How is luxury travel keeping up with the demands of the modern traveler?
LUXURY is perhaps one of the travel, hotel and hospitality industries’ most overused term.
For decades it has been used to represent a variety of things, from lavish rooms to exquisite gastronomy, to exclusive perks and bespoke itineraries. So much so that luxury travel has increasingly become harder to define.
Due to cultural, societal, and technological changes as well as the coming and going of trends, luxury travel has become very subjective and a variety of things be it tangible or intangible now appeal to travelers.
The traveler types of yesteryear do not adopt the same habits as the Millennial (and Gen Z) travelers.
So, how do you define luxury travel and more importantly, how is luxury travel keeping up with the demands of the modern traveler? Hilton Asia Pacific Luxury and Lifestyle Vice President of Operations Daniel Welk provides some insights from within the industry.
Luxury travel is often synonymous with lavish rooms and exquisite gastronomy, measured by thread count and Michelin stars. Has that changed?
While the concept of luxury is constantly evolving, certain elements, such as beautifully decorated rooms and suites and unforgettable gastronomic experiences, are still very much relevant today.
Another indispensable element of the luxury travel experience that remains relevant today is that of impeccable service.
Nowadays, in addition to seeking the ultimate in exclusivity, privacy, and security, modern luxury travel has become more focused on the intangible rather than the material, as guests seek something new, unique, unforgettable and sometimes unexpected.
Furthermore, beyond experiential luxury, there is a growing desire for travel experiences that are transformative, involving a change in the traveler’s perspective, allowing for plenty of self-reflection and development, while typically also entailing a deep immersion in nature and culture.
We are keenly aware of these emerging trends and have ensured that we evolve along with them in order to continue to offer our guests exceptional experiences.
There have been stories and studies about Millennials seeking more adventures and unique or authentic experiences from their travels. What is Hilton, a global brand, doing to accommodate this? How has luxury travel evolved to adapt to the new breed of travelers: the young and rich Millennials?
With the Millennial generation traveling more than any other generation, including Baby Boomers, the changing habits, tastes, and preferences of Millennials will be critical in shaping the future of travel, and I believe this will prove to be a very exciting time for those of us in the industry.
In recent years, a new breed of travelers has emerged – the Millennial luxury traveler.
For this particular type of traveler, ‘Instagrammability’ has grown rapidly in importance.
With more than 40 percent of travelers under 33 actually prioritizing ‘Instagrammability’ when choosing their next holiday spot, it has become abundantly clear that luxury travelers want to share their experiences on social media,and that this is the case even among UHNWI (ultra high net worth individuals), looking to stand out from other individuals.
With this in mind, we seek to offer them unparalleled experiences, by creating authentic moments that become unforgettable memories – and, inevitably, ‘Instagrammable’ ones.
In this day and age, what would you say are some of the biggest misconceptions about luxury travel?
One of the biggest misconceptions that exist today is that luxury travel is for the older age groups, when in fact the Millennial generation is quickly rising to become the most important segment of the market. We are seeing more Millennials aspire to the luxury experience and being savvier with their incomes in order to ensure they are able to enjoy luxury travel experiences.
Additionally, over the next decade, Millennial travelers will be entering their peak earning and spending years, making it even more pressing for the industry to debunk this misconception – or we risk missing out on a huge growth opportunity.
A lot of people are also intimidated by the idea of luxury when the reality is that the definition of luxury is changing, and the modern idea of luxury is a lot less formal and stuffy. Instead, luxury has evolved to become more relaxed, approachable, and comfortable.
Yet another misconception that persists is that luxury travel does not entail true immersion into a destination. At Hilton, we are keenly aware of the growing desire luxury travelers have to live like locals, and tailor our guest experience accordingly.
In terms of “hardware”, facilities, and amenities, how has Hilton upgraded to serve the modern, tech-ed up traveler?
In line with the demands of today’s tech-ed up traveler, we’ve ensured that our latest innovations enable far greater personalization of the travel experience, such that our guests can utilize our digital tools to customize their individual experiences, allowing for the same level of control and convenience at their fingertips that they are used to back at home.
A prime example of this is our Digital Key, which allows guests to use their smartphones as a room key, bypassing the front desk check-in.
We offer this along with Digital Check-In, the industry’s first-and-only opportunity for guests to select the exact room they want, based on interactive floor plans and Google Maps API, making it easier than ever before for our guests to decide if they want to be near the pool or elevator and if they prefer a view of the courtyard or city skyline.
At the same time, we are piloting what we call a ‘Connected Room’ to deliver a mobile-first room experience for our guests, empowering them to tailor all elements of their stay from the palm of their hand; from streaming their favorite television channels, controlling room temperature and light settings, to ordering extra pillows and towels.
We are currently testing the Connected Room beta technology in a handful of hotel rooms and will launch this first in the US, followed by the rest of the world.
On another note, how has the rise of solo travel impacted the hotel and hospitality industry, an industry that often targets couples and families?
There has indeed been an increase in solo travel and I believe it has given rise to a more confident, independent and well-connected traveler, who has access to an abundance of travel-related resources and information, as well as being accustomed to having technology at his or her fingertips.
At the same time, we continue to also see family travel grow; for instance, in the Chinese market, where multi-generational travel is on the rise.
Indeed, in this Golden Age of Travel, we are seeing travel in all its different forms flourish, presenting a huge opportunity for us to continue creating exceptional experiences for guests and delivering superior returns for owners through the right brand in the right location.
By going back to the basics of hospitality, offering guests simple service at their pace, as well as comfortable spaces that invite guests to stretch out and make themselves at home, we’ve created a whole new category, accessible lifestyle, that resonates with this sort of traveler.
Ultimately, as a company, we are driven by our goal of serving any guest, anywhere in the world, for any lodging need they have – whether they are traveling solo, as a couple, or are after a more family-friendly vacation.