BLUCHE, SWITZERLAND—What is the future of luxury travel? The major hotel players have been chasing this answer in order to stay ahead of guests’ needs and wants, while staving off the competition. IHG sought out the expertise of futurist Faith Popcorn; Marriott set its sights on courting the NextGen traveler; and disrupters like Airbnb have turned industry norms on its proverbial head.
Whatever the future holds, one thing is already crystal clear: the way travelers experience the world is ever-changing. How well hoteliers explore, adapt or build on new innovations and respond to changing tastes will be something to watch.
In a conversation with Hotel Business, Sonia Tatar, CEO of Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, and Radha Arora, president of Rosewood Hotels and Resorts and a Les Roches alumnus, look into the future and reveal how to take advantage of these insights right now.
“We’ve observed a new breed of traveler emerge in recent years. Influential explorers, as we’ve come to call them, are less concerned with traditional luxury than the generation of 10 or 20 years ago. Instead they are focused on finding value, authenticity and truly local experiences,” explained Tatar. “To best meet the needs of influential explorers, the entirety of the hospitality industry—from hotel owners to hospitality management schools—must rethink its approach and leave behind an outdated traveler profile.”
Now, more than ever, travelers crave unique experiences over pampering and luxury items. According to Arora, the shift started 10 years ago and today, it’s very present throughout the industry.
“Travelers seek experiences because they want authenticity and truth. This is not something a luxurious bag or a new piece of jewelry can provide,” he said. “Our clients have a renewed curiosity toward the world and their inner compass. What they mostly find through these experiences is themselves.”
A sense of place
A focus on incorporating the culture and heritage of a property’s destination into all facets of a property is vital, noted Arora. It’s a differentiator, an opportunity to tell a story with authenticity and individuality, and offer an enriched guest experience.
“The industry increasingly incorporates the culture and heritage of a property’s location into all facets of the property, through art, architecture, design, dining and service offerings,” he said. “At Rosewood San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, there is an amenity called The Artist in You, where guests are provided with an easel and painting supplies to create an original artwork to take home as a memento of their stay.”
Tatar stressed the importance of social media when interacting with the next generation of travelers, and urged hospitality companies to be creative in their approach.
“It no longer suffices to just be present on a platform, there has be an added value for guests and an incentive to co-create content,” she said. “Done right, social media can increase brand loyalty with existing guests, while creating awareness among future guests through original content, campaigns and competitions.”
Arora agreed. “Rosewood centers its social media on individual destinations and creates a guidebook of sorts for guests that can be used as a functional resource when planning a visit or even while on-property,” he said. “Recommendations from peers have influenced the process of booking travel as today’s travelers are focused on finding unique and exciting experiences that they can share on their social media channels. These posts help increase brand awareness organically and also reach a new audience that may not respond to traditional media.”
Better your best
Hoteliers will have a hands-on role in the future of travel as we know it. Both Arora and Tatar believe that in order to attract and retain customers, the industry will need to build on successes and forge uncharted territory.
“It’s always been the same challenge: It is all about being better at what we do. Hoteliers cannot afford to be complacent or self-congratulatory,” Arora said. “They need to go beyond expectations, and that’s even truer with the influential explorer who wants something different, something fresh and something new every day.”
Tatar concurred. “Making the customer experience different and unique will be the driving force of success in the future of hospitality,” he said. “At Les Roches, we cultivate an ‘intrapreneurial’ mindset for the next generation of leaders to think outside the box, and bring innovation and renewal into the corporate world of luxury hotels and resorts. Innovation is key!”