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سياحة و سفر

Have luxury hotels lost their way?

ترجمة شرقيات:

For those of us who work in the luxury-travel industry, it’s pretty customary to be told you have ‘the best job in the world’. And in some respects that’s true. I used to be the luxury-travel editor of a major newspaper and now through my consultancy LUTE I advise luxury-travel brands on creative strategy, communications and branding. I visit immensely beautiful places and countless lauded luxury hotels all the time and I’m paid for it, so whenever I hear that statement I nod along sheepishly and respond that I’m very lucky to do what I do.

That’s absolutely true, but the follow-up statement that I’d never share with a group of strangers at a dinner party – lest they dislike me even more – is that for all its baubles and shiny packaging much of the luxury-travel industry has become a little bit… boring. If you frequently travel at a privileged level, you’ll see the same names, the same aesthetics, the same formulaic approach to service/spa/turndown/you name it. Does anyone really care that your hotel features Carrara marble? How come a resort in Malaysia thinks it’s a good idea to import bottles of San Pellegrino? Why, these days, do we so rarely see examples of genuine creativity and individuality or a true sense of place?

To put this into context, consider the repeated global collaborations between hotels and big-name chefs. It’s something that exasperates me. If a new hotel opens in Muscat, do high-end travellers really want to try the same sushi menu they sampled in New York or Sydney or London? Though I can appreciate some home comforts, I want to enjoy the most elevated and interesting immersion in a destination possible if I’m visiting one of its best properties. For me, a dining experience is more memorable and valuable if I’m among the first to experience the talents of a pioneering newcomer rather than again encountering identikit dishes those aforementioned chefs have already tried and tested elsewhere (but have now adulterated with a few local spices, so patronising!).

In a miniscule way, I’m perhaps a bit responsible for this. In a hyper-competitive market that is constantly flooded with new openings, I know the decision makers at so many major hospitality groups are under immense pressure to ensure their forthcoming hotel immediately secures coverage from the media, be that legacy titles or major influencers. Importing tried-and-tested names is an expedient way of doing that, but at what cost to the long-term customer experience? I know from my own background in journalism that many of the most notable names we see in the culinary and design worlds are exceptionally astute when it comes to PR and building a personal brand. That doesn’t mean they’re the best at their craft.

It’s my frustration and confusion with all this that has contributed to one of the panels I’m due to moderate at the forthcoming Arabian Travel Market on Wednesday 8 May 2024: Next-level Luxury: How to Stand Out as Truly Premium in an Oversaturated Market. I’ll be joined on the day by executives from some of the key hospitality brands who are tasked with solving exactly that conundrum.

It’s going to make for an interesting conversation, and this is a topic that luxury hotels need to take seriously. We’ve all seen how room rates have exploded since the pandemic. In London, where I live, they’ve more or less doubled. The city’s top hotels now start from about £1,000 a night.

It’s an astronomical amount to ask of a consumer who might rightly wonder what the value proposition is at a time when service standards have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, and they may just be repeating another generic experience they had elsewhere. It’s also worth remembering that the vast majority of UHNW consumers around the world, some 70%, consider themselves self-made and they know what their money is worth. Will they remain happy to pay these premiums if properties are regurgitating the same tired concepts ad nauseam?

I’m reminded of a very wealthy, 40-something friend of mine who used to stay in signature suites at some of the world’s priciest hotels. But then those prices kept on going up, and teams kept messing up, and he got fed up. Now he spends more of his money on art and properties, and stays at Citizen M.

Join us at Arabian Travel Market Dubai

The market leading travel and tourism event brings the whole world together in Dubai, UAE.
Join us from 6–9 May 2024 at Dubai World Trade Center.

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