The 2017 Luxury Travel Trends I'd Like to See
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Hilary Stockton
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The 2017 Luxury Travel Trends I'd Like to See

 

I'm not a trendy person, but I do know a thing or two about luxury travel, both by planning luxury trips for TravelSort clients, and as a guest, because I personally have stayed at most of the luxury hotels and resorts that I reserve for clients. Based on these experiences, these are the 2017 luxury travel trends I'd like to see:

1. Luxury Hotels: More Personal Warmth and Intuition

Forget Butler service (unless the hotel happens to have a true Jeeves-like gem). I've yet to make much use of St. Regis-style butlers and "Allow Me" service, which seems to mainly consist of unpacking (no thanks), bringing coffee or tea (I'd prefer an in-room Nespresso machine and tea kettle) and referring me to the Concierge for other requests (so a waste of a call).

Instead, I'd like to see more luxury hotels and resorts adopt an Aman Resorts-like approach in recruiting naturally hospitable, warm people and training them for the specific tasks of their position. Front line staff often make or break a guest's experience at a luxury property. Having the right intuition as to what a guest would like even before s/he asks for it, and expressing empathy in a genuine, not artificial, and respectful, not overly familiar way, is an art.

 

2. Luxury Hotels: More Focus on Mattresses

It's amazing to me that luxury hotels, apart from Four Seasons, haven't focused more on customizing the sleep experience for their guests. After all, several mattress makers have long touted the ability to find you the perfect mattress, whether you prefer an extra firm sleep surface or want the plushest pillowtop imaginable. 

And yet, to my knowledge, only Four Seasons (and only the new or newly renovated hotels and resorts at that) give you the option to customize your mattress, by way of three choices of mattress topper. You would think that since guests could easily spend 40% or more of their time at a hotel sleeping, luxury hotels would want to make that as comfortable as possible for them. Sleepless, cranky guests, after all, are not inclined to leave stellar reviews.

New Four Seasons Bed, Four Seasons St. Petersburg, Russia


3. First Class Cabins: Humidifiers

Lufthansa First Class apparently does have humidifiers installed on its A380s, but since I haven't yet flown Lufthansa First Class on the A380, I can't vouch for how effective they are. I do wish, though, that Lufthansa and other major international airlines would install humidifiers in ALL their first class cabins, to improve the passenger experience, including sleep.

The Etihad First Apartment Shower on the A380 and Emirates A380 First Class shower are great for temporary relief from the dry air, but working humidifiers would be even better. I know that humidifiers are critical to us at home in NYC in getting us through the winter, when the air is incredibly dry, but on a flight the humidity is even lower, and on a long flight, it causes quite a bit of sinus discomfort and adversely impacts sleep.

I suppose it's time for me to try out some travel humidifiers, although I have my doubts as to how effective the small portable ones can be or how long they'll effectively last. 

Emirates A380 First Class Shower is Great, But Humidifiers Needed

 

4. Asia Pacific: More Welcoming to Well Behaved Kids

For some reason I encounter more "adults only" luxury hotels, Club Lounges and restaurants in the Asia Pacific region, although there are of course properties in Europe such as Monastero Santa Rosa and elsewhere that are also adults only. I certainly understand that the hotels and restaurants in question are trying to preserve a certain ambience, but basing it purely on age is both over and under inclusive. Underinclusive because there are plenty of poorly behaved, disruptive adults, and overinclusive because there are many mature kids that are as well (or better behaved) than most adults. Plus, the advantage with children is that they won't be drinking any alcohol, so there won't be any alcohol-induced behavior problems.

So why not have a policy that is instead behavior-based, stating the type of environment that the property or Club Lounge is maintaining for the enjoyment of all guests, and that those who cause issues (including but not limited to a fellow guest's complaint) will need to leave? Or at least use property discretion in terms of the minimum age, in the case of boutique or smaller hotels. 

Four Seasons, more than any other luxury hotel brand, has nailed this, in my view. Yes, there are many Four Seasons properties that are highly appealing to honeymooners and childless couples, such as Four Seasons Bora Bora, Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, Four Seasons Hualalai, Four Seasons Seychelles, etc., but Four Seasons makes a point of providing complimentary kids' clubs that also make these great family destinations, in addition to creating adult only pools and couple's spa packages and experiences that provide a tranquil experience for couples.

The business case for appealing to children as well as couples is simple: those children that Four Seasons makes happy can persuade their parents to return to the resort (among many of my family clients, children heavily influence vacation decisions) and those kids could have the longest lifetime customer value, depending of course on their weath and vacation spending later in life. After all, those kids will be around longer than any of their adult customers.

