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The transformation of luxury hotels

According to the Oxford-English dictionary, a hotel is “an establishment providing accommodations, meals, and other services for travelers and tourists.” And that, in a nutshell, is what they’ve been since the early days of the hospitality industry. Even back in Roman times, inns were used to shelter, feed, and allow for a brief respite during the long travels across the empire. The first luxury hotel, Tremont House, opened in Boston in the year 1829.  This modern hotel was the first to implement “luxury amenities” as most people would recognize them today. These perks included indoor plumbing with indoor toilets and baths, a reception desk with room service, and free soap in all the rooms. Hotels have changed a lot since then, and what was once considered a “luxury” has become what we’d consider an expected amenity. So as our standard of living has evolved, so has our definition of a “luxury stay”, which means that luxury hotels are constantly trying to raise the bar for their guests. And as more and more 5-Star Hotels are being built around the world, these transformations are improving everyday guest experiences for a variety of reasons and the future is bright on this industry’s horizons. Sustainable practices One of the things the modern world is becoming acutely self-aware of is the impact it has on the environment. With this newfound awareness, many businesses, luxury hotels included, are making a concerted effort to develop sustainable practices that put less of a burden on our earth without sacrificing comfort. One of the biggest things hotels, in general, have started focusing on is energy consumption, specifically by encouraging guests to reuse their towels. This is because, according to the EPA, hotels consume up to 17% of the metropolitan area’s total water consumption, most of it due to laundry services. When they decided to focus on conserving water, Caesars in Las Vegas saved around 30 million gallons of water in a year by reconfiguring their laundry services, according to research done by National Geographic. Other steps towards sustainability in luxury hotels today include the use of biodegradable consumables such as straws and paper cups rather than plastics. Modern thermostats allow guests to not only adjust their room to fit their comfort but to schedule their energy use to help lower usage when they are not in their room for extended periods of time. When every bit counts, anything the industry does to make the business more environmentally sustainable is a boon to them, their guests, and the planet. Technological advances Technology has come a long way in making our lives easier, which at its core is what separates “luxury” from the “status quo”. Where once guests had a physical key to unlock their room, now even the typical key card systems are being replaced by smartphone apps. Check-Ins can all be managed online now as well, which helps keep people’s stay as hassle-free as possible, all thanks to the technology available in their pocket every day. The future of tech in this industry is only growing. As hoteliers adapt to the ever-changing expectations of their guests, state of the art amenities will constantly be added to enhance their guest’s experience. For instance, some have speculated one enhancement will be to offer small Wifi hotspots that guests can take out during the day to stay connected wherever they go. This would be especially useful to those luxury hotels located in still-developing countries where Wifi at every business or restaurant in town is not a guarantee. Gourmet food and beverage services Michelin-star Danish Chef René Redzepi once said: “People will travel anywhere for good food – it’s crazy.” This is becoming especially true in the luxury hotel industry. There are, to date, over one-hundred hotels across twenty-five countries that can boast having at least one Michelin star, and all the top hoteliers are constantly looking to procure the top-rated chefs from around the globe to work in their restaurants. From the finest French cuisine to seafood, vegetarian, and national dishes, some hotels are becoming known not only for luxury accommodations but also for luxury dining experiences that delight guests and restaurant patrons alike. In addition to seeking out the best chefs, luxury hoteliers are also recruiting the world’s best bartenders to provide leisure and business guests an unparalleled leisure experience after a long day. Many hotel bars stock nothing but top-shelf liquors and have some bottles that an average traveler might never get the chance to taste. But in this environment, these trained professionals can offer not only leisure but an experience their patrons will not soon forget. Spa treatments It’s almost a given that any luxury hotel worth its salt will have some form of clinically trained massage therapist on staff, but many of these five-star resorts are now raising the bar with state of the art spa treatments. New treatment options such as aerial yoga, meditation pods, starlight massages, and Himalayan salt therapy are changing how leisure and business guests think about their own health and wellbeing. Just as their chefs and bartenders are being handpicked, these spas are run by specialists that are highly skilled in their field, offering treatments that clients oftentimes cannot find under one roof at a typical massage parlor. The luxury hotel industry has always had one goal, to provide its guests with services that surpass that of their everyday lives. Whether that means the efforts to sustain a greener earth, the convenience of modern technology, relishing in a three Michelin-star meal, or being pampered with spa techniques from across the world, leisure and business travelers alike are enjoying the ever-evolving world of luxury travel. In a fast-paced, modern society, hoteliers and luxury resort chains are forging their way ahead and carving out space in the limelight, competing in an ever-transforming field to make sure you are treated like royalty no matter where you book your next stay. But don’t worry. Instead of lugging around heavy keys to your kingdom, you can just use your phone. We hope you enjoy your stay. So what about you? What technological perks, services, or novelties do you want to see in our luxury hotels in the next ten years? Guido Graf is Founder of Privateupgrades. Privateupgrades is a global luxury travel club with over 20 years of experience in luxury hotels, ensuring exclusive VIP privileges like upgrades, free breakfast, free nights, rate discounts, free airport transfers, free massages and much more. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Guido Graf

