The era of Staycations is behind us, and guests have their eyes on more meaningful travel, looking for new experiences around adventure, culture, or relaxation that at the same time give them the familiar comforts of home. Many of us work long hours, whether from our home offices or on the road, so luxury travel, where a lot of the details are taken care of in peaceful and rejuvenating settings, is on the rise.
This year, guests plan to take more trips and spend more money, according to a Q4 2022 study from luxury travel market research firm The Olinger Group. Additionally, hotels are making major investments in this segment - with more focus on luxury accommodations than ever before. This can also be seen through recent news from some of the leading hotel brands:
- Marriott signed 42luxury hotel agreements last year, representing nearly 8,000 rooms.
- Hyatt is elevating their luxury offerings with a new all-inclusive resort line.
- Hilton announced continued luxury brand growth, with new entry markets including Shanghai, Sardinia, Washington, D.C., Kuwait, and Cancun.
As the definition of luxury evolves, what will set hotels apart to offer guests elevated and more meaningful travel experiences?
From classic handwritten welcome notes – all the way to rooms set to customized preferences: temperature settings, music playing and lights dimmed for relaxation – personalization sets the tone. Luxury properties can uplevel the experience through elegant perks and memorable moments that are tailor-made for their guests.
The Nines in Portland, Ore., for example, hired a staff calligraphist to create custom notes and cards for each guestroom as personalized welcome gifts for those who opt into its sustainability program. While the Virgin Hotels’ team places guests’ favorite beverages in the mini-fridge.
From a technology standpoint, many brands are implementing Passpoint, the technology protocol developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA), as a great way to create a personalized experience across any of the same brand’s hotels around the world. It authenticates them to the Wi-Fi network instantly and can provide customized welcome texts, free spirits during happy hour, and other upsell opportunities. This will be a big trend and opportunity for the hospitality industry over the next couple of years, as it’s already gained momentum in other areas of travel.
Seventy-two percent of the 3,000 respondents from the Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts and Stylus survey said they “enjoy working from different locations, and 60% of U.S. respondents plan to add leisure days to upcoming business trips.” As blended travel continues its popularity (or even becoming more commonplace), connectivity becomes a more powerful tool to create luxury experiences. Many hotels offer subpar connections, and it’s almost impossible to feel at home when trying to stream a favorite Netflix show or connect to work Zoom calls like in a home office.
According to the 2023 Lodging Technology Study, “100% of hoteliers surveyed said they currently offer or plan to add mobile check-in, mobile key and mobile reservations this year.” Everything in and around the hotel as part of the experience is determined by the Wi-Fi connections. Whether it’s self-service kiosks, in-room IoT devices (i.e., thermostats, lighting, in-room concierge) or digital keys, everything goes back to the reliability of the network.
A new report by World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and Trip.com Group, together with Deloitte, “revealed a heightened appetite for sustainable tourism amongst consumers, with 69% of travelers actively seeking sustainable travel.” Additionally, The American Hotel & Lodging Association recently launched “Responsible Stay,” an industry initiative to make meetings, events and guest experiences in U.S. hotels more environmentally and socially responsible.”
The hospitality industry is continuing to adopt practices to reverse the environmental impact, including reducing the replacement of towels every day in guest rooms and using greener cleaning products. Hotels are also ramping up recycling programs and adopting reusable food service materials, using automatic lighting and smart thermostats to lower the energy consumption, and implementing QR codes to cut down on paper in their guest rooms, lobbies, and bars. While these efforts are driven by sustainability programs, the byproducts are also elevated experiences for guests. Being able to access hotel perks and menus from a smartphone or digital signage, eating farm-to-table meals from the hotel restaurant, and even using voice commands for in-room controls of lights, heating, curtains, etc. – these changes will help guests choose one hotel over the competition.
As sales of luxury hotels are expected to reach $92 billion by 2025, according to the WTTC, this represents a strong demand for guests looking to create new experiences in this type of hotel. While high-end rooms and comforts won’t ever go out of style, those connections, personalized experiences, and sustainable choices will recreate the comforts of home and provide new experiences that guests will soon seek out when choosing where to stay.
About the Author
Speleos Dravillas is Chief Revenue Officer and responsible for Nomadix’s go-to-market strategy and revenue growth through the execution of technology integration partnerships, strong channel and customer relationships, and industry alliances. He also is responsible for global sales and channel growth strategies and their plan executions. During his past tenure at Mitel and Percipia, Dravillas launched three different cloud solutions and led go-to-market strategies for direct and indirect sales channels. Prior to these roles, he successfully managed a multi-tiered national sales team for BTI Communications and transitioned sales from a reseller model to a managed service provider (MSP) model featuring “as a service” offerings. Speleos is an active member of Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG) and a leader in the Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) community on the local level.