In spring, a traveler’s fancy may turn to thoughts of luxury
March has come in like a lamb in my corner of the world, and the bleak mid-winter has finally begun to melt away. Here in the frozen Eastern US, the record-setting snow pack is disappearing faster than a Sno-Cone in July. With the green shoots of spring comes some promising green shoots in the economy, and in the business of travel. According to the World Bank’s group president Jim Yong Kim, “The performance of advanced economies is gaining momentum, and this should support stronger growth in developing countries in the months ahead.” And for the first time in many years, the bank is predicting that it will be developed economies – rather than emerging ones – that will contribute much of the anticipated uptick.
With the rising tide lifting at least most boats, the icy austerity that chilled business travel since the end of 2008 seems to be thawing a bit. From what I’ve heard, travelers are beginning to feel that the quality of their journeys is at least as important as the cost. So they are looking for travel experiences that don’t just measure up, but far exceed expectations.
Every day word comes of some new product taking to the skies, as airlines duke it out to offer their premium fliers the most comfortable, most convenient, coziest, tastiest, classiest air travel experience. Likewise the hospitality industry has so multiplied and magnified its offerings that travelers find themselves awash with possibilities at every price point – and nowhere more so than at the very highest end of the scale.
In fact, Catherine Colford of Hawkins International PR notes on the blog Luxury Forecast, “as travelers get more sophisticated and their taste for the exceptional grows, hotels are going above and beyond standard and humdrum.”
She’s compiled a list of hot trends in hospitality for 2014 she calls “What’s In and What’s Out in Luxury.” Among her conclusions: What’s Out: Drinks and a cheese plate at the bar What’s In: Drinks and a cheese plate served tableside Brunch guests at 45 Park Lane in London will find a Bloody Mary trolley brought to their tables, while the Omni Royal Orleans’ Martini Cart serves $2 martinis tableside.
What’s Out: Staying up all night What’s In: Sleeping all night
Hotels are putting an emphasis on sleep offerings. Hotel Vermont in Burlington has a menu of sleep-friendly amenities including aromatherapy, Vermont teddy bears and bedtime stories. The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC, offers temple balm and reflexology foot treatment as a turndown amenity. What’s Out: Dialing “0” to reach the concierge What’s In: Using your smartphone or tablet to reach the concierge.
Three Loews Hotels properties are testing a pilot program that takes guest requests through text messages – from additional pillows to wake up calls – with replies guaranteed within four minutes.
There was a time when luxury was, by definition, anything that was so costly it was out of reach for all but the select few. In fact, the word comes from the Latin term “luxus” which signified, “soft or extravagant living, ”limited to the elite.
But in today’s mass market, such a definition is almost useless. The concept of luxury is changing. No longer can it be defined and delimited by the things that surround us; for more and more travelers, it’s all about the experience that envelopes us.
So this month, we have concocted an issue that takes a serious look at the changing perceptions of luxury. Our cover story (It’s a Great Pleasure, page 30) explores what goes into creating an ideal luxury hotel experience. We take you from honoring the best vintages in flight (Cellars in the Sky, page 34) to discovering a host of new premium airport lounges opening around the world (Exceptional Enclaves, page 14).
One thing we can say – luxury is a state of mind. It’s about how it makes us feel. And for business travelers, how we feel about our journey may be the most transcendent quality of all. BT
— Dan Booth Editorial Director