Guido Graf, born in Vienna, is a respected businessman and pioneer in the European luxury travel industry. After studying in Switzerland, he founded Deluxetargets in 2001, one of the most esteemed companies for luxury travel in Europe. In 2017, he recognized the growing importance of the digital market and launched PrivateUpgrades, an online platform providing access to over 2000 luxury hotels with exclusive VIP benefits. Graf is widely acknowledged as an expert in luxury hotels and continually sets new standards for exceptional travel experiences. Moreover, since 2008, he is the exclusive representative for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic in Switzerland. Graf also sits on advisory boards of several renowned luxury hotel brands and has held a consulting role in several significant hotel openings such as the Royal Atlantis in Dubai. His innovative spirit and entrepreneurial foresight make him a leading figure in the luxury travel industry.

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  1. I stay in a lot of hotels for work and then still somehow have the enthusiasm to travel for holidays with the family.

    In many ways, five stars is the minimum standard nowadays. One of my work colleagues was booked into a 4* hotel last week and his reaction was vehemently apocalyptic. He took it as a personal insult. His line manager had to intervene and our travel department had to intervene and find him something that was 5*.

    Though of course we all know that 5* is very variable and has different definitions throughout the world. The one thing that is for sure is that hotels are forever trying to drive up the stars towards even more luxury.

  2. Are hotels going too far down the technology route?

    They design their all-singing and all-dancing apps and guests end up having very little contact with real people.

    They want you to check-in online and then do instant check-out as you leave, both minimising the face to face time you get with the staff.

    It seems that as long as they’ve got your credit card number they are happy to let you get on with your stay.

    1. I worry that we are getting fairly close to checking in without even seeing anyone. It won’t be long before you get sent a bar code to your phone, then you use it just like you show a code to board a plane.

      It’s somewhat ironic that to get any sort of human interaction you have to pay an arm and a leg for an hour of massage in the spa.

      I suppose what will happen is that at the top of the market hotels will go for old-fashioned one to one service, bringing back the human touch.

  3. Oh wow, so it was the Tremont House in 1829 that was classed as the world’s first ever luxury hotel? The whole notion of ‘luxury’ is somewhat subjective and I agree that as time goes on the expectations do change and what people what changes too. Like now there’s so much more of a focus on technology, and increasingly people are looking for eco friendly credentials. It’s good to see more sustainable practices being bought in where tourism is concerned. There are lots of rather funky hotels going green in various ways and I think it’s setting a new standard for others to follow because I imagine environmental concerns will only continue to be of increasing importance.

    Spa offerings are something I definitely think of when I see ‘luxury hotel’. I think because it oozes indulgence, and it’s a ‘want’ rather than a ‘need’. I’m not a huge foodie and I do prefer to keep things simple, but I can appreciate quality food and novelties where recipes and presentation is concerned. I think vegan options are another increasing area of importance and that’s expanding quite a lot in line with the environmental impetus of recent years.

    I can’t help but think though that will all the fervour for technology and our busy lifestyles that luxury hotels that offer a totally different experience will be pretty trendy. Like where you go to actually disconnect without any wifi, to get back to nature and do away with some luxury aspects; hotels where you just use the time and space to indulge in simple living and relaxation away from the busy world for a while.

    1. Thanks for your interesting comment Freya! Sustainability is a big word in current days and the luxury hotels are investing a lot of money to keep track. Marriott is just trying to reward guest if they agree in not having their linen changed for 3 days, others ban plastic completly out of their hotels and some are running projects to learn the local community how to protect the planet.

      In terms of technology the article mainly focus on city and beach hotels where technology is a part of being a modern and uptodate hotel product. On the other side – mainly in remote areas – a growing number of “offline” hotels arise, also mainly in combination with sustainability.

      The needs of the luxury traveller are so different and constantly changing that in our days a hotel really need to be creative to be the spot to stay.

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