immerse themselves in various experiences and discover new cultures. Likewise, Zulkifli said the team will cater to a new generation of affluent travellers who seek deeper and more immersive experiences that allow them to enrich their lives in more ways than before. 

Photo courtesy: 123RF  

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