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Tag Archives: Hospitality

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Hotel industry trying to capitalize on vaccinated tourists, but continues to face obstacles

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As vaccinations ramp up and re-openings continue on a global scale, the hotel industry is eager to move past the coronavirus pandemic. But COVID-19 variants loom, labor shortages have decimated staffing numbers, and government policies are forcing a new path forward, rather than a return to how things once were. Let’s take a look at some of the challenges the industry is facing.

“Getting back to normal” does not signify a trip back to March 2020. And the hotel industry has changed a lot since then, despite lockdowns and reduced occupancy rates. While talks of “futuristic hotels” seemed 5-10 years away before the pandemic, the future has arrived. Contactless check-in, room service robots, QR codes, and vending machines replacing the beloved breakfast buffet have all become the norm in the name of health and safety.

Combine a safer hotel stay with this year’s vaccination roll-out, and you’ve got a massive influx of tourists ready to start traveling again.

On July 23, Becker’s Hospital Review reported that Vermont was leading the country with 67.12% of its population fully vaccinated. In last place was Alabama with 33.91%. The same day, the Government of Canada reported that 57% of Canadians had been fully vaccinated, with those who had only received their first dose on a good pace to boost that total.

Given the numbers, it can be hard to take a one-size-fits-all approach towards the future.

Remember what I said about the hotel of the future, chock full of technology? This goes hand in hand with the labor shortages facing the industry. Layoffs and furloughs have depleted hotel workforces, and other employees have followed suit, looking for a job with better pay and working conditions, or to change careers completely.

In a Joblist survey, one third of former hospitality workers said they weren’t considering re-joining the industry, while half were not looking to return to their previous job. So begins the search for new labor – but will hotel managers be filling each and every spot that was vacated in 2020? It seems unlikely, especially with the influx of new guest service technologies being boasted.

It also seems unlikely in terms of housekeeping. Hotels are only cleaning rooms every certain number of days, or upon check-out, in adherence to guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID-19 isn’t the only factor effecting supply and demand: Hotels in British Columbia found themselves overwhelmed at the end of June when a record-breaking heat wave scorched the province with temperatures of up to 119 degrees Fahrenheit. For a place known for its mild temperatures and rainy atmosphere, residents were not prepared, and flocked to hotels for the air-conditioning. It forced hotel managers to take yet another look at their staffing levels.

The week before, B.C. hotels found themselves with 20% occupancy rates. During the heat wave, they were nearly sold out, but still facing labor shortages. Hotel managers shared that former employees did not want to come back on a full-time basis, but perhaps part-time. This opens up several different hiring avenues for future staff, whether it be hiring more part-time workers, or students.

In the case of hotels located around Santa Monica, CA, the pandemic-induced shutdowns haven’t been as catastrophic as they could have been. Santa Monica’s hotels have benefited from the area’s worker recall laws, a pre-existing staffing pipeline, and competitive wages, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press.

The long-term job security for workers has yet to bring back all of the employees furloughed, but the future remains bright, with spots for more workers readily available via the Los Angeles Hospitality Training Academy.

How else to make up for the lack of revenues over the past year? In Maui, a 3% tax will be collected from those staying at hotels and short-term rentals, which is estimated to rake in $50-70 million, according to Maui County Council Chair Alice Lee.

Hawaii has made it easier for tourists to visit, waiving COVID-19 tests for fully vaccinated travelers. Those who aren’t vaccinated can skip a quarantine period by getting tested. Tourism has exploded to the point where Maui’s Mayor Michael Victorino has asked airlines to bring in less tourists. Imagine that!

In Canada, federal wage and rent subsidies are set to expire at the end of 2021, but for Alberta, the provincial 4% tourism levy expired in June. Hotel associations are pushing to have it extended to September 2022 so that they are able to use the funds to hire staff and focus on marketing as the number of tourists continues to increase. Lifting international travel restrictions has begun, albeit slowly, with phases set to take effect in August and September of this year.

As seen with B.C.’s heat wave, another curveball presents itself to the industry, which those in the Pacific Northwest through to California know all too well: wildfire season. Earlier this month, there were 300 wildfires burning in British Columbia. Evacuation orders, highway checkpoints, and road closures posed yet another roadblock for operators, already dealing with the effects that COVID-19 has had. Operators along the West Coast will be on high alert for yet another disruption to their business.

Tourists are looking to travel again, but COVID-19 leaves a lot of unanswered questions for the hotel industry, especially as variants surge, and travel restrictions continue. Hotels are unable to breathe a sigh of relief because non-pandemic factors are also hitting their businesses. Where do they go from here? Now that many have taken on new technological initiatives and decreased housekeeping schedules, the industry must turn another page in order to attract a fresh workforce and continue planning for the unexpected.

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Research reveals effective social media crisis communication strategies during COVID-19 pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic is a once-in-a-generation crisis with lasting economic and societal consequences. Crises and disasters often bring unpredictable catastrophic changes to the market. Yet, effective management of a crisis can help businesses reduce the event’s negative impacts and shorten the recovery time.

As the global economy begins to recover, businesses are making changes to adapt to the post-pandemic world. For example, more companies now let employees work from home permanently.

When people work remotely and classes are taught online, social media plays an even more critical role in crisis communication than before. Research identifying the types of social media messages that get people’s attention during the COVID-19 pandemic is timely and helpful in supporting business decisions regarding crisis communication.

The empirical study about crisis communication strategies on social media

I worked with Drs. Jungwoo Lee at Yonsei University in South Korea and Spring Hanat Kyoto University in Japan on a project entitled “Crisis communication on social media: What types of COVID-19 messages get the attention?” We published our work in the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly.

