What are the trends that will continue to shape the future of luxury escapes in 2022 and beyond?
Where designer handbags, watches and jewellery used to be the biggest status symbols, it’s now authentic, individual, personalised experiences that indicate a person’s status or level of success. Travellers want memorable experiences, and tangible products simply can’t fulfil this.
The shift has been explained as a “movement towards authenticity and a sense of place”.
So what are these highly personalised and emerging trends in luxury travel, hotels and escapes?
Here’s the 411:
Luxury travellers don’t want to lose their form or neglect their health when on a vacation or business trip. Increasingly, hotels and lodges are ensuring there’s a health or running concierge on call to make sure that their guests don’t fall back on their fitness routines. They chart out routes around the hotel property and take the guests for a long run on the designated route.
One of the most sought after properties on the travel must-have list in 2022 is the ION Adventure Hotel at Nesjavellir in Iceland who’s adventure concierges can design an unforgettable experience. From booking you a room with a sumptuous bath where you can enjoy a quiet, soulful soak beneath the Northern Lights, to booking you in for a challenging trek across an ancient glacier or a day of fly-fishing in plentiful icy rivers.
Adventure concierges are there to help travellers seeing to experience an adrenaline rush. From preparing you for adventurous pursuits like skiing, biking, hiking to recommending you top spots for your chosen activity, they take care of every hassle that comes along the way. An adventure concierge also ensures the well-being and safety of guests during these adventures.
Covid Safety Labels
Accor Northern Europe became the first major hotel group to launch a unique global cleanliness and prevention label – ALLSAFE – representing some of the most stringent cleaning standards and operational procedures in the hospitality world. The label gives guests a guarantee of health and cleanliness. It is their primary concern and an expected requirement whenever they travel. Accor sought to address these concerns and highlight its highest standards globally via this professional certification. This has also helped to restore consumer confidence in travelling. The pandemic is still on-going in some parts of the world and Covid-19 may not be the last viral threat we face in our lifetimes so providing a blueprint for enhanced hygiene standards across thousands of hotels globally is a huge achievement and something others can learn from.
Legacy and Nostalgia
After a long time away from visiting our favourite destinations, and an on-going moral hangover due to the state of the world, many luxury seekers will be craving the good old days when life seemed safer and more innocent.
They will return to destinations they have loved in the past and seek out places that offer charm, comfort and a sense of the Golden Era. Examples of this include journeys aboard Belmond sleeper trains and stays at historic marvels such as the forthcoming Admiralty Arch Waldorf Astoria hotel in London.
The marking of milestone occasions such as anniversaries and birthdays will be particularly important, as will spending time with the next generation.
Simplicity and Seclusion
As with all trends, there are counter trends. For every luxury traveller who yearns to quaff champagne at resorts in Dubai, there are others who want to disengage from the trappings of wealth. Even people who have been fortunate enough to spend lockdown in beautiful homes, it’s been an enforced period of contemplation.
Many people have lost loved ones or may even have had a brush with death themselves, and will be reassessing how they live and what is important. The Silver Generation are more aware of their mortality than ever, and spending quality time with friends and family will remain high on the agenda.
Although the need for Isolation Vacations won’t be as pronounced as before the vaccine, there will still be segment of luxury travellers who desire seclusion. These people are looking for places that offer them a chance to reconnect with nature, reconnect with themselves and reconnect with others.
In 2022, luxury travellers are looking for more “digital-first” propositions. They want to book and get updates via apps, use their smartphones and iPads as a digital keys to activate lifts and message the front desk instead of calling from a room phone, etc.
Integrated with the hotel property management system (PMS), mobile self-check-in applications provide guests with an efficient yet personalized check-in process while reducing time at the front desk. In fact, when integrated with online payment and keyless entry solutions, self-check-in apps allow guests to bypass the front desk entirely.
A “touchless” check-in process has never been more relevant than it is now. Self-check-in solutions not only help keep guests and staff safe during the pandemic, but improve efficiency and personalization through data automation too.