Feeding an Eagle Ray, Four Seasons Hualalai Kids' Club

 

5. Business Class Cabins: No More Angled Flat Bed Seats

If you sleep well on angled flat bed seats, count yourself lucky. Most of my clients don't, and that's one of the first things they ask about if they're considering a business class flight. And this is a real deal killer for some when it comes to pure leisure destinations such as Bora Bora, since there are still no flat bed seats to Bora Bora from the U.S, although hopefully that will eventually change. I can never sleep on these types of seats, and hope to never do another red eye flight on an angled flat bed seat, if I can help it. 

 

6. Luxury Hotels, Restaurants and First Class Cabins: More Organic Food and Vegetable Options

Most luxury travel clients take care of their health, and that includes eating organic food as much as possible. Yet remarkably few luxury hotels, restaurants and first class cabins offer organic choices, including creative organic vegetable main dishes and free range meats with organic vegetables on their menus. Yes, organic costs more. But luxury products cost more as well, as these are the food choices many luxury travel clients make for their own consumption at home.

 

7. Local Music, Dance and Traditions Integrated in Luxury Hotel Offerings

A luxury hotel or resort shouldn't look and feel as though it could be anywhere in the world; it should offer some of what makes that destination unique. Aman Resorts is particularly good at including local music, dance and food traditions in its resorts, such as the gamelan musicians at Amanjiwo, the mesmerizing Balinese dance performance we saw at Amankila, the Cambodian music and dancing we saw at Amansara, and the local rice cakes made at afternoon tea at Amanoi. Four Seasons Hawaii resorts such as Four Seasons Hualalai and Four Seasons Maui also have extensive Hawaiiana cultural offerings. I hope that these traditions will continue and be expanded on at Aman, Four Seasons, and other luxury hotels, so that they offer guests authentic local experiences.

Which 2017 luxury travel trends would you like to see?