The research framework

We framed our investigation under the Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT). SCCT was introduced to help organizations select the appropriate communication strategies to minimize a crisis’ threat to their reputations, depending on the level of responsibilities that the public attributes to the organization. According to SCCT, when an organization holds no responsibilities for the COVID-19 crisis, bolstering posture/strategies will be most pertinent when communicating with its stakeholders, such as:

  • Reminding — To remind its stakeholders about the organization’s good work in the past. For example, a hotel chain may share updates about its leadership position in providing exceptional customer service.
  • Ingratiation — To praise its stakeholders’ work, contributions, or efforts. For instance, a restaurant may post updates about how its staff works with other community members to cope with a crisis.
  • Victimage — To explain how the organization is also a victim of a crisis. For example, an airline may share news about the pandemic’s devastating impacts on the industry or the hardship it experiences during a crisis.

The research questions

Drawing from SCCT and relevant literature, we expected most companies would use Reminding, Ingratiation, and Victimage strategies to communicate with their stakeholders on social media. Additionally, they would heavily utilize photos as the means for content sharing. We focused our research setting in the hospitality industry, aiming to answer four research questions:

  1. Do hospitality companies also use the Reminding, Ingratiation, and Victimage strategies to communicate with their stakeholders about the COVID-19 crisis?
  2. Do hospitality companies share content in photos more frequently than in other forms of media, such as videos, hyperlinks, or pure text?
  3. What are internet users’ reactions toward hospitality companies’ COVID-19 messages compared to the non-COVID-19 messages?
  4. What are internet users’ reactions to hospitality companies’ social media messages in different media types?

The data and the analysis

We retrieved 657 Facebook and 754 Twitter messages initiated by eight of the world’s largest hotel chains between January 1 and June 19, 2020. These eight hotel chains include Marriott, Hilton, IHG, Wyndham, Choice Hotels, Best Western, Hyatt, and Radisson, a portfolio of over 5.26 million hotel rooms in the global lodging market. After a few preliminary analyses, we trained two graduate students to code all messages into six (6) message types:

  • Prevention — To inform an organization’s stakeholders of the proactive procedures taken or will be taken to cope with a crisis. For example, a hotel may inform travelers that it has adopted enhanced hygiene protocols to ensure every room is thoroughly cleaned.
  • Reminding
  • Ingratiation
  • Victimage
  • Updates — To inform an organization’s stakeholders about its adjustments in operations due to the crisis. For instance, a hotel may update its cancelation policy or extend the expiration date of its loyal customers’ elite status and reward benefits/points.
  • Non-COVID-19 messages — To share other updates that are not relevant to the COVID-19 crisis, such as a promotional offer or showing support to the #BLM movement.

After confirming the intercoder reliability, we used the z scores of reactions/likes, comments, and shares/retweets to measure internet users’ attention to a Facebook/Twitter message. Finally, we performed a series of descriptive analyses as well as ANOVA and post-hoc analyses to answer the four research questions.

The key research findings

  1. The types of COVID-19 messages shared by the hotel chains

    We observed a sharp decline in information sharing by the eight hotel chains after WHO announced the global pandemic in March 2020. Furthermore, it was also not until March 2020 that the eight hotel chains began sharing updates about COVID-19, even though the first coronavirus case was first reported in China back in December 2019, and the virus quickly spread to other countries in before March 2020.

  2. IHG and Hyatt shared the most COVID-19 updates, but Marriott, being the world’s largest hotel chain, only published a total of six COVID-19 messages on Facebook and Twitter. Ingratiation was the most used strategy by the sample, accounted for 48.06% of the 308 COVID-19 messages on both platforms, followed by Updates (30.85%)and Prevention (13.63%). Four hotel chains did not use the Reminding strategy at all. Moreover, only two hotel chains used the Victimage strategy (11 times by IHG on both platforms and once by Best Western on Facebook).

  3. The popular medium used by the hotel chains

    Photos and videos were the dominant media used by the sample. No hotel chains in the sample shared pure-text messages on Facebook. Additionally, many hotel chains shared messages in a combination of two or more media types (e.g., photos + hyperlinks, photos + hyperlinks + videos, among others). Marriott and Best Western were well versed in using images in communications. Hyatt topped the list in terms of video sharing.

  4. The types of COVID-19 messages that get the attention

    Overall, internet users paid more attention to COVID-19 messages than non-COVID-19 messages, giving COVID-19 messages more reactions/likes, comments, and shares/retweets. Among different types of COVID-19 messages, Prevention, Reminding, Ingratiation, and Updates seemed to get more attention.

  5. Visual content gets more reactions/likes, comments, and shares/retweets

It is not surprising to observe that messages attached with videos and/or photos get more attention on Facebook and Twitter than those with hyperlinks or in pure text. The power of visual content cannot be ignored.

The implications

We extended SCCT by introducing the Prevention strategy under the Rebuilding Posture. Unlike other cross-sectional survey studies, this research examined the real-time information exchange among an organization and its stakeholders. Its results provide insightful knowledge for businesses wanting to maintain active communications with their stakeholders on social media. We recommend managers and business owners consider the following managerial implications:

Regarding a message’s content

  • Actively use social media to communicate with their stakeholders about a crisis.
  • Keep people informed about what the business is doing to cope with the crisis.
  • Although underused, remind stakeholders from time to time of the outstanding work that the business did in the past.
  • Highlight the good deeds that the stakeholders are doing to cope with the crisis and tag them if allowed (e.g., mentioning a supplier or an associate)
  • Although underused, try the Victimage strategy to see if it could also be effective.
  • Share changes and updates of operations on social media.
  • Use social media as a communication tool instead of a pure marketing outlet because stakeholders want to hear updates about COVID-19 and other concurrent events (e.g., #BLM).

Regarding media usage

  • Create short videos to communicate with the stakeholders.
  • Continue utilizing photos as the visual content.
  • Select an appealing image as a preview of a hyperlink.
  • Attach a video or photo to a message.
  • Avoid long messages; try to use 130 or fewer characters in an update, which will make it look like a “picture” on Facebook.
  • The conclusion

    Our work is not without limitations, but we believe our analysis can benefit many organizations besides those in the lodging industry. We highly encourage businesses to test if the crisis communication strategies presented in our study also work for them and, if so, in what situations. Keep in mind that one tactic might work in a unique setting but not others.