Mobile housekeeping apps
Although there are less guestrooms to clean at most properties due to low occupancy levels brought about by COVID-19, new housekeeping procedures to mitigate the spread of the virus have made housekeeping responsibilities and schedules more complicated.
Right now, many travelers are wary about physical contact with other people and surfaces. To make guests feel more comfortable, some hotels are offering guests a choice between varying levels of housekeeping service. Some hotels have halted housekeeping service altogether during a guest’s stay to protect the health of both guests and housekeeping staff. Many properties are enforcing a 48-hour or longer room closeout between stays to allow for deeper cleaning and decontamination.
While COVID-19 is still a threat, staying on top of cleaning protocols, schedules and housekeeping requests is of utmost importance. Equipping housekeeping staff with mobile access to the housekeeping report ensures staff are efficient and informed at all times while they work.
Integrated with the PMS, a mobile housekeeping app improves internal communication and workflow by allowing housekeepers to view the live occupancy status of rooms (due in, occupied, do-not-disturb, checked out), and front-desk agents to see which rooms have been cleaned, inspected and are ready for guests in real time. Housekeepers can attach notes and maintenance alarms to rooms as they work, to help keep track of special housekeeping requests, maintenance issues or sick/quarantining guests.
Mobile messaging provides a way for hotels to offer guests a convenient, open line of personalized communication, without physical interaction. Rapidly growing in popularity well before COVID-19 hit, mobile messaging solutions for hotels are now truly an answer for the need of the hour.
With an impressive open rate of 98 percent, text messaging is an effective and efficient way to keep guests informed about COVID-19 protocols and hotel services. For example, an automated pre-arrival message could let guests know you are looking forward to their arrival, include a link to a dedicated URL containing relevant hotel information, and invite them to let you know if they have any questions or special requests.
As a COVID-19 precaution, hotel information folders have been removed from many guestrooms because these high-touch surfaces are difficult to clean. In many cases, properties are shifting this information online. An automated text message sent to guests upon check-in can link to online hotel information, ensuring guests are aware of house rules, the Wi-Fi password, etc., and remind guests that they can easily reach out via text messaging if they need anything.
During their stay, guests can use mobile messaging to make requests without having to make physical contact with the front desk, and on the day of departure, self-check-out instructions can be communicated automatically.
Direct integration between the mobile messaging platform and the PMS facilitates the personalization and automation of messages. In this case, reservation data is sent from the PMS to the messaging platform in real time to automate routine message delivery, and to match incoming guest inquiries with reservation data for more efficient and personalized responses and resolution. This can make a significant positive impact on productivity and customer service, not only when occupancy is high, but also when operating with skeleton staff as business begins to recover.
Smart room tech
Light switches, thermostat controls and TV remotes are high-touch points for guests that can be avoided through the use of smart room technology. Powered by IoT (Internet of Things) technology, smart room functionality can be controlled via mobile app or voice-activated digital assistants like Alexa for Hospitality. Guests can close the drapes, turn on the lights, adjust the room temperature, select entertainment programming, order room service and even turn on the coffee machine using their own smartphone or simply by voice command.
Not only does smart room technology offer an elevated level of convenience that modern travelers desire, but reducing physical contact with high-touch surfaces will make guests feel safer while COVID-19 is still out there.
Smart room technology is a significant investment and doesn’t suit all lodging operations, but it makes sense to consider such solutions for our touchless new normal and beyond. In the meantime, make sure guests know that all high-touch guestroom surfaces are disinfected after every stay.
Many aspects of daily hotel operations have changed in the wake of COVID-19. As long as the virus is a threat, operational protocols that enforce physical distancing and thorough sanitization will be our new normal. From self-check-in to mobile messaging, modern technology can help hotels improve efficiency and customer service as they adapt to new processes and prepare to welcome both guests of today and tomorrow.
Eco conscious touchpoints
Recent data for Oxfam has revealed that the world’s richest 1% are responsible for double the carbon emissions than the poorest 50%. In the future, we can expect a rise in more conscientious luxury travellers who will want to holiday in a low-impact way.
