The Montage Hotel in Laguna Beach, CA. Photo: Jon Rawlinson
The very definition of luxury is evolving—and hotels and resorts are adjusting to accommodate the changing needs of today’s high-end travelers, said one hotel executive after another at the 38th Annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference on Monday.
“The next generation of luxury travelers are looking for a different experience, a much more gracious and humble approach, and stripping away the pretentiousness… That different type of service really has pushed luxury to evolve,” said Alan Fuerstman, founder and chief executive officer of Montage Hotels & Resorts.
Homi Vazifdar, managing director of Canyon Equity, added that while the perception of luxury has changed, the fundamentals—craftsmanship, service, and attention to detail—have not.
“People aren’t coming to luxury hotels anymore to awe at the product,” said Michael Glennie, president and COO of FRHI Hotels & Resorts. In order to distinguish themselves, hoteliers are focusing on the overall experience.
That could mean a personal connection with the staff, what Glennie calls “emotional luxury.” Staff would communicate differently with someone on a business trip than they would with a family on holiday. Those connections are what people remember once they’ve come home.
It could also mean activities and excursions the hotel offers. “It’s not just about relaxing anymore. Guests want to get a feel of the culture and location around them,” Fuerstman said. A wellness experience needs to “move beyond just a massage,” for example; the entire stay needs to center around self-enrichment and wellness, including amenities like healthy eating options and a high-quality fitness center.
Food, too, is changing. Dining at luxury properties is moving away from the traditional three-course meal toward a more casual and fun atmosphere combined with top-quality food.
“Understated food and beverages is what is coming to the forefront,” Vazifdar said.
Guests at luxury properties can no longer be pigeonholed. Hoteliers are seeing more multi-generational trips, bringing in three different generations to their properties at a time, so they need to appeal to a wide variety of guests.
An important part of that demographic is the Millennials, who are key influencer of their Baby Boomer parents. “They play a key role in the decision-making and will spend more money on experience and travel than they do on materialistic things,” Fuerstman said.
But, Vazifdar countered with the limited supply in the luxury market, properties have to be consistent and relevant to all demographics.