Luxury travel is growing faster and stronger than ever before, outpacing projections of overall travel growth rates and growing fastest in the entire luxury goods and services industry. For those in the luxury hospitality industry, this is no surprise and great news!
The luxury traveler, however, is known to be the most discerning guest and has ever-changing needs. Therefore, it is critical to understand and shift to meet their needs. Although all travelers vary, there are several trends that are consistent among today’s luxury traveler. When these trends are designed into your property, they can become a competitive advantage and lasting fond memory for your guests.
We know that luxury does not mean the same thing to everyone, however, it’s clear that in mature markets, luxury has evolved to become increasingly measured in terms of experiences rather than things. One key trend driving the future of luxury travel is the shift in values from the material to the experiential, and now to transformational experiences, that offer authentic life-changing travel to an exclusive segment of society that already has, and experienced it all.
For designers, this means a property must be flexible to accommodate the property’s diverse programing that will allow guests to transform themselves by participating, engaging, learning and giving back. A property’s architectural layout and design is the stage for this enrichment programming that enhances the guest’s experience by reflecting the community’s character and soul, forever leaving an imprint of it on the guests. A property’s design needs to provide complete immersion and embrace the local community and its cultural and historical riches to truly challenge and enrich this exclusive market.
According to the 2014 Virtuoso Luxe Report, multigenerational family travel is at the top of travel trends. For luxury travelers, travelling around the world with their parents, siblings, kids, grandkids, and an assortment of other family and friends is nothing new, however, the frequency and expectations are changing. Luxury travelers find this multigenerational travel to be an enriching and rewarding adventure in which they can learn, share and grow together. But as multigenerational travel is taking off, hoteliers are still learning how to adjust to best accommodate the unique demands of this travel niche.
A property’s design plays a vital component in meeting the needs of multigenerational travelers by designing large spacious suites, bungalows, and villas with plenty of room for multigenerational travelers to spend time together, the greatest luxury of all. A delicate balance, however, must be achieved between togetherness and privacy, allowing for the ultimate getaway together with secluded areas for privacy when needed. Expanded suites and villas offer multigenerational travelers shared, spacious dining and living areas, multiple bedrooms and several large bathrooms encouraging extended families to stay longer as well as oversized balconies and patios where guests can enjoy an intimate dinner for two or gather the whole family for breakfast.
Today’s luxury travelers expect seamless connectivity that is unobtrusive and feels like home. As travelers are beginning to blur the lines of business and personal travel, the demand to be constantly connected to high-speed wi-fi and in-room technology, similar to at home, is on the rise. Technology, although hard at work, must remain unseen throughout the property, hiding in the shadows throughout a property’s footprint, but still accessible in the most tucked away corner of the property.
Most properties are focusing their technology efforts on the guest experience prior to check-in, activity inside the guestroom, specifically to boost bandwidth. In fact, in 2016, 36% of hotels have allocated resources to support mobile devices travelers are bringing with them.
But to the luxury traveler, this is simply not enough. Technology needs to be integrated into the design and function of the hotel as a whole. In-room technology needs to be able to be hidden from view when not in use. Guest room TV’s are now designed to blend into mirrored panels in order to remain unobtrusive to the interior space and ambience when not in use. Common areas are starting to integrate interactive walls, gesture-controlled, interactive digital displays that create a story in response to guest movement and interaction, blending into the space when not engaged.
Well-being today is an all encompassing concept that goes above and beyond the traditional spa-like services, meditation and yoga to include a focus on nutrition, energy and relaxation, and essentially bettering oneself. For others, wellness is integrated into their travel with athletic pursuits or the beginning of a fitness regime intended to last much longer than the journey itself.
In designing a property for luxury wellness travelers, it is all about flexibility. An oceanfront restaurant can be a breakfast buffet in the morning and trendy sushi bar at night, depending on the lighting, music and mood. Similarly, a hillside lookout can serve as an observatory during the day, or a sunset yoga retreat in the evening. Understanding the needs of luxury travelers provides designers with an opportunity to identify their multipurpose spaces and program accordingly to then integrate into their wellness offerings.
The Resonance 2016 U.S. Luxury Travel Report recently reported that of the luxury travelers, 78% are likely to participate in health and fitness while on vacation. This focus on activity provides opportunities for hotels to position themselves to the fitness-minded traveler by integrating in-room workout videos, partner with local fitness centres and have an expanded gym facility to top-of-the-line equipment and panoramic views.
RECONNECTING WITH THE ENVIRONMENT
With many spending their days and nights inside, protected from the outdoors, today’s travelers are looking for experiences in which they can reconnect with nature and the environment. In hotel design this means expanding balcony and patio sizes and increasing the use of oversized windows and doors to bring the outside, in. Hotels must be designing or redesigned so that every room features a view of the best of the property’s natural surroundings, with some hotel’s now even designing all ocean view rooms to cater to growing demand. Common spaces also need to be open and free flowing to allow the natural environment pour in.
As today’s luxury traveler continues to evolve, hotel design will respond with more flexible and open spaces, meticulously detailed to reflect the culture, community, and environment in which it resides.