When we talk about virtue and atonement, we are talking about how some people are realising they want to do more good in the world, and to some extent, atone for their sins by travelling more responsibly. They are looking for opportunities to give back to local communities and invest in philanthropic endeavours.
Travellers are also expressing heightened interest in eco-tourism, sustainability and animal-related experiences. Some request visits to animal protection facilities or to observe animals in the wild, such as whale watching and viewing rhinos at close range. Some want to interact more directly with animals, such as at the Instagram sensation Giraffe Manor in Nairobi or dogsledding in the North Pole.
Even more memorable experiences
Luxury travellers surprised and challenged and to learn, appreciate and experience something new. They want to be wowed and blown away.
Once example of a mind blowing experience they’re after is the Nay Palad Bird Nest, a soaring structure set in the middle of Kenya’s Laikipia Central Highlands. Raised up in the air and offering a 360 degree bird’s-eye-view of the surrounding wilderness, Nay Palad Bird Nest is a collaboration between Segera, Nay Palad and the architect Daniel Pouzet. Guests spend a night here following a wildlife drive or guided walk. The Nay Palad Bird Nest is ideal for a one night stay after a wildlife drive or a bush walk in the area.
The nest is lit with lanterns and champagne and delicious food set out on the open-air top level of the nest. Inviting beds (either open-air or within the shelter of the first floor) are prepared with soft linens and hot water bottles, ready for the night ahead. From the comfort of the nest, guests will watch a sunset, feast on a picnic-style dinner and fall asleep under the starry sky. In the morning elephants, giraffes and other animals can often be seen drinking at the nearby river from the nest.
As the world becomes busier and the lines between professional and personal success continue to blur, living in the moment feels more unattainable than ever, and this an issue people are actively trying to address when planning their holidays.
Multilayered expectations and shifting attitudes are transforming the very definition of a holiday. Luxury travellers now desire and expect memorable experiences that they can not only share with their network of friends and family through social media in the short term, but also have in their life experience artillery in the long term.
The industry has had to adapt to cater to this new, modern traveller that wants far more than just a room with a view, and the good news is it’s coming to the party, creating a luxury travel market that is dynamic, exciting and more appealing than ever.
Personalisation and niche curation
Virtuoso’s Luxe Report identified ‘crossing off bucket-list items’, ‘exploring new destinations’ and ‘seeking authentic experiences’ as three top motivating factors for those booking holidays, with destination immersion, or ‘destination intensives’, a high priority.
Clients are asking for prearranged meals and appointments, and are seeking not just restaurant reservations but exact tables at in-demand hot spots. They’re even pre-ordering wine to accompany the meal. They also ask their advisor to book sessions with hairdressers, massage therapists and even tattoo artists, and requests are on the rise for private helicopter transfers to and from airports as well as from one city or resort island to another.
Then there’s the ultra-exclusive, bespoke experiences such as exclusive openings and private exhibitions that more travellers are demanding, and many tour companies are now offering.
People want to explore their passions through bucket-list experiences, such as getting tickets to major events like the Olympics, Super Bowl and Wimbledon. Art aficionados are inquiring about private tours of locales like the Vatican after hours, and shoppers want appointments at high-end stores such as Hermès to purchase signature items like a Birkin bag. Luxury travel advisors are also arranging private dinners with influential local figures.
A recent global study of luxury travellers conducted by Hilton also highlights a surprising reliance on hotel concierges, with nearly one-third of those who travelled for leisure reporting they plan little to none of their trip prior to their arrival, and an additional 47 per cent reporting they leave some details of their trip unplanned until they arrive at their hotel.
Connection and community
Travellers don’t just want any type of holiday – they want boutique, exclusive, elusive, personalised holidays that offer authentic experiences and instil a greater connection to the present moment, destinations and the local people. Ideally, these destinations will also be social media worthy, offering experiences that are highly sharable.