    As we are navigating through the pandemic, what types of social media messages will get people’s attention? Do you have first-hand experience to share with us?

    For example, if you are a content manager, what types of crisis communication strategies work well for your organization? If you are an active user on one or more social media platforms, what types of messages get your attention?

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    How resorts are keeping visitors safe from COVID

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    It’s been a long time coming, but trends show that travel is back and better than ever. With resorts opening their doors with greater capacity for more and more visitors, it’s time to address the elephant in the room: Yes, resorts are safe to visit. We don’t have to remind you of the trials and tribulations we all went through in 2020 (Zoom burnout was real), but resorts were able to take stock and ultimately prepare themselves for thousands of travelers hankering to visit their favorite tropical destinations.

    Because of this, top-tier resorts now offer a hotel experience that delivers both updated safety guidelines and luxury fulfillment at the same time. From check-in to check-out, poolside margaritas to room-service pastries, let’s explore a day in the life of all-inclusive resorts and how they’re keeping you safe from COVID.

    10:00am: Contactless Check-In and General Hygiene

    Good morning, welcome to your tropical getaway. You’ve stepped out of your transportation and into the grand lobby entrance of your dream all-inclusive resort. Immediately, you’re greeted with punctual curbside bell service donning masks and medical-grade gloves. The staff greets you with smiling eyes behind the masks and an upstart attitude behind plexiglass as you check-in digitally with a handy app. Before we head to your flawless suite, let’s take a look at other essential guidelines to expect from your five-star hotel:

    • Contactless payment through keypad or mobile pay
    • Capacity guidelines at elevators and all public spaces
    • Spacing measures and signage
    • Plexiglass partitions at high engagement areas
    • Guests required to wear face masks or coverings in indoor hotel public areas and when moving around in outdoor areas, unless with proof of vaccination

    10:15am: Pristine Suites

    So, you’re all checked in. Ready to see the suite that’ll be your lavish home for the duration of the trip? Good, let’s take a stroll down the beachside boulevard. As you walk the halls and take in the sights, you might notice a few things: hand sanitizer stations and social distancing markers everywhere. Safety and cleanliness are of the utmost priority.

    Here we are. We’ve arrived at your sealed off suite. Now, what does that mean exactly? Well, the sealed tape simply signals that your room has been sanitized and vacant for at least 24 hours. You’re the first one in the room since housekeeping. Throughout your stay, enjoy the following perks and safety standards:

    • Rigorous cleaning with hospital-grade disinfectants
    • Unlock your room with digital key
    • Door secured with a seal to confirm guestroom sanitization
    • Scheduled housekeeping service, twice daily
    • Food and beverage mobile ordering
    • QR codes give guests access to information via mobile
    • Removal of certain high-touch items from guestrooms

    11:00am: Pool and Beach Area Guidelines

    After admiring the fact that you made the right choice resort-wise (give yourself a pat on the back), change into your swimsuit and hit the pool. Worried about running into large crowds and not enough space between other guests? Let those worries sail down the lazy river. With optimally spaced-out sunbeds and cabanas, you can sip on your mojito poolside away from fellow pool/beachgoers. Of course, pool parties may still be happening, but with multiple pools to choose from, you’ll always have access to your own comfortable space. You’ll also notice:

    • Social distancing decals marked on the ground
    • Mask wearing encouraged when not eating or drinking for those not vaccinated

    12:00pm: Fine Dining and Bars

    Exceptional food and beverage experiences have always been expected. Now, they’re bringing together all the senses to deliver reimagined experiences in unique spaces (like private dining in premium suites and new dynamic outdoor spaces) – all with a focus on cleanliness and safety. You’ll now find:

    • QR code digital menus
    • Enhanced food safety and hygiene protocols
    • Plexiglass partitions between bartenders and guests
    • Grab-and-go meal ordering
    • Knock and go in-room dining
    • Social distancing and capacity protocols

    3:00pm: Meetings & Events

    Exclusive tools and apps help meeting and wedding planners create safe and effective events. Hybrid meeting solutions provide flexibility regardless of where attendees are located. Resorts have teamed up with medical experts from organizations like the Cleveland Clinic and the Global Biorisk Advisory Council to ensure that meeting planners and attendees alike feel confident that everything they do is with safety in mind. Now, you can expect:

    • Sanitizer stations prominently placed in every meeting room
    • Shielded registration tables
    • Increased utilization of linen less tables whenever possible
    • Care Stations that include PPE, sanitizer, and comfort supplies
    • AV and streaming for hybrid meetings
    • Socially spaced seating in a variety of layouts
    • Sanitized equipment for each speaker

    Would you look at that? You don’t have to wear a hazmat suit! Traveling, whether for business or pleasure, should be enjoyed again. You deserve to feel safe while feeling pampered at your all-inclusive resort, and the above protocols and guidelines continue to welcome thousands of guests back to their favorite beaches, complete with new sanitary programs and the same hospitality travelers have come to expect.

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    The new normal in travel: What will luxury look like?

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    The pandemic has produced a lot of new normals: masking, distancing, soloing, Zooming. And it has also borne a growing new normal in travel, especially in the luxury market. This segment of the travel industry is not new but it is growing at rocket speed, according to a report by Allied Market Research. The global luxury travel market was pegged at $945.6 billion in 2019, but is now expected to hit $1,198.3 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 11.1% through those coming years 2027.

    The report cites the rising inclination toward unique and exotic holiday experiences, increased disposable incomes and related expenditures in the middle- and upper-class economic tiers, and a growth in the need and interest of people to spend more time with family. At the same time, emerging new destinations and the surge in demand for enhanced service standards are expected to add fuel to the energy mounting in this industry segment.