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Comments
Picture?type=large Peggy L. commented 18 Dec 2016
Luxury hotel or otherwise, a great pillow is important to me. I can deal with most any mattress, but a firm pillow is crucial to me (as a side sleeper) for neck support. The soft (down?) pillows most hotels offer require doubling them up, and then it's too much. My neck invariably hurts. A couple of IHG member chains have both types on a bed, with each one identified as soft or firm. I love that! A few Starwood hotels have wonderful pillows too.
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 18 Dec 2016
Interesting! I don't even use a pillow, so I never care about the supplied pillows--only about the mattress, whereas my husband cares both about the mattress and the number of pillows. I will say that I love how Aman keeps track of the exact pillow requests, say a thin down pillow for one spouse and a Tempurpedic foam pillow for the other, of my Aman Junkie clients, along with their food allergies. I send these along anyway, out of habit, but so far Aman has been great at having all of these allergies and pillow requests already noted.
Picture?type=large Peter W. commented 18 Dec 2016
I agree with everything you listed, especially #1. Like many others, I too have experienced service at luxury hotels from staff that lack warmth. I do understand that it is not easy to find and retain the right people, or that the person you hired later turns out not to be what you thought they were when you hired them. I think this is a battle that all businesses struggle with. One thing that I surprisingly encounter often is weak or poor service from concierges at luxury hotels. I always approach people with a smile, a friendly voice, and a greeting and usually get good service in return. For some strange reason this does not always work when I approach concierges, especially the highly trained ones who wear the prestigious crossed gold keys. Whenever I encounter one, they all seem to have this pompous attitude, that they are busy and important people who are doing me a favor by speaking with me. They all seem to be in a hurry and want to quickly brush me off and get on with their work. I have experienced this at the Four Seasons in Hong Kong and Singapore, and also at the Intercontinental Hong Kong. I once asked for book store recommendations and they did not have any to recommend and only gave me the name of one book store. I found more on my own. In Singapore I asked for recommendations for City Tours and all they did was hand me a brochure and said that was all that was available and to go read the brochure myself. No recommendations or any other info. Who needs concierges like that? At the Intercontinental in Tokyo when I asked for tour recommendations the guy with the crossed gold keys also just gave me minimal information. I have yet to come across a friendly concierge who has the crossed gold keys pin. Conversely, I receive much better service from concierges who don't wear the crossed gold keys pin. Any insights Hillary? Regarding butlers: I actually find them to be very helpful when I travel to Bali. Here are some of the things that I regularly ask them to do for me: 1. Get my clothes washed at an off-site commercial laundry that only costs 10% of what the hotel would charge me. He picks up my clothes at my room, I give him the cash, and he delivers them when they are done. 2. Get them to go and buy local sim cards for my travel phone and have it installed and set up with a local number. (I used to do this myself and now save myself a lot of time and hassle by asking the butler to do this). 3. I have him order food from local restaurants to be brought and served at my hotel suite. The offsite restaurants are far cheaper (50-80% less) than what the luxury hotels charge. 4. When I am offsite sometimes I call him to ask him to order a taxi for me to get me back to the hotel. 5. I use him for any task that I can think of that I can delegate. So, I am a fan of having butlers.
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 19 Dec 2016
Peter, thanks for your detailed comment and sharing your unfortunate experiences with Les Clefs d'Or Concierges. I agree, those are really disappointing responses in the examples you mention. While I admittedly don't use the Concierge at every hotel I stay at, especially in cities I know really well, I've been more fortunate and can only recall one time I was dissatisfied with the response I got from a Les Clefs d'Or Concierge. That said, I think membership is not as difficult to achieve as one might think--you have to have worked full-time as a Concierge for 5 years, be sponsored by current Les Clefs d'Or members, have a recommendation letter from the hotel's GM, etc. So the Les Clefs d'Or designation in my mind signifies that the Concierge has several years of experience, but doesn't necessarily mean s/he has a friendlier demeanor or better service ethic than a colleague without that designation. Also, and this is not an excuse, but I think another factor that may be contributing to what you've experienced is that even some luxury hotels don't staff their Concierge Team appropriately, given the number of guest requests, perhaps because it's a cost center and isn't viewed as contributing to profit. I find this to be especially true in Tokyo, which is harder than a number of other cities for foreign, non-Japanese speaking guests to make top-tier restaurant reservations in. Good point about Bali--it doesn't surprise me that you were able to get your butler to do these things there--but try that in NYC at the St. Regis and I think you won't get the same response :)
Picture?type=large Peter W. commented 19 Dec 2016
Hilary, I agree with your comments on the concierges. I also do think that some of them are shall we say "selective" in who gets better service. All one has to do is to sit in the lobby for about 30 minutes and observe how they interact with different guests.
Picture?type=large Peter W. commented 19 Dec 2016
"try that in NYC at the St. Regis and I think you won't get the same response" Of course not Hilary - because in most hotels they only have fake butlers who really should be referred to as "Limited Service Assistants" and not as butlers. Its ingenious for hotels to call someone a butler when they don't do the things that a real butler does. I know several people who have real butlers and they do all the things I referred to in Bali and much more. It's like calling someone who works at McDonalds a chef - I don't think so :)
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 19 Dec 2016
McDonalds, however, isn't advertising itself as having "Chefs," whereas St. Regis actively promotes its "Butler service" and is the main mass luxury hotel brand to advertise "Butler" service. I'd argue that it's counter-productive, since clients who know what true butlers can provide will be very disappointed by the limited services a St. Regis butler is willing to do, and even those who are new to butler service will wonder why St. Regis bothers advertising such a service that doesn't amount to much.
Picture?type=large Peter W. commented 19 Dec 2016
"...why St. Regis bothers advertising such a service that doesn't amount to much." When it comes to level of service, my wife says: "most people have no idea what truly great service is until they go to Bali". (Of course you have to go to the right places). Here is an example from 2015: As my wife and I were walking out of our hotel one morning we ran into one of the managers who was at the check-in counter. He asked me what my plans were that day and if there was anything that he could do for me. I replied: "Can you please tell me where I can go and buy a Balinese dance costume and how to get there? I want to buy one for my daughter." He replied: "No need for you to go out looking for one. We are having a Balinese dance performance at our sister property this evening and our hotel driver will pick you up at 5PM and take you there to meet our dancers and their coaches. You can then choose which dance costume you like best and tomorrow morning we will buy the costume you chose and will have it delivered to your room by noon." Wow! Talk about exceptional service. Later that evening we were warmly greeted by the manager of the sister property who then escorted us to meet the dancers and their coaches/managers. They in turn warmly welcomed us and introduced us to all their dancers and displayed their dance costumes. Once we chose one, the dance coach then gave us instructions on how to put the costume on (I recorded it using my phone). After watching the dance performance they took as back to our hotel. All of this was free and complimentary and the only thing we had to pay for was for the dance costume that we chose (for a very modest price). And yes, the costume did arrive by noon at our room the next day. There were other wonderful service touches that we experienced at this 4 star hotel. After staying here we then stayed at Amankila which not surprisingly was also awesome. When we asked our kids in 2015 if they would rather go to Europe or Bali for our family vacation in 2016, without any hesitation they both insisted on going to Bali. They've already been to Bali 4 times and like it far better than Europe. While I love going to Europe every year, the service there just does not compare to what we get in Bali.
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