The Luxury Hospitality Trends Report: An Industry in Flux
It’s impossible to talk about the state of travel and hospitality without frequent (almost tedious) mentions of the COVID19 pandemic. Beyond the obvious tragedies, it changed the world as we know it; grinding life to a halt, closing business doors (some permanently) and forcing an international reevaluation of what counts as normal.
No one can put a pleasant spin on what happened. And nor should they. It was genuinely horrible. And we’re still feeling the tremors of that 2020 earth shattering today.
You’ll have heard the soundbite ‘The X industry has bounced back to some extent’ permeating every news outlet charting the post-pandemic road to recovery. As pessimistic as those words sound when strung together, they are true in most contexts. Industries are bouncing back. Slowly but surely in many cases.
And while staff shortages, supply chain issues, recessionary pressures and more have presented setbacks across the board, travel & hospitality sectors are still thriving thanks to the rise of the experience economy, born of a global lockdown-induced ennui. And we all know what happens when the high net worth get bored.
1) Maximalist Mindset
After a solid spate of ‘revenge spending’ (just under 900 super yachts were sold last year, up 77% from 2020), brands can expect luxury buyers to be more selective in their purchasing decisions, but no less opulent.
Restrictions on just about everything resulted in pent-up demand for sensory experiences, anything perceived to alleviate the banality of life in lockdown was immediately sought-after once homes, hospitality and borders reopened.
Chic bar Erma in Chengdu, China uses mood lighting in more theatrical ways to create ambiance, appealing to the senses with neon pops of pink, orange and blue.
Slightly further into the Pacific, Tokyo’s 1950s listening bars are inspiring restaurateurs and hoteliers in every corner of the world – London’s new cocktail bar Seed Library, despite its ‘stripped back’ ethos, elicits sensorial pleasure through an audio-first approach. A curated playlist of vinyl records pours from a retro DJ booth aurally reflecting the bar’s ‘lo-fi, analogue’ style of mixology.
And they aren’t the only ones. The House of KOKO, a London music venue and member’s club, guns for the same sense with dedicated listening rooms full of records.
More than mere moments, this emerging lifestyle translates into a fervent interior design trend as well. Plenty of hotels, resorts and venues the world over are imbuing their spaces with artful architecture and visually arresting pieces to frame these sensory-led social spaces.
Moët & Chandon opened their largest standalone champagne bar in Harrods earlier this year, a gold ceiling and curvaceous counter ‘hand-sculpted to mimic the undulating terroir of the Épernay Champagne region’.
Across the city, speakeasy-style cocktail bar Soma is adorned with dramatically draped indigo curtains concealing private booths that serve its ‘underground hideaway’ vibe.
Both captivating cases in their own right, but maximalism is taken to new heights in Shanghai’s surrealist lounge The Showroom. A maze of eight rooms, each themed and decorated with bold styling and artworks, infused with signature scents and lo-fi trance soundtracks. Each room also features its own cocktail to complete guests’ total sensory immersion. It’s ‘more is more’ to the max.
What makes the maximalist mindset different to previous philosophies of luxury consumers is primarily the emphasis placed on personal value.
While luxurians are undoubtedly being more selective, that selection is orbiting around the desire for fulfilling experiences and pursuit of personal transformation more than ever before, lending itself to more enlightened psychographics.
2) Enlightened Luxurians
As brands attempt to benchmark the new normal, the experience economy is pivoting towards personal transformation – transformations that many believe they can only achieve through travel.
The post-pandemic luxury traveller has evolved, seeking out hyper-personal holidays that highlight educational experiences and moments of individual growth as well as an acute level of intimacy with their wants, needs and lifestyle.
For brands, the value placed on every single micro-interaction has flared. End-to-end CX now an absolute must while an ability to facilitate transformative moments now sought-after alongside intensely tailored stays.
From bespoke menus personalised through consultations with a site’s in-house chef or experience tailoring programmes where guests can design their stay and maximise offerings to local culture immersions and interest-specific experiences, the new luxury traveller now needs more than a Michelin star, they desire intimacy.
Enlightened luxurians want to feel like they’re truly known and cared for whilst on a personal journey, and desire the sense that their selected resort/hotel/travel advisor serves to aid that transformation.
3) The Solo Surge
No, that’s not a Star Wars reference. As much as we love the saga (so much so we themed our inaugural summit day), the solo surge refers to the current upward trend in independent travel rather than a cultural rebirth of sci-fi’s favourite franchise.
As everyone is well aware of, the desire for travel following lifted lockdown restrictions rocketed. In some cases, literally – a Florida-based company recently unveiled a luxury spaceship for stratospheric voyages.
Back on earth, 1 in 4 travellers plan to take a solo trip this year, with Gen Z and Millennials leading the way. A significant group that continues to fuel travel demand with unwavering momentum and largely characterises the enlightened luxurian psychographics emerging in young generations.
They’re seeking once-in-a-lifetime experiences, excursions that are founded in a love for locality and to see untouched, unpackaged corners of the world in style.
Nightlife is also more important to the solo traveller than those in groups, as vibrant evening spots are perfectly set up for catering to the social aspect the solo guest is lacking.
To further build a sense of community for singular guests, hotels are creating virtual lobbies in order to catalyse unexpected new connections and hosting locals for talks, classes and concerts, bridging the gap between visitor and resident.
Boutique adventure-travel brand Flash Pack brings together solo travellers on a selection of curated trips. From Spiritual Bali to Untold Jordan, co-founder Radha Vyas tapped into highly-immersive high-end experiences, marketed them to independent explorers and created a community of like-minded travellers striving for meaning, friendship and growth as they do the ultimate round: Earth.
4) Places With Purpose
Dubbed ‘the conscious comeback’, sustainable tourism is making a name for itself in luxury travel and hospitality spaces. Travelling with purpose adds meaningfulness to any holiday, fulfilling that transformative element so important to today’s enlightened luxurians.
The desire to explore the planet in a way that protects the places they love for future generations to come is strong among affluent consumers. More than 3/4 of high net worth travellers feel that sustainability initiatives are an important factor when selecting travel destinations, with 70% believing that travelling sustainably enhances their experience.
Many hotels and luxury stays across the globe have already implemented green policies, incorporating sustainable construction materials, recycling waste and conserving energy in innovative ways.
At their Munich location, The Mandarin has partnered with local beekeepers to produce honey, candles and soap for the hotel, alongside removing all single-use plastics from their site and operations in 2021.
In the Fari Islands, Patina Maldives provide community enrichment programmes and educational opportunities to all their staff, and launched a fund to support local communities impacted by climate change.
At Nayara Resorts in Costa Rica, their philosophy is ‘regenerative travel’. The hotel houses a baby sloth sanctuary for those found abandoned in the surrounding rainforest. Nayara founder Leo Ghitis also worked with landscape architects to plant over 20,000 trees around the site and in surrounding locations.
Alongside soaring sustainable trajectories, hospitality developers predict that immersion in local traditions, cultures, cuisines and causes is defining a considerable strain of luxury travel.
HNW globetrotters, in their pursuit of personal growth, are interested in diving into the roots of their destinations.
Altruistic or self-improving, whatever endeavours hoteliers and hosts can offer guests (as long as it aligns with their brand positioning and founding spirit) will appeal to the exact demo- and psychographics their environment is tailored to.
Experience is a defining factor of travel of course, but purpose- driven, people- or planet-centric experiences are memorable, meaningful and offer luxury travellers to leave some kind of legacy.
5) Hedonistic Hospitality
Following on from the maximalist mindset that has taken over luxurians, the sterility of lockdowns has encouraged consumers to engage in the extravagant, excessive and edgier side of hospitality and experience.
In NYC, luxury is leaning into this trend wholeheartedly.
Visit invitation-only speakeasy, Bedroom 6, and you’ll find young revellers reviving antiquated absinthe rituals. The concept and vibe became so popular the brand has hosted pop-ups across the States and even built a partnership with Soho House.
In a similar vein, Temple Bar offers ‘caviar bumps’ to its guests. Encouraging drinkers and diners to spread the roe on their hands and ‘sensually lick it off for a salty hit’ in a bid to replicate the high of doing something you shouldn’t rather than an illegal one.
Edinburgh’s Casablanca boasts mirrored ceilings and velvet just about everywhere, matching hedonistic aesthetics whilst insisting it’s a place ‘made for misbehaving’. Their website encourages users to subscribe to email with the line ‘Get your name on the naughty list…’ and their menu is laden with decadent dishes including a 24-carat gold Wagyu burger.
As you write these down on your to-be-visited list, reflect on the appeal of them. No need to go into the psychology of it but it’s abundantly clear to anyone with a sense of fun that these ‘pleasure palaces’ are hard to say no to. And anyone who may be worried about the consequences following a hedonistic night out, have no fear.
Increasingly, hospitality venues are championing these experiences while simultaneously incorporating wellness programmes to cure the hedonist’s hangover.
In Mexico, Rancho Pescadero’s philosophy combines the hangover into the wellness experience. To them, taking guests on a voyage of self-discovery and personal enrichment involves many rounds of mezcal followed by the ‘Hangover Experience’ – now a cornerstone of the resort’s refined positioning. It’s called holistic wellness and there’s no need to look it up. We’ve done that for you.
6) Medi-Luxe & Inner Wellness
Rising wellness aspirations have been a transformative factor in luxury for at least the last decade, with wellness tourism expected to see a 21% annual growth rate between 2021-2025 according to the Global Wellness Institute.
By 2030, health will be considered a key metric of personal wealth and success.
From that macro trend comes a burgeoning offshoot coined ‘medi-luxe’ – that is, products, services and experiences that take health and wellness in luxury settings to the next level.
Spas and gyms have always been ‘nice-to-haves’ at luxury hotels and resorts, but the medi-luxe trend will see the demand for ‘high-touch’ health experiences become magnified.
Ultrasound therapy, VR spa treatments and data-driven wellness retreats are already trending in luxury circles, and brands who don’t want to fall behind should be in pursuit of their own innovative tech and health integrations. That’s not to say natural remedies or traditions should be left behind, but rather they should be enhanced.
Four Seasons Resort Oahu officially unveiled the Sensync ‘Vessel’ in November last year, adding mixed reality to their menu of spa treatments.
Designed to engage senses and mimic the experience of going into nature while monitoring heart rate, breath rate and temperature, the vessel takes guests out of their hyper-cognitive state. And sleeker versions are in the works.
Flux → Future
As exhausting as an ever-changing industry can be, the scope for innovation in hospitality is vast, as is the potential for uncapped success.
For brands who want to appeal to more than just a demographic, focus on your definition of luxury. As the term becomes increasingly overused, brands need to get specific about what it means to them. Is it a decadent spin on nostalgia? Is it taboo fun? Is it a futuristic cognitive massage? Is it a sound? A scent? An intangible sense? Or something else altogether?
Discover, form or refine your definition and let that be your lighthouse in changing industry tides. And if you want a hand with that and some experience design, product/service innovation and digital marketing while we’re at it, we’re just over here at firstname.lastname@example.org.