Leisure

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Can Luxury be Accessible?

Can Luxury be Accessible?

by David Klemt

Poolside seating at luxury resort hotel in Cabo San Lucas

Can everyone experience luxury or is this category of hospitality inherently exclusive, serving only a small percentage of consumers?

During a panel discussion titled “Brand Identity: The Evolution of Luxury in Lifestyle Hotels” at Hospitality Design Expo 2021, one speaker answered this question.

Moreover, this speaker’s answer was simple and definitive.

What is Luxury?

Blame luxury brand marketing but it seems many people define luxury through the Three Es: exclusive, extravagant, and expensive.

However, as people reflect and rethink their priorities, a new view of luxury appears to be emerging.

Lee Shuman, director of project management at Peachtree Hotel Group, defines luxury through the Three Cs: comfort, convenience and contemplation.

Interestingly, comfort is included in the dictionary definition of luxury as well. (And yes, I know it’s cliché to point to dictionary definitions in articles.)

We’ve been hearing for a few years now that more people, particularly younger Millennials and Gen Zers, favor experiences over material items. Time is more valuable to these consumers than possessions.

Shuman’s Three Cs, then, speak to these consumers:

  • Obviously, people seek out comfort, particularly when it comes to hotels, resorts, restaurants, and travel.
  • Convenience reduces friction and removes pain points, allowing guests to spend their valuable time seeking out memorable experiences seamlessly.
  • When it comes to contemplation, Shuman says this is a design component that provides guests with several opportunities to notice and experience design “moments.” Contemplation also relates directly to experiences.

Operators who embrace and embody the Three Cs will meet guest expectations of luxury.

Can Luxury be Accessible?

Shuman answered this question succinctly: “Luxury has to be accessible.” Not can be accessible, not should be accessible, but luxury must be accessible.

Going further, Shuman said that “everyone in every strata should experience luxury.” There are a couple of ways to interpret this view of luxury.

Looking at this subject through the lens of convenience, one can take Shuman’s opinion on luxury literally. Everyone, regardless of the category or price point of hotel or resort (or restaurant, for that matter), should have access to luxury.

An alternate view that still relates to convenience is that if luxury is too exclusive, too few consumers will have access and the venue won’t be profitable.

Another viewpoint is that luxury needs to be accessible physically. In other words, if it can’t be touched, it’s not luxurious.

Per Shuman, guests don’t want luxury they can see but not touch.

Make it Happen

Shuman likes to see how guests are using a given property. Observing guests in situ provides him with insights that can be used enhance their experiences and improve design.

Hotel and resort guests are, from what Shuman observes, trending younger. Although, he said that could be because operators are aging.

As we’ve been learning, many younger guests are after experiences, comfort and convenience regardless of where they’re staying. Ticking those three boxes will help operators attract these younger guests.

Of course, older guests, due in part to a reshuffling of priorities during the pandemic, also have an interest in the Three Cs.

Shuman is also seeing that hotels and resorts must be enjoyable to use. Interestingly, he’s observing pools falling out of favor while the demand for well-designed health centers. His commitment to observing and learning about guests constantly provides these insights.

To make luxury accessible moving forward, operators should embrace the Three Cs, observe their guests continuously, and realize that luxury doesn’t necessitate excluding guests.

As consumer desires and expectations change, operators must adapt more and more rapidly. Increasingly, change is impacting the perception of luxury.

Yes, the Three Es still exist and likely always will. However, the Three Cs are informing a more modern view of luxury.

Image: GaPeppy1 from Pexels

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Meeting Expectations Through Hotel Design

 

Lit neon hotel sign with blue and purple background

During Hospitality Design Expo 2021, the show’s version of a live “Ask Me Anything” addressed meeting and exceeding new guest expectations.

On the design side, firms must meet the needs and visions of clients and brands. In turn, design clients are attempting to best meet their guests’ expectations in the short and long term.

Additionally, agencies are designing for the pandemic-driven new normal. The way guests use hotels and resorts has changed. Hotel and resort operators must adapt, and so must the designers with whom they work.

Gonzalo Bustamante, Executive Vice President, Design and Development, MGM Resorts International

Quick to point out that he comes from the design world rather than the hotel world, Bustamante is proud of how fast MGM embraced the pivot.

The company adapted to meet the needs of guests while also doing what’s necessary for the bottom line.

Bustamante feels we’re all living and working “in the new version of reality.” Therefore, moving forward, MGM properties will feature design based on the new normal.

When collaborating with designers, Bustamante looks for storytellers who can listen and stay on budget.

Kristen Conry, Senior Vice President, Global Design, US & Canada, Marriott International

What was once a guest desire, says Conry, is now an expectation.

For instance, guests expect hotels and resorts to build and operate sustainably; offer health and wellness features; and provide access to outdoor spaces.

Conry is curious about two specific elements of hotel and resort design.

One, she has an interest in how all-inclusive stays and properties will perform and progress.

Two, Conry wonders if hotel groups shrinking their carbon footprints will encourage guests to make more repeat visits. If a guest is motivated to support a particular brand because of their commitment to “green” operations, the hope is that they won’t cut back on hotel stays to shrink their own footprint.

Conry is encouraged by the increase in conversations designers and their clients are having about utilizing indoor-outdoor and outdoor spaces.

Gary Dollens, Global Head, Design / Product and Brand Development, Hyatt

Leisure travelers are returning to hotels, meaning they’re more important now to the bottom line, per Dollens.

