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Hotels must evolve to cater to today’s luxury traveler

The luxury travel codes have changed, and hotels need to recognize them to stay on top of them.


Published June 24, 2024 By Jay Schwartz


Today’s luxury travelers prefer simplicity and comfort over opulence. davit85 via Getty Images


The following is a guest post from Jay Schwartz, executive creative director at Once Upon a Time Hospitality. Opinions are the author’s own.


To stay on top in luxury hospitality, constant evolution is a must. 

Today’s discerning guests have more choices than ever before. The demand for experiential, locally immersive travel has grown, and shows no signs of abating. Luxury hotels and resorts must continually refine their service to deliver what guests really want. 


The traditional luxury model relied on grandeur and excess: grand entrances, large guest rooms and suites, elaborate multi-course dining experiences and highly attentive service. These models often highlighted their heritage — the iconic guests, the prestigious name and the building’s history. 


This is what guests used to seek. But times have changed, and hospitality brands must change with them.           


The new luxury 


Modern luxury seekers tend to prefer simplicity and comfort over opulence. 

With technology providing access to transportation, directions, reservations and other essentials at their fingertips, today’s luxury travelers are more autonomous and less reliant on a butler, concierge or other traditional luxury mainstay. 


Guests want to do what they like independently. This is why the likes of Airbnb flourished, but people looking for luxury accommodation still prefer hotels, according to data and market research company Savanta.


Modern travelers also value experiences over material goods. This behavioral shift is especially prominent within Gen Z, who are projected to make up 45% of luxury travel sales by 2025, according to Forbes. The generation is also driving luxury retail movement, per a Quartz report. 


This has implications for the luxury hospitality market as well. Guests still want nice things — comfort, the best quality produce, spectacular service — but they don’t care as much about the size of the guest room. For instance, they’re happy to compromise on room size if there are unique, beautiful and comfortable public spaces to use. Areas designated for working or flexible space, as well as activities and activations that feel on-brand, can build a genuine connection between the guest and the property. 


And while people still love amazing culinary moments, a local restaurant doing something special is just as covetable as a grand, legacy establishment on-site. 

As technology rapidly advances and changes how operators deliver luxury service, guests’ desires have become more precise. Whatever the guest needs, the best brands anticipate and cater to their guests’ preferences. 


The growing role of soft brands  


Today’s hotel owners are increasingly looking to create bespoke, tailored brands rather than trying to cater to everyone. As such, owners are turning to established hospitality groups’ soft brands to offer luxury experiences. 


Powered by the larger brand’s umbrella, soft brands allow hotels to deliver top service without having to go it alone. Marriott’s Autograph Collection, for example, has expanded to Hungary, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong in the past year. The success has come through offering unique stays while leveraging global recognition and loyalty. 


The power of social media 


Meanwhile, Instagram is a crucial platform for conveying a brand’s tone. Curated imagery and carefully selected user-generated content helps people learn about a property’s essence. 


When it comes to luxury hospitality, it’s important to incorporate Instagram strategy into every brand, identifying key areas where properties can emphasize their “wow” factor. 


The Jaffa Hotel in Tel Aviv, Israel, for example, has a compelling social media presence. On its Instagram page, the property highlights its stunning, meticulously restored chapel, ultra-comfortable rooms and thoughtful details like Jaffa oranges. 


For hoteliers, understanding the behavior of actual and aspirational guests is key to building something meaningful that will engender true loyalty.  

Above all, people value autonomy and convenience. Today, luxury is about the preciousness of time — which is why prioritizing experiences that feel independent and personalized is so important. 


Guests want to do things their way, with flawless, beautiful and anticipatory service supporting them every step of the way. 


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