When you think of luxury hotels, what comes to mind? Is it a mountain of soft pillows and ultra-high thread count sheets, a balcony with skyline views, or the opportunity to curate the perfect travel excursions on your next hotel stay? Increasingly, luxury hoteliers are helping travelers live their dreams by finding unique experiences for every guest.
While many travelers still appreciate the finer things in life, when it comes to luxury travel, they now expect that the experience be personally enriching as well as sensually indulgent. What does this mean for hotel managers? Guests still want fine wines and rich fabric, but they want greater personalized attention. A study from global hotel consultancy HVS London found that the upcoming generation of travelers believe luxury means having unique, enriching life experiences.
While it certainly takes money to finance these experiences, it requires much more from hotel staff. It takes a sort of insider knowledge of what opportunities can be created, how to set them up, and how the experience can be upgraded to reflect the guest's personal preferences and style. For example, a guest in Hawaii might want to learn to surf. There are many qualified surf instructors, but only a talented hotel manager can put together a sunrise surf expedition followed by a traditional Hawaiian lunch on a remote offshore island: an unforgettable experience.
By adding in as many personal touches as possible and using the network that you have worked hard to create, you can take something as simple as a request for a surfing lesson and give it the power to have a true impact on guests’ memories. When you do this consistently, with all types of requests, you truly set your hotel apart in terms of the luxury experience delivered.
Brands are increasingly seeking partnerships with luxury hotels, boutique travel agencies, and other partners in the hospitality sector. This expands opportunities for hotel managers to bring the best global experiences to their guests while opening up alternate revenue streams.
Nathalie Seiler-Hayez, AEHL 95, General Manager at the Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland
Hotels are also capitalizing on the desire for rich experiences by creating themed environments or lifestyle hotels. Lifestyle trends that today's guests want include an authentic local environment, food and cooking, wellness, and health.
For the affluent guest who loves yoga, for example, a themed hotel might offer aromatherapy yoga rooms, week-long yoga retreats, a meditation room onsite, and a restaurant with healthy foods. Or a luxury hotel might create a gentleman's experience replete with whiskey bar, cigar bar, bespoke suiting in hotel, and a state-of-the-art fitness center.
There are many ways for innovative hotel managers to bring the lifestyle elements that travelers want to their hotel. Cuisine is an easy way to connect travelers to the region. By increasing the number of local suppliers or pursuing partnerships with local chefs, hotels can truly stand out. Imagine hosting a monthly celebrity chef demonstration or dinner with wine pairing. This would attract local foodies as well as gastro travelers.
Hotels can also bring in local culture by freshening up decor in rooms and common areas, showcasing local food and drink trends on menus, decorating with local plants, and offering enriching ways for guests to learn more about the area. Whether it's by having a local musician play during evening happy hours or by curating locally themed tours combining culture and lifestyle trends, hotel managers can let their creativity shine.
Finally, uniqueness and customization should be the norm, not the exception. Hospitality managers are in the business of making guests' dreams and wishes tangible. Rather than merely offering a buffet of choice for breakfast, bring the spirit of customization to every aspect of the guest experience. Four Seasons made news, for example, when it spent $18 million to personalize the web experience for its guests. While your hotel need not do this, it can create guest portfolios showing important information. This helps reception staff greet guests and tend to their needs from check-in onwards. With repeat guests, there's an opportunity to further personalize their stay by mining past data. For example, if a guest ordered a favorite wine from your hotel bar, why not reward them for their repeat stay by having a glass of that same wine sent up on the house?
Photo credit: Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland