I routinely take a virtual stroll through the blogosphere, reading posts, looking at pretty pictures and getting ideas for future trips. Lately though I’ve seen a trend that I don’t like. When covering luxury trips, many bloggers and writers focus almost exclusively on hotel rooms and fancy drinks next to a pool. While these can certainly be part of a luxury trip, they don’t even start to define what a true luxury vacation should be about and I think most hotels would agree with me.
Whether it’s Ritz Carlton, the Four Seasons or the One and Only Resorts, luxury properties have a few things in common. And no, it’s not just the high thread counts and nice smelling amenities. It’s two separate concepts that often get ignored by reviewers: service and the experience.
Service is a tricky animal. Everyone wants to boast amazing service, but few actually can; at least with a straight face. Luxury properties have created cultures where attention to detail and service isn’t just a goal, it’s the norm. And it can’t be just opening doors and smiling, this service has to extend to levels of mind-reading. Luxury properties excel at what they do because the employees anticipate guests’ needs and then find ways to accommodate them. As an example, while staying at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, I mentioned to the Club Lounge attendant how much I liked the oatmeal raisin cookies. I left not really thinking about it, but the next day the same attendant presented me with a little bag containing three giant oatmeal raisin cookies. Her boss didn’t tell her to do that and no one in management will probably ever know, but that one small gesture completely and utterly won me over. For an investment of a couple of bucks, an entire hotel chain went up a few notches in my opinion of them. That’s luxury, that attention to customer needs and wants and in an increasingly impersonal travel world, it’s what we as travelers don’t just appreciate, it’s what we crave.
The luxury market has slowly shifted over time as the demographic of guests has changed. Gone are the days where a crystal chandelier and a Rolls Royce were enough to win over luxury travelers. Now it’s all about the experience, just as it should be. This week I’m traveling to a luxury resort in Mexico that instead of highlighting its amazing suites (which are exquisite) they first bring attention to the experiential adventures patrons can enjoy. From swimming with whale sharks to private meals and spa time, the hotel assumes you know that the rooms are nice and instead wants to make sure that you know about the unique experiences the hotel can provide.
This phenomenon is happening across the travel spectrum as companies try to differentiate themselves from competitors, one-upping each other with more amazing, and unique travel experiences. Private jets, volunteering with elephants, skydiving and deserted islands are just a few of the many ways luxury brands have entered the experiential and even adventure travel markets.
So when people decide to highlight a hotel’s nice bed or selection of fruit, that’s ok I guess but also realize that EVERY nice hotel has these things. Instead what both writers and the properties themselves need to highlight is how they are truly different from their competitors, how they answer the clarion calls of service and experience and what this means for the guest.
How do YOU define luxury travel?