Inner Circle: Filip Boyen CEO, Forbes Travel Guide shares his thoughts on luxury service culture

1 South Beach, Forbes Travel Guide 2020 Star Winner (I South Beach - Host Hotels )

Culture will happen whether you lead it or not – so it’s incumbent upon leaders to take the reins in establishing the values and goals of their organizations, conveying them clearly to their employees, and providing support and encouragement for employees to meet those goals. A dedication to service and the guest experience is a defining goal of luxury hospitality.

I started my career when I was 19 as a commis chef, working my way through the kitchen ranks to become an executive chef. My entire career has centred around luxury service culture and what that entails. I believe that it always starts with people. Culture is the people, their attitudes, behaviours, and beliefs.

Swiss chef Daniel Humm of Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Eleven Madison Park in New York City once wrote, "No tablecloths, silver cutlery, fine porcelain, sommeliers, or deep wine lists—that's fine. But no service or hospitality? That's going too far."

The luxury hospitality brands that excel are those that cultivate and embrace highly distinctive brand cultures. Even as they preserve heritage and regard traditions, they also ensure their people remain aligned with the changing social, economic and market conditions through necessary adaptation and innovation.

Throughout my more than three decades in the hotel industry, I have witnessed luxury service culture’s evolution, shifting from the material to the experiential and personalized, and now I believe we’re at a time where guests are demanding ‘relevance as a service’.  Guests are always in a state of flux with different needs at different times, and it takes the human touch to identify this.  As chef Humm points out, the emotional elements of service must never waver. Gracious, anticipatory service is not a trend; it should remain a constant.

The Evolution of Luxury Services

However, luxury service culture continues to evolve, and we've seen a seismic shift in consumer trends. We have studied how hotels are using technology now for some time, and this year, we officially incorporated a Digital Services section into the official rating evaluation. This section offers a set of standards that specifically looks at the quality and convenience of the technology on offer that enhances the guest experience.

Although technology is a vital part of life in today's world, it must support the service culture of the hotel, and cannot replace it. Our focus is, ultimately, on the guest experience. The way we determine the final score of a property's Star Rating at FTG is based upon 75% of the property’s Service achievement and 25% of its Facility performance.

Would you ever go back to a hotel where the facilities are lovely, but the service is terrible? Of course not. That is the power of service. We see how passionate and dedicated a lot of the hoteliers are, and how committed they are to attaining a Forbes Travel Guide Star Rating – which is onerous. Only about 20% of all hotels achieve our highest Five-Star Rating.

Luxury service culture is measured in numerous ways — outstanding facilities, tremendous services being examples. However, we believe an infallible luxury service culture is demonstrated through small acts of hospitality, such as providing a meaningful experience by adding a little attention to detail. But no matter how large or small, it should always create an emotional connection with guests.


Filip is part of the Inner Circle, a group of industry leaders and innovators we have brought together to help us contribute to debate in the sector.