“Social media is no longer just about marketing, but a preferred choice of communication for hotel guests…” – Tiffany Dowd, Founder & President of Luxe Social Media

In our latest influencer spotlight feature, we talk to luxury hotel expert & hospitality influencer Tiffany Dowd. Founder & President of Luxe Social Media, she is an inspiring luxury travel author with published works on USA Today, The Telegraph and several other digital platforms.   

As a certified globe trotter and luxury travel influencer, Tiffany’s leisure reviews are a source of brilliant insight for tourists. Being a remarkable social media influencer Tiffany has featured as one of “25 Best Luxury Digital Experts To Follow” on Verb Brand, and in our “Top 14 Professional Hospitality Influencers To Follow in 2019” list. 

Tiffany is a social media marketing consultant for global travel brands, assisting hospitality businesses with digital strategy and social engagement. In addition, she has featured in renowned publications including Forbes and Luxury Daily.

Advanced Hospitality: Can you tell us your story and starting Luxury Hotels Social Media Marketing Company? 

Tiffany: “I founded Luxe Social Media back in 2009 to manage social media for luxury hotels and brands. At the time, there were no agencies focused on luxury travel social media marketing.

The term was so new and people still did not believe or understand the role of social media in luxury travel. Since I started Luxe Tiffany, we’ve worked with the most exclusive luxury hotels and brands in the world across 20 countries and on five continents.”

Advanced Hospitality: What challenges did you face in the early years of Luxe Social Media or even now?

Tiffany: “In the early years of my business, there were many people who did not believe that social media had a place in marketing for luxury businesses and brands. I truly believed that this would be the future (of leisure & travel). We had traditional PR and traditional marketing strategies, however, no one was grasping this new idea called social media. 

In the early years, it was challenging getting brands to understand that social media was not an intern’s job and that annual budgeting needed to include social media marketing as part of their digital brand strategy.”

Advanced Hospitality: What service, technology or operational gaps do you still see in the Hospitality industry? 

Tiffany: “From a social media perspective, hotels need to understand that social media is no longer just about marketing, but that is becoming the preferred choice of communication for guests.

People are requesting rates, dinner reservations and other queries over direct messages through Instagram and Facebook. It is also where people choose to share complaints and recognition. Companies need to be prepared to manage this influx in messaging moving forward. It’s a 24/7 responsibility.”

Advanced Hospitality: What are the most common questions you face from your hospitality clients? 

Tiffany: “Obviously one of the biggest questions we get is how can we continue to grow our channels. I always emphasize to my clients, the best way to continue to grow is through authenticity, creativity, and consistency in social posting. 

There is no quick way to grow digital channels – and buying followers is never the answer. It’s quality over quantity and you’d rather have thousands of people who follow you could afford to stay at your hotel rather than a million robots.”

Advanced Hospitality: How do you feel about the trend of recent large acquisitions in the hospitality industry? What’s your opinion about the recent Wyndham-La Quinta acquisition? Marriot-Starwood? 

Tiffany: “Marriott International is one of the most innovative hospitality companies (in the world). What you’ll find is stronger loyalty programs and a continuous commitment to the customer experience. However, all mergers as such will be met with resistance. Change is inevitable and ultimately it will be the best for guests.

The success of a hospitality industry merger will ultimately be judged on how well it obtained and/or retained loyal customers. Nothing is more important in that regard than the guest experience both on-property as well as on-line. 

Brands that do a good job enhancing and not disrupting the guest experience during a merger will be successful. Also, from a branding perspective, exclusivity is fundamental to a luxury experience. Therefore, it is also critical not to dilute a luxury brand. St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton have done an excellent job maintaining their exclusivity through the Marriot-Starwood merger.”

Advanced Hospitality: How do you see the Hospitality industry going forwards in 2020?

Tiffany: “Look for more focus on sustainability in travel with more travelers choosing to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues.

There will also be more communication by hotels about their impact on local environments from giving back to communities to sourcing food and produce locally. There will also be a strong focus on well-being and travel with travelers looking to stay places that can offer wellness options.”

Advanced Hospitality: In your opinion how important is technology for hotels? What suggestions would you offer to hotel technology companies, what to keep in mind while providing services to Hotels and Management Companies? 

Tiffany: “Hospitality used to be measured by how well a property could respond to and anticipate a guest’s needs while in the hotel. This is only a component of today’s guest experience. With advancements in technology, guests expect on-demand service not only while on-property but before and after their visit.

Maintaining vigilance on social media channels is critical to maintaining a connection with loyal customers, and it should be a seamless extension of the in-hotel and online resources of the hotel.”

Advanced Hospitality: There have been many Hospitality events with various communities, what have been your experiences with those you have attended recently? Which Hospitality or Tech conference you prefer to attend the most, and feel are the best for hoteliers, partners or those seeking to get the most out of them?

Tiffany: I seek out industry events that focus on personal connections and relationships at the highest levels. Technology should enhance, not replace, the human connection. I attend the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) conferences in Cannes and their other regional shows as well as and Virtuoso Travel Week. 

These are each prestigious and highly important events which bring together owners and senior management of hotels and industry partners/travel advisors to share what is new, relevant and impactful in the luxury travel industry.”

Advanced Hospitality: What are your opinions about tech conferences like The IT Summit Los Angeles, IACP Technology Conference, INTERCON, etc.?

Tiffany: “I am focused on luxury hotel marketing and branding via social media. My expertise in technology is best focused on understanding what technology tools will not only be effective but which ones will be relevant from a marketing standpoint. 

From that perspective, I rely upon consultants and industry experts in the tech fields to give me guidance on what is new and innovative rather than attending these conferences myself. Once established, I focus on determining what new technology platforms might be valuable for my customers to focus on.”

Advanced Hospitality: How can the Hospitality Community approach you? Which social network do you prefer the most within the Hospitality Community? What is your advice for those who want to be part of the Hospitality community?

Tiffany: “I can be followed and engaged through social media channels as “@LuxeTiffany” or via my website, LuxeTiffany.com. While the key social media networks all have value, I have found Instagram to be most relevant in the luxury travel industry for travel inspiration and Instagram stories have only enhanced its value. 

I have been using Twitter for over 10 years now and find it essential for industry insight and connections. It’s where I share travel advice and curated content. We use Facebook as a paid-marketing channel for my own brand and for my clients. It’s important to keep in mind that these social networks are heavily driven by algorithms that can limit the impact of your reach. 

Therefore, it is important to make sure social media marketing is part of your digital marketing strategy and budgeting. As far as advice to newcomers, it is so important on social media networks to maintain authentic engagement and be consistent.

Follow and engage personalities that you find appealing and can relate to. I do not believe one is an “influencer” or “influential” based on a large number of followers, nor can you be influential because you like to travel, look like a model and can start a blog. 

To me, the most influential people in the hospitality industry are business owners and CEO’s who are opinion leaders through years of experience and time and have earned a trusted voice. I have worked hard over the years to maintain an authentic voice and become a resource people can follow for trusted advice. This took years to build and doesn’t happen overnight.”

Advanced Hospitality: What are some of your interests outside of work? Free time is rare but necessary to keep your mind fresh and relaxed. How do you relax your mind and unwind? 

Tiffany: “When I was younger, I was a competitive gymnast training under the US Olympic Team coach, so athletic activity has been ingrained in me since I was young.

Today physical fitness and working out are an important part of my mental and physical well-being including yoga, tennis and scuba diving. I also enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles, listening to music and reading books to relax my mind.”

Advanced Hospitality: We all have some influencers who inspire us to push ourselves in our daily lives. Can you name the hospitality influencers who have inspired you?

Tiffany: “I am greatly inspired by innovative, creative and entrepreneurial people who are risk-takers but also passionate and kind. I am inspired by influential business leaders. Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso, for instance, is someone I greatly admire. He is an extremely positive person and continuously promotes the value of human connections as the key to success. 

I respect how he treats everyone he speaks to like they are the most important person in the room. To me, this is a true leader – one who listens and values the opinion of others to become a stronger network. 

My longest and most-valued clients today are based on the strong relationships I have built with hotel owners and management over the years. We have a good working relationship because we have a mutual understanding and respect for each other’s businesses.”