Luxury hotels are upping the ante

Elements that once were restricted to luxury hotels often become available in upscale, midscale and economy properties within a few years. With that in mind, the definition of what luxury hotels can be and what they can provide for their guests is constantly evolving, and hoteliers have to keep an eye not only on trends, but on what remains constant.

Defining Luxury

Isabel Gracia, director of sales and marketing at the W South Beach in Florida, defined luxury as “having something that you don't think that you need put inside your hands.” The hotel emphasizes “comfort luxury,” she continued, “because we want to make sure that we are able to customize your experience based on your wishes, based on your desires.” The property has expanded the brand’s insider program, which connects guests with dedicated specialists to handle any requests, from the traditional one per hotel to six.

An insider, Gracia said, is “not necessarily a concierge” but is rather a “go-to person” available to do anything a guest needs at the hotel or within the surrounding area. Director of Guest Services Santiago Perdomo said he hopes to ultimately have 10 insiders at the hotel, each overseeing 35 guests. “Our goal is really to personalize and curate everyone's experience,” he said. To drive a more personal connections, the insiders do not wear name tags and will introduce themselves to the guests in person. This way, they can determine if the guest prefers to go by the first name or surname without having to ask.  

Luxury can be found in attention to detail and in building a connection between the hotel team and the guests, said Dino Micheal, senior vice president and global category head for luxury brands at Hilton. “The more you engage with us, the more we can enhance your stay.” Team members are trained to be anticipatory, he explained, and look to body language to determine what makes guests comfortable. “For example, one of the things that we often teach [is] when a guest arrives at a hotel and they step out of the car, if they move to the rear of the car to get their luggage, they may be a little bit more hands-off. Let them get their belongings.” Alternatively, if a guest leaves the bags for the hotel team to collect, they may want more contact with the staff. 

Todd Wynne-Parry, managing director at Horwath HTL, said luxury hospitality should be sufficiently intuitive that guests do not need to ask for what they need. “Somebody's already figured it out for you,” he said, “whether it's a pathway to your door, directional signage to a walkway or earplugs in the room because there's a train that goes by two in the morning.” 

Emerging Trends, Constant Qualities

Wynne-Parry noted the “massive demographic trend” that younger generations—especially millennials and Gen Z—appreciate experiences over material things. “What’s seen as aspirational now is taking care of yourself,” he said. “You're thinking about wellness, you're spending your money on experiences that show you out in nature, which automatically has amazing healing properties.” 

Michael agreed, noting that design can play an important part in promoting wellness. For example, quiet “pockets” can be created within the hotel (or even outdoors) for guests to “sit, reflect, meditate, just be alone—but be in the environment.” Creating spa facilities also requires careful consideration, he added, from being certain the venue has the right amount of treatment rooms to incorporating the right cultural dynamic.

The basic elements of luxury still haven't changed, Michael said. “With luxury, you become a little less prototypical. We really want to focus in on that sense of destination, a sense of geography—really wanting to entwine local codes [with] design. … When you walk into any Waldorf Astoria, you want that sense of destination to hit you first, and perhaps the sense of brand comes a very close second.”

This is the second part of a series about luxury hospitality development and operations. Read the first part here.