    But as the world continues to reel from a year like no other that saw airlines, hotels, dining services and business travel grind to a crawl, the new normal looks more like a newborn animal teetering to its knees than a robust industry regaining its balance.

    The Ascent of the Private Flyer

    As an odd effect of the pandemic is that the global market for private aviation, estimated at around $10 billion in 2020, is now expected to more than triple to $32 billion by 2028, with North America accounting for some 60% of that market by the end of the forecast period, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com.

    One such private jet company, Wheels Up, reported a whopping 68% jump in first-quarter revenue and a 56% increase in active members, noted one report from CNBC, as growing wealth creation and pandemic fears continue to drive demand for private aviation.

    What does all this shifting mean for the throngs of people taking to the air and heading for luxury hotels near and far as the summer travel seasons gets underway?

    Plenty of inconsistencies and chaos, notes Doug Gollan, editor of PrivateJetCardComparisons.com. In a feature written for Forbes, the former Elite Traveler magazine publisher wrote:

    “…Twenty-five hundred dollars for a standard room, no room service and daily housekeeping on request, but not guaranteed. The good news for luxury travelers is the world is opening up. Five-star hotels and resorts are ready to receive well-heeled guests. However, top travel advisors suggest those who want to get back out there need a fat wallet, moderated expectations, and the help of professionals guiding through what could be the norm for the foreseeable future. Forget dreams of flawless service and deciding where to dine on the spur of the moment. Welcome to the new reality of luxury travel…”

    Image: Elegant Mexico

    Private Villa: Comforts of Home and Away

    However, while some infrastructural segments of the mighty travel industry stand to be buffeted by the winds and waves of the wild return to travel — namely commercial airlines, airports, hotels, resorts and cruise lines — other segments of the industry see nothing but smooth seas ahead. At least that is what Sean Emmerton sees. The CEO of Elegant Mexico and Distinguished Residences felt barely a jolt when the world closed down to travel and vacations became a memory of the 2019 good ol’ days.

    Emmerton’s business is one of booking high-end villa vacations in Mexico, and when the borders within Europe reopen solidly to traveling Americans, he brings a selection of very high-end villas from the ski slopes of France and Switzerland, as well as seaside mansions on the Mediterranean and exquisite country homesteads in Tuscany. However, his portfolio of villas in Los Cabos and Punta Mita, Mexico, have been in high demand all through the pandemic.

    Services have not fallen off, Emmerton says.

    “In fact, a vacation in Los Cabos during this time, as an example, has been extremely opportune to our guests. Prices remain as they were before the pandemic so there are no questionable shifts in rates. And add to that the quiet and lack of visitors during this time. That has meant villa guests have practically been able to have Los Cabos to themselves — no raucous crowds, no waiting for a tee time at some of the world’s top courses, easy access to local cruises, fishing trips, dining experiences, spa experiences, you name it! Our guests were able to have it all, including the beaches, to themselves.”

    Being in the right place at the right time allows Emmerton to be the right answer for the fastest growing travel intention as Americans start traveling again: reunions with friends and family. A recent survey by Wyndham Destinations saw 72% of participants saying they will prioritize traveling to see family and friends, with three quarters saying they are likely to do so before the end of the year.

    The survey also found the desire for home-style amenities is higher than ever. While too much time away can be a difficult pill for more families to swallow, too much time together is also a concern. Thus, the majority of respondents in this survey (82%) said having separate living spaces in their quarters allows for more quiet time when needed, while 75% agree that separate living spaces make family vacation more enjoyable.

    What Travelers Want

    Considering mental health concerns after a time that saw more American loss of life than did World War II, it is not surprising to see a recent American Express Global Travel report note that 87% of their respondents thought having a trip planned in the future would give them something to look forward to and planning for future travel would make them feel excited (63%), happy (53%) and hopeful (53%). Additionally, 78% of respondents indicated wanting to travel in 2021 to relieve the stresses from 2020.

    Adds Michael McCormick, former executive director and COO of the Global Business Travel Association who is now directing the Travel Again project, a nonprofit enterprise developed to unite the global travel industry to restore consumer and corporate confidence in travel, “we’re still in pre-recovery mode.”

    “It’s a hard message because people want to be optimistic,” he said. “They want to feel like, ‘we’re back!’ Suppliers are saying, ‘I’ve got travelers coming on to my planes and into my hotel rooms and it’s like, yes! It’s happening!’ But until we get to a better point with vaccine distribution, and an environment that is stable enough and not having setbacks, and until international travel — specifically international business travel — reopens, we’re not living through a true recovery. We’ve seen downturns before, and the driver of the recovery is always international outbound business travel; this is a global economy.”

    But travel is back and crawling fast, whether that means the perfect beachfront villa with family and friends and plenty of built-in privacy or paying a bit more for fewer services at a five-star resort on a mountaintop. The trip may be bumpy with long lines at the airport and vaccination/testing documents in flux, but the good times are starting to roll and the new memories are more than poised to make up for all the time lost.

    Chris Nassetta, President and CEO of Hilton Corporation, speaking at an Ernst & Young hospitality conference last month, had a few near-term predictions on the matter to offer:

    • Things will be a lot like how they once were but it’s hard to know what all will be
    • There may be more leisure travel
    • There will be greater use of technology
    • People will be interested in buying experiences over things and as pent-up demand is unleashed

    “The pandemic made people question if the Golden Age of travel was dead. The new era of travel is coming,” Nassetta emphasized. “Recovery is going to be fast; people haven’t lost their desire for experiences. There’s a pent-up demand. Globalization will pick up steam again. Hospitality will create immense growth and opportunity around the world.”

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    Nicknames:  Every state has one (or more)

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    Nearly everyone knows that the United States has 50 named states. What isn’t so well-known is that each of those states has a nickname — or maybe more than one. And it’s not just because they needed a clever or unique slogan for their license plates.

    It’s because each state has its own history and backstory that it’s proud to share. Some nicknames come from the pages of history (Delaware: First State and Illinois: Land of Lincoln), while others come from indigenous animals (Oregon: Beaver State, Wisconsin: Badger State and Louisiana: Pelican State). Others come from what grows there (Georgia: Peach State and Kansas: Sunflower State). A few nicknames identify a prominent natural feature (Arizona: Grand Canyon State and Vermont: Green Mountain State), and others simply want to entice you to visit (Florida: Sunshine State, Hawaii: Aloha State, and New Mexico: Land of Enchantment).

    To non-residents, a state’s nickname might seem strange or mysterious — or not at all what you think it means. Let’s look at some examples.

    Connecticut is nicknamed the Constitution State, but this isn’t where the U.S. Constitution was drafted (that was in Pennsylvania), but rather the nickname was derived from a 1639 document called the Fundamental Orders with regulations for the administration of Connecticut towns. It was considered by some to be America’s first written constitution.

    Another oddball nickname from the colonial era — the Tar Heel State — hails from North Carolina where it was born from the fact the state’s pine trees were harvested for pitch, tar and turpentine used in wooden shipbuilding. The sticky residue from this process inevitably wound up on workers’ shoes or boots, hence the name.

    At precisely high noon on March 3, 1889, thousands of would-be homesteaders made a mad rush onto a 1.9-million- acre tract of newly opened Oklahoma Territory to claim cheap land. Some of them came early, before the specified time, earning the nickname “Sooners.” The name stuck and became Oklahoma’s official nickname when it gained statehood in 1907. Apologies to Merle Haggard, but unless you’re an Okie from Muskogee, you probably didn’t know all that.

    Another nickname that stumps most folks comes to us from Missouri. What the heck is a “Show Me” state anyway? We had to look it up ourselves — and here is the most convincing story about how it came to be:

    The nickname seems to have originated from remarks made by United States Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver who, speaking at a conference in Philadelphia, was quoted as saying, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats — and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”

    As mentioned earlier, some states have more than one nickname. Delaware, for example, has four of them. The official one is First State — referencing the fact that on December 7, 1787, it became the first of the 13 original states to ratify the U.S. Constitution. That’s clearly one of the best reasons among all 50 states for a nickname, but Delawareans have conjured up three more of them: Blue Hen State, Diamond State and Small Wonder. Perhaps the Biden State will someday join the list.

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    5 behaviors that make (or break) global relationships

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    This article first appeared in Real Leaders.

    Whether you’re working on assignment in a foreign country or hosting Zoom conferences with teams around the world, your ability to build relationships can make or break your business success.

    In some cultures, the strength of a relationship indicates your trustworthiness as a business partner — and building the relationship depends on five key behaviors.

    Ask yourself:

    How do you greet others?

    We’ve all been socialized on how to greet other people. We might kiss (be it once, twice, or three or four times on the lips or cheek — or in the air), bow (after gauging how low and with whom), or shake hands (using one or both hands to firmly pump one, two, or more times).

    In the U.S., a firm handshake and a toothy smile is the norm. In Italy and France, a double kiss is more appropriate. In Iran, men might greet other men with a kiss or handshake, and women kiss women. In Japan and Korea, bowing is more common.

    In the digital realm, how team members are addressed when greeted — and who speaks first — deeply matter. In many cultures, failing to use formal titles or adhere to protocol means being written off as ill-mannered, impolite, rude, or worse.

    Tip: In unknown situations, err on the side of greater formality. Use Mr., Ms., or Dr. with a surname and more deferential speech. While this may feel inauthentic if you’re more informal, it’s easier to start with greater formality and move to informality over time.

    What’s your social distance?

    During the COVID pandemic, everyone is thinking about social distance and how far they are from others. It turns out, we’ve been doing that long before the pandemic. Even in pre-COVID times, think of the last time someone stood too close or too far from you when they spoke with you. Without any thought, you reflexively moved back or closer depending on your socialized norm. It was a subconscious judgment resulting in an automatic behavior.

    If the person moved closer or further again (using his or her automatic behavior), the subconscious action became a conscious violation. You might judge the person to be “creepy” or “weird” — or just different, depending on how much time you’ve spent with those from a different culture.

    A study of social distance in 42 countries found that preferred distances vary considerably depending on the country. For example, in China, the preferred distance from a stranger is about 110 centimeters, whereas it’s only 90 centimeters in Spain.

    Tip: When you first meet someone, try to remain still. As a reflex, the other person will move to the distance that feels right. For you, it might feel too close or too far, but it will be comfortable for the other person.

    Are you hands-on or hands-off?

    As with greetings and social distance, there’s a wide range across cultures in how much people use touch in conversation. In some countries, it’s a norm to touch another person’s arm for emphasis, to foster connection, or to show empathy.

    In a study of European countries, researchers found many differences. In Greece, for example, 32% of conversations included some form of touch. Yet in the Netherlands, only 4% of conversations did.

    Tip: Be mindful of gender and age differences with respect to who will be open to touch — and whether touching someone of the opposite sex will be viewed as appropriate.

    Are you chatty or silent?

    Do you remember the last time you were in a conversation with someone who either remained silent when you were expecting a response or interrupted you when you were talking? In either case, the flow of conversation was disrupted.

    The use of both silence and interruption has vastly different meanings, depending on the cultures. At one extreme, in some Latin cultures, talking over another person (i.e., interrupting) is a way to express enthusiastic engagement for what’s being said. At the other extreme, in some Asian cultures, remaining silent before speaking is a way to show thoughtful engagement.

    When silence is used correctly in multicultural interactions, those interacting go into a state of conversational flow, experiencing a greater sense of belonging, social connection, and consensus. Without conversational flow, people may feel rejected, and it can sour their view of you and others. Wherever you are on this continuum, your speech pattern can affect how you will be viewed as a conversational partner.

    Tip: Learn how your team members’ cultures affect their communication patterns and use of silence. Seek out foreign movies and TV shows to practice listening to a member’s native language (or accented English) to learn the intonation, rhythm, use of silence, and how engagement is shown verbally and nonverbally.