Recent research by global tour company Trafalgar revealed that 76 per cent preferred experiences such as immersive, cultural activities and off-the-beaten-path experiences that deliver authentic connections with locals. 71 per cent viewed trips where they had new experiences as being more important than those where they visited all the sights.
Further fanning the luxury travel experiential fire is technology and in particular, social media. Hotels now frequently receive booking requests from Instagram and sell on the social platform, while picture-perfect destination photos lure consumers to add to their bucket lists, tag their friends and start conversations about their next holiday.
Social media, and in Instagram in particular, now heavily influences the way younger generations research and undertake travel, and plays an invaluable role in the ‘dreaming’ and ‘planning’ as well as ‘sharing’ stages of the five-stage customer travel journey (dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing). Millennials’ appetite for travel content also continues to grow as a ‘fear of missing out’ mentality spreads its tentacles through the aspirational middle class.
As a result, hotels – and even bars and restaurants – are curating more and more ‘Instagrammable’ experiences, creating individual hashtags or social media-led campaigns, enabling the capture of special moments to be shared with followers.
Social media has become so powerful in the world of travel that it has even begun to blur the lines between whether it’s the documenting of the destination itself and the gratification of likes and comments that motivates, or the travel experience itself.
Virtuoso’s research revealed clients are requesting on-site photography sessions to create Instagram-worthy content, including replicating shots they admired online, and Virtuoso advisors are arranging themed photoshoots characteristic of destinations, such as wearing traditional geisha attire in Kyoto or ball gowns in Venice.
The flip-side of this is the growing burden of social media, which, according to Trafalgar is a real thing – 53 per cent of those surveyed said that the pressure of posting on holiday was enough to put them off. For the rest of us, though, the opportunity for boutique experiences and cultural encounters that can be shared on social media are bolstering luxury travel’s boom.
For hotels, technology has allowed operators to record and define guest preferences, cataloguing what they prefer, satisfying the modern traveller’s expectation to get what they want, when they want it, in the way they want it.
But that’s not to say travellers no longer desire human interaction in hotels – quite the opposite. Hilton’s research found that nearly 70 per cent of respondents said they preferred to interact with a person concierge throughout their stay, while only 20 percent cited preferring to use a digital-only concierge. The survey noted that guests who received high-service were more likely to return to a previously visited luxury hotel four or more times. Today’s luxury travellers want it all – quality service as well as the ease and seamlessness that technology brings.
Long stays and living like the locals
In response, tour groups and hotels are now coming to the fore with ‘live like a local’ guides, tours and experiences. Trafalgar’s Be My Guest experiences promise its guests will connect with ‘the soul of the places’ Trafalgar goes, giving travellers the opportunity to ‘break bread with locals who are proud to bring you into their homes, share their cultures and tell their tales’.
These are experiences like joining a family in Croatia’s coastal town of Opatija for dinner, or meeting Marta Cucchia, the last person in the world creating renaissance silk and wool pieces using her family’s 20th century Umbrian weaving techniques.
Trafalgar emphasises ‘unlocking the hidden gems’ with its namesake Hidden Gems tours, so discerning travellers can experience the ‘real thing’ without lifting a finger.
Modern travellers have no reservations about splurging on unique experiences, and for those that feel like they’ve seen it all, it’s about experiencing destinations in unusual ways through quirky and unconventional accommodation.
Whether it’s a treehouse or a monastery, an igloo in Norway, a tent in the Moroccan desert, or a bubble in the Maldives, this desire for novelty is driving the growth of home sharing sites like Airbnb, as well as the demand among tour operators to push the boundaries of a traditional hotel stay.
The fact is that luxury travellers today have higher expectations than ever before. While a sumptuous hotel, spa service and fine wine with dinner used to satisfy high-end globetrotters, this-one-size-fits-all approach is now losing out to personalised and authentic travel experiences that speak to people’s idealised selves.
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Globetrender’s new report on Hotel Trends for the Viral Age – https://globetrender.com/
The Changing Face of Luxury Travel – Luxury Travel Magazine – luxurytravelmag.com.au
Hotel Tech for a Touchless New World – WebRezPro