While the landscape for luxury hotels and villas has undoubtedly changed, there is good reason to believe they will be an attractive proposition once again if they cater to micro travellers, target brand loyalists and incorporate messaging about safety.
Safety is a priority
Without wanting to be hermetically sealed, travellers are more risk-averse than ever, looking for reassurance from trusted hotel brands that new health and cleanliness protocols are carried out behind the scenes to the highest standard.
The personalisation that’s already a hallmark of luxury hotels and resorts means they are well placed to offer that confidence. “Safety is definitely one of the top concerns on the traveller’s mind now,” says Mark Wong, Senior Vice-President Asia-Pacific, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, which is setting stringent standards across its 520 member hotels, launching a “Stay Safe. Stay Small” initiative in partnership with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council.
Many five-star hotels are going above and beyond, creating innovative programs at considerable expense, such as the free, rapid immunochromatographic tests and in-house medical centre offered by the Romeo Hotel in Naples.
Guests will create their own bubbles
Staying healthy might be an understandable priority for travellers now, but there’s another reason why they are choosing to holiday in large family groups or with like-minded friends.
Alexandra Ormerod, founder of Luxico, a collection of high-end, short-term Australia-based rental houses, villas and apartments, says Luxico’s core business is catering to extended families who crave a sense of togetherness. “The fact they’ve been isolated and haven’t had that face– to– face engagement with people they’re closest too, they’re more inclined than ever to want to travel that way,” she says.
Guests are enjoying their time with each other, so much so that they’re booking longer stays. “We had more than double the number of booking enquiries in April and May this year than we had same time last year.”
After iso cooking, private chefs make a comeback
More than ever, luxury travellers are seeking an intimate and personal service experience, according to Huw and Rossella Beaugié, founders of The Thinking Traveller, a multi– award– winning villa rental company specialising in the Mediterranean, with US, UK, Australia and Canada their biggest markets.
Villas are well –placed to offer exclusive amenities such as private chefs and tailored activities, they say. “We know that after months of cooking and cleaning at home many people will certainly be looking forward to enjoying the luxury of having someone to cook and clean for them. Our exclusive luxury villas boast the same services customers would enjoy in a hotel, such as a chef, housekeeping, etc, but in private surrounds and better value for money.”
Keeping on brand
Brand loyalists abound in hospitality – – witness Aman’s famous ‘“Aman Junkies,’,” who are hooked for life on the resort group’s all-inclusive kind of sophisticated luxury. When the world came to a halt, luxury hotel brands didn’t rest on their laurels, though.
Most were busy coming up with creative ideas, using technology to stay connected to home-bound guests and to inspire them to return when they can. These include At Home with Six Senses, a program of online wellness activities from fitness workouts to bedtime breathing rituals, and a tutorial from the Four Seasons Washington DC giving service-deprived guests 12 tips for making their own turndown experience at home. As hotels slowly reopen, many are tailoring programs for changing guest needs, such as Bvlgari Staycations, devised for customers who are limited to holidaying close to home.
The Buy-Out is a thing
For total seclusion, the ultimate stay for the affluent traveller has always been a private island or a remote rural villa. Isolation is now more coveted than ever, so there’s a renewed interest in properties that can be bought out for exclusive use. Some of the biggest hotel brand names are jumping on the trend and offering limited buy outs.
Soneva’s quintessential desert island, Soneva Fushi in the Baa Atoll, Maldives, is available now for a “Castaway Buyout” of US$100,000 a night. Also in the Maldives, Anantara’s Naladhu Private Island, and Six Senses Zil Pasyon in the Seychelles, are just a few other resorts opening their doors to guests who prefer to holiday on their own micro-planet.