    Are you comfortable with self-disclosing?

    Zoom calls from kitchens and living rooms have heightened our awareness of our colleagues’ comfort with privacy. Yet these differences are present with or without bringing our colleagues — virtually — into our homes. For example, have you ever met someone for the first time while on a plane, bus, or in line at the market, and, without inquiry, he or she begins to tell you something you thought was too personal? What’s your reaction? If you’re like most, it’s to get away from the person as quickly as possible (if doing so doesn’t require a parachute).

    What’s deemed too personal, however, differs across cultures. In some cultures, as in the U.S., self-disclosing personal information about family, health, and work is comfortable. In other cultures, personal information is limited to a small circle of loved ones and therapists.

    Tip: Begin conversations with something neutral, like the weather. Do your homework on topics. In some cultures, even commenting on a family photo or making a cultural inquiry might seem rude. In team conference calls or Zoom meetings, acknowledge each team member’s personal and professional milestones, respecting differences in privacy. Celebrate virtually if that’s comfortable for everyone.

    These behaviors all influence how you perceive others — and how they perceive you — as you foster relationships. However, this list is not exhaustive. To learn more, consult with colleagues, mentors, and friends who understand the culture and how to effectively build rapport, communicate, and, ultimately, gain trust within it.

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    3 essential KPIs to align creative output with performance

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    Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are measures used to gauge the success of a business, a campaign, a project, an employee, or processes of production. For example, if you send a fax online with an invoice, an accounting department can use this as part of their KPIs to see the time it takes to receive payment of that invoice.

    For creative teams, projects, or inputs, measuring performance can be difficult. Businesses with creative departments constantly question the value of those departments. And creative agencies are constantly trying to figure out how to align their output with their performance. Yet, even though creativity is not easy to define and is hard to measure, it is possible to assess its value using the following three indicators, among others.

    Why Do KPIs Matter?

    The most obvious benefit of tracking KPIs is the ability to measure input against its results, and those results against the performance of your project, campaign, business, etc. There are other benefits, including:

    • The ability to see how far you are from goals or ideal results
    • Boost your brand
    • Informed decision-making
    • Observing progress over a period of time
    • Watching and improving productivity, efficiency, performance, use of resources, and standards

    All these benefits build the direction of your company, ensuring the proper implementation of all business actions and decisions, and providing practical indicators of progress. With the indicators, you can measure small goals that all contribute to the overarching aims of the business’ brand strategy.

    1. A Project’s Estimated vs. Actual Time

    At the beginning of a project, it’s the standard that the client and creative consultant agree on a deadline for the project. The lead time is a metric that measures the time it takes to complete your project from proposal to product. Yes, this is its own metric.

    Determining a deadline is the same as estimating a lead time. Observing your progress against the deadline gives you a brilliant idea of your productivity, guiding you on whether you need to increase the pace of your creative output.

    Monitoring the estimated vs. real times of your creative team’s projects also allows you to have a better understanding of your performance capabilities. You can expand available resources to decrease the gap in the times, because a failure to deliver on time might mean the projects you’re taking on don’t match your capabilities (i.e., your staff is too small to handle a project or your workforce needs upskilling).

    Understanding the trends in the times of different projects also helps you judge which kinds of tasks take longer to complete. This way you can allocate resources accordingly and prioritize processes that need more time to finish. Going forward, you can use this knowledge of your process times to give more realistic deadlines to customers.

    Implementation tips:

    • Set up milestones with their own deadlines (i.e., if you are developing a website, you might provide options of the best site designs as a deliverable). These help you monitor your headway against the bigger deadline.
    • With milestones, you can also take note of which steps in your creative process take longer and find a way to cut that time.
    • Implement more efficient communication channels like a virtual business number specifically for one client.

    2. A Project’s Estimated vs. Actual Costs

    This metric is similar to the first one except it compares the estimated budget stipulated at the beginning of the project to the actual cost of the final creative output. Budgets are key for creatives trying to create the best work while still generating profit.

    Keeping an eye on this measurement assures clients that you spend money thoughtfully, and that profit is a priority. Businesses are about the bottom line, and cost-friendly projects favor their financial performance.

    By illustrating cost-consciousness as a part of your creative process, you’re more likely to get future opportunities. You also make clear the value of your creative output for the performance of the organization.

    Implementation tips:

    • Use adjustable budget software like Excel where you can track dates, expenditure, and changes in the budget.
    • When drafting a budget, conduct research on industry rates, factor in emergency expenditure, and consider cheaper alternatives for resources.
    • Also, monitor the return on investment for the client from completed projects. (i.e., if the creative output is for a product campaign, track engagements with the project on social media platforms).

    3. Customer Satisfaction

    For creatives working on commissioned output (i.e., in agencies or for organizations) — which is what we’re talking about — customer service is key! Awareness of your customers’ feelings about completed projects helps you set a standard of performance and output that you can improve on.

    Whether you’re working internally in a creative department or team, or as an independent contractor, if your client is unhappy with your product, they can stop working with you. You need to make sure your client is 100% pleased or risk replacement.

    Plus, creating consistently great output emphasizes the value of your work for the organization.

    Implementation tips:

    • Post-project survey or a virtual phone call to discuss feedback.
    • Video call with your team to discuss post-project feedback and areas to improve.

    Image: Pexels

    Final Thoughts

    KPIs are a massive field of study, particularly for marketers and creatives, so these three metrics are not the only ones you can use for performance measurement. There are other metrics like employee well-being which you could consider. Deciding on the KPIs to lean on requires you to consider a range of factors. Those include your goals, your field, your creative process, the common kinds of creative projects you take on, resources, and much more.

    However, these three KPIs give you a head start to measure you and/or your creative department’s performance. They highlight important factors in the relationship between creative output and performance: time, cost, and quality. And if you can nail these areas, you can establish yourself as a creative powerhouse that adds value to the performance of any organization!

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    The year of the comeback: What COVID-19 means for associations in 2021

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    For industry associations, recent shifts from the physical space into the digital have brought a serious blow to their highest revenue stream: in-person events like trade shows and conferences. Nearly 60% of association executives report having cancelled or postponed events as a result of the pandemic — often incurring additional loss due to cancellation fees, ticket refunds, lost exhibitor fees, and more.

    At the same time, the function of associations as a source of networking, support, and connection for their industries makes them more valuable than ever to their members in a landscape where disconnection is ever-present. Nothing beats being able to pick up the phone and get advice from someone who “gets it” — especially now.

    This seems to portend the triumphant return of the association. It also adds additional pressure to associations already struggling financially: they must provide value to members in innovative ways while balancing the in-person/virtual hybrid environment 2021 demands.

    Challenges Faced by Associations

    For years, associations have been consulting with their advisors and accountants on issues like member retention, relevancy, and ancillary revenue; today, the effects of the pandemic have exaggerated some of those concerns and completely flipped the script on others:

    Cash Flow: Aside from membership dues, meeting and convention registration fees are the highest source of revenue for associations. Although more than 65% of association leaders reported a projected revenue loss of at least one quarter of their total budgets in 2020, they were previously ineligible for financial support like PPP loan funding.

    Thankfully, things are looking up with the passing of the most recent COVID-19 relief legislation, which expands PPP loan eligibility to qualified 501(c)(6) organizations.

    Cybersecurity: When the onset of the pandemic swept a critical revenue stream out from under them nearly overnight, associations had little choice but to try to take as many events virtual as possible. With this switch came new and heighted security concerns.

    Member privacy has always been paramount for associations; in a virtual setting, with members logging in from multiple locations and conveying and submitting information through digital channels, ensuring the security of everyone involved has become an even greater concern. With additional cybersecurity requirements come additional costs — creating a need for funding that associations haven’t had access to.

    Relationship Management: Simply converting events from one format to another isn’t enough. When events go virtual, it’s more than the literal physical connection that is lost. There is also a loss of opportunity: no chance for water-cooler small talk, no chit-chat over dinner, no truly natural moments for good old fashioned getting to know one another.

    For associations, this has been a two-pronged challenge: how to make sure virtual events are still providing networking and support value for members, and how to maintain close relationships with members and other stakeholders when those in-person moments have been removed from the equation.

    Now, the unique positioning of industry and professional associations brings both challenges and opportunities. Associations have the chance to play a key role in providing the industry-specific peer support that professionals crave — but it will require a strategic approach.

    Considerations for Associations in 2021

    With vaccines being distributed and a positive global economic forecast as the U.S. heads toward economic reopening in 2021, businesses and organizations can approach this year with a more hopeful eye, as market forces give them a chance to breathe after months of strategic pivoting and recurring uncertainty. For associations, this means an opportunity to rebalance their sheets and consult with their advisors and CPAs on reducing spending and recovering lost revenue. It also means time to take a step back and proactively plan for what’s ahead:

    New Funding Opportunities: In late December 2020, Congress voted to expand PPP loan eligibility to qualified 501(c)(6) organizations. This opens up new opportunities for industry associations to balance some of the revenue loss experienced due to cancelled or postponed events.

    Associations should discuss funding opportunities with their accountants, who are already well-versed in the PPP loan program for their charitable nonprofit clients and can help them apply for this funding as early as possible this year.

    Hybrid Models: Associations can expect more fully virtual meetings and trade shows, along with hybrid online/in-person events. They need to be careful to not silo members and must be creative in allowing opportunities to promote programs across audiences, no matter the format of attendance. Creating an integrated member experience will be key to maximizing value.

    Increased Spend: Integrated programming will also give associations an opportunity to marry revenue streams, which will be crucial as they continue to take on an increased tech spend for things like cyber security, virtual communication tools, and more. Associations should consult with their financial advisors on ways to curb these added expenses with strategies like increased event sponsorship opportunities and applicable loan and credit programs.

    Regulatory Issues: Associations also need to consider ongoing regulatory and compliance matters — especially as they pertain to virtual meetings and shows. For example, the IRS has safe-harbor provisions in place for in-person meetings and trade shows, so associations that follow these provisions can feel confident these events are not subject to Unrelated Business Income Tax. However, the changing format of these meetings calls into question whether the safe harbor provisions still apply.

    Also, many states are still evaluating and changing their nexus rules with regard to activities conducted at conferences and trade shows, a result of the landmark Wayfair vs. South Dakota decision. Associations should consider careful consultation with their CPAs and attorneys to mitigate any overlooked risks in these and other areas.

    Intentional Events: As in-person events begin to make a comeback, associations should thoughtfully consider how they can optimize these events to create extra time and space for small relationship-building moments between attendees. After so much time spent social distancing, members will be placing more value on these opportunities for personal connection than ever.

    Relationship Nurturing: Working with other professional advisors to relay information and resources to members will help associations emphasize their value and nurture member relationships. Associations should also consider strategies like trial memberships to attract new prospects.

    Privacy Considerations: Continued virtual meetings and events will mean continued increased privacy considerations for associations. Associations must review and update their privacy standards to ensure the protection of sensitive member data when information is being shared virtually.

    Final Thoughts

    Despite the challenges they have faced in an increasingly virtual landscape, associations are more important now than ever. This year finds members hyper-focused on two of associations’ most defining functions: connection and opportunity.

    Professionals in every industry are both open to and eager for collaboration, and associations are in a unique position to create valuable spaces for members to connect. After months of distance and uncertainty, now is the critical comeback moment for associations: they must leverage the opportunity to optimize and emphasize the value that only they can provide.

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    What to see and do in America’s newest national park

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    Hidden away in the COVID-19 stimulus package passed by Congress on Dec. 27, 2020, was a pleasing bit of “pork” that resulted in the designation of the nation’s 63rd and newest national park — New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.

    Situated in southeastern West Virginia, this rugged 73,000 acre stretch of Appalachian canyon land, coursed by the roaring New, Gauley and Bluestone rivers, has long been a world-class hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking and whitewater rafting destination. It was recognized as far back as 1978 as a national river based on its natural beauty and recreational features.

    The upgrade to national park status will help elevate the gorge to a more road-trip worthy destination for adventure seeking visitors from across the country and it will provide a boost for local businesses — including dozens of tour companies and trip outfitters.

    “Redesignation of the national river to a national park and preserve will shine a brighter light on West Virginia and all that it has to offer, and provides another catalyst for our tourism industry and local businesses,” said U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. She originally proposed a park bill in 2019 along with her fellow senator from the state, Sen. Joe Manchin, who added “this designation will increase the international recognition by highlighting West Virginia’s world-class beauty and resources.”

    New River Gorge National Park and Preserve becomes

    one of just a half-dozen dual-status or “combo parks” — those that include both park and preserve. The park proper measures 7,021 acres around the heart of the gorge, with the remaining 65,165 acres classified as a natural preserve, making it accessible to backcountry hunting and fishing. The park and preserve includes three locations that were already managed by the National Park Service (NPS) — the Gorge itself, the Gauley National Recreation Area and the Bluestone National Scenic River.

    Known simply as “The New” by locals and frequent visitors, the Gorge features 53 miles of free-flowing whitewater, including numerous Class IV and V rapids. One of the most popular stretches is the “Lower New,” a 13-mile gauntlet of wild Class V rapids that is often cited as the most challenging whitewater in the eastern U.S. Seasoned outfitters like Adventures on the Gorge run a variety of rafting trips ranging from wild to mild.

    It’s not all about whitewater at the Gorge. Rock climbers flock to the area, particularly in the spring and fall, to take on the park’s more than 1,400 established routes on hard sandstone walls and cliffs that reach up to 1,000 feet in some areas. There are numerous other hiking and mountain biking trails as well.

    The New River Climbing School hosts daily climbing and rappelling courses perfect for beginners and intermediate climbers. Joining the long list of things to do in the park are some relatively new adventure activities such as ziplining and stand-up paddle boarding.

    The national park designation also is a signal that West Virginia is moving away from its one-time prominence as a coal mining state and towards one with increasing emphasis on conservation and recreation. The outdoor recreation industry in West Virginia is currently a $9 billion industry that supports more than 91,000 jobs. Sens. Manchin and Capito predict that making New River Gorge a national park could boost visitation by 20%.

    www.nps.gov/neri, 304-465-0508

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    Washington Reagan National’s perimeter rule to stay

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    Washington Reagan National Airport’s so-called perimeter rule, limiting the range of where flights can depart to and originate from, is to be retained without change following a government review and discussions with key stakeholders.

    What is the Perimeter Rule?

    Washington Reagan National (DCA) is one of three airports serving the Washington, D.C., area, alongside Dulles and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). Its location close to the downtown area, the Potomac River and government buildings such as the White House and United States Capitol give it a unique and somewhat restricted operation.

    Always popular with business, leisure and government travelers, owing to its central location, DCA is heavily slot-controlled by the FAA, limiting the number of daily movements. Airlines must also use their slots at least 80% of the time or risk losing them.

    It is also restricted, since 1966, by a rule limiting the distance over which flights can operate. This has effectively made DCA a short- and medium-haul airport, leaving longer distance and international flights (apart from nearer parts of Canada) to other airports.

    Today, this limit is 1,250 miles — a range which covers the entire Northeast, Florida, eastern Canada, and much of the Midwest. This allows the intense schedule of shuttle flights to cities like Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Atlanta, plus leisure destination, to be operated.

    In order to satisfy demand for flights to other parts of the United States, a waiver is in place to allow 20 daily round-trips to a range of other cities, including Austin, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, and San Juan.

    The New Study

    A new study into Reagan’s perimeter rule has been conducted by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) and was published at the end of November.

    The purpose of the study was to look the effect of the rule, implemented to help the new Dulles airport establish itself and attract airline services, as well as to reduce congestion at Reagan, on the airport, its neighbors, passengers and airlines. The rule has been amended on three previous occasions, in 2000, 2002 and 2012.

    Image: GAO

    A number of key stakeholders were consulted in the study, including nine airlines, four airport authorities, seven academics, five associations and community groups and two consumer advocates.

    Key findings from the study included:

    • Airlines operating flights outside the perimeter rule accounted for 6% of total flights, and 10% of total passengers.
    • They used larger aircraft and took up more space in ticketing and gate areas.
    • These flights did not contribute significantly to delays at the airport.
    • The flights may have drawn flights and passengers away from Dulles airport.
    • Many key stakeholders did not support a change to the rule, citing concerns about congestion, or negatively affecting other airports. They also considered a change would disadvantage some airlines.

    The Conclusion

    The GOA considered three options for Reagan:

    1. no changes to the current perimeter rule or beyond-perimeter flights;
    2. adding a small number of beyond perimeter flights; and
    3. completely lifting the perimeter rule.

    Following discussions with stakeholders, the decision was made to make no changes to the rule or beyond-perimeter flights at the present time.

    Recommending no change may seem somewhat of an anticlimax. However, this decision reinforces the reasons for introducing it in the first place as still being relevant, and acts on the advice and opinions of others.

    DCA has continued to grow, registering 23.2 million passengers in 2019, which is more than the larger Dulles, and second to BWI’s 26.8 million. It also registered more aircraft movements than any other Washington airport. This year is likely to be a different story for Washington’s airports given the impact of COVID-19, with a drop totaling 78% of flights and 92% of passengers over the previous year. But there’s no likelihood that the previous levels will not be achieved again as the industry recovers, and the report acknowledges that “airports—including Reagan National—may need additional terminal capacity to implement new social distancing practices in response to COVID-19.”

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