However, there are two other developments that seem to have really caught Dollens’ attention.

One is hotel and resort properties operating with smaller teams. The second is that margins are “better than they’ve ever been.”

If groups can operate with smaller teams without impacting the guest experience negatively, why would they return to working with larger teams? Operators, encouraged by improved margins, are now used to new changes and are unlikely to go back to pre-pandemic operations.

For example, Dollens stated that Hyatt’s current RevPAR (revenue per available room) is up 19 percent compared to 2019. The company also acquired all-inclusive luxury brand Apple Leisure Group for $2.7 billion this year.

Helen Jorgensen, Vice President, Design and Procurement, Host Hotels & Resorts

Jorgensen and Host, like so many companies, adapted to working remotely.

Of course, teams used to gather to discuss design projects. Now, they gather digitally to review virtual room models.

However, it seems she’s eager to return to working in person. After all, while we’ve definitely made leaps and bounds in terms of technology, nothing beats experiencing a hotel room physically. There’s no better way—at the moment—to gauge the guest experience than actually touching and seeing everything in person.

Host and Jorgensen, like MGM and Bustamante, have been moving quickly. She expects Host to complete 16 major property renovations by 2023.

Part of those renovations has to do with room size and amenities. For instance, Jorgensen says suites will account for 19 percent of property rooms. That’s more than double current Host inventory, which is eight percent.

In terms of other design trends, Jorgensen expects sustainability to become more important to more guests. Certainly, that’s related to another trend Jorgensen identifies as crucial moving forward: wellness.

Larry Traxler, Senior Vice President, Global Design, Hilton

All-inclusive experiences are the future for hotels and resorts, per Traxler. Given the increased stress guests are experiencing on a daily basis due in large part to the pandemic, this makes sense.

Guests want to show up and know that everything is handled—eliminating friction is a luxury.

Speaking of which, luxury and lifestyle categories are performing very well for Hilton. However, extended stay is the current category leader for the brand.

When it comes to design challenges, Traxler and Hilton are focusing on a few crucial elements: F&B, outdoor experiences, and air quality.

During this session, Traxler said that F&B must evolve. Destination restaurants on property are performing well for Hilton.

That speaks to another crucial element Traxler mentioned: avoiding cookie-cutter design and experiences. Guests want unique experiences, and that extends to all markets. In fact, many guests want access to more outdoor areas, from balconies and pool areas to lawns and restaurants.

And while it may seem counterintuitive, Traxler says that hotels and resorts can improve property air quality without a “massive outlay” of money. In fact, Traxler says there’s no better time than now to build hotels, with Hilton projecting five-percent growth but achieving seven percent.

Summary

When it comes to hotels, resorts, and design, there are a few key factors operators should focus on now and for the future:

  • Luxury, extended stay, and all-inclusive categories are performing well.
  • The leisure traveler is returning.
  • Food & Beverage offerings must evolve.
  • The use of outdoor spaces is now integral to design.
  • Sustainability, health, and wellness are important to a growing percentage of guests. This includes air quality.
  • Smaller teams may shift from trend to standard operating procedure.
  • The time to build is now.

Image: Ph B on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Today’s the Day: Canada Opens Border

Today’s the Day: Canada Opens Border

by David Klemt

Canadian Border Services Agency sign on chainlink fence

The big day is here and Canada is opening their border to the USA.

Today, Americans and permanent residents can enter the country for “discretionary,” a.k.a. non-essential, travel.

Of course, the border is only open to travelers who can prove their vaccination status (full series).

Quarantine Lifted

As many Canadians are well aware, quarantining was mandatory for people traveling into Canada up until today.

Asymptomatic travelers, with very specific exemptions, were required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The mandatory quarantine included a three-night stay at a hotel authorized by the Canadian government.

Oh, and the traveler had to cover the cost of the mandatory hotel stay.

However, that wasn’t all that was required. Travelers had to create and submit a quarantine plan. Foreign national who failed to submit a plan deemed suitable faced the risk of border agents turning them away.

Of course, the mandatory quarantine dissuaded Canadians from traveling across the border for essential travel. After all, Canadians weren’t exempt from hotel quarantine.

Requirements

Now, Americans or permanent residents residing in America aren’t receiving unfettered access to the border. Indeed, there are requirements that must be met for anyone hoping to cross into Canada from the US.

Per the Government of Canada website, in its entirety for clarity:

“Beginning on August 9th, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. EDTfully vaccinated United States (U.S.) citizens and permanent residents will be eligible to enter Canada for discretionary (non-essential) reasons, such as tourism, however these individuals must:

  1. be fully vaccinated: to be considered fully vaccinated, a traveller must have received the full series of a vaccine—or combination of vaccines—accepted by the Government of Canada at least 14 days prior to entering Canada. Currently, those vaccines are manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).
  2. be residing in and travelling from the U.S.;
  3. have a valid pre-arrival COVID-19 molecular test result taken in the U.S. (antigen tests are not accepted);
  4. be asymptomatic;
  5. submit their mandatory information via ArriveCAN, including proof of vaccination in English or French;
  6. be admissible under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; and,
  7. take a test on arrival, if required.”

So, if you or someone you know is planning to travel to Canada from America, make sure you follow the requirements precisely.

Operators, Be Ready

So far, news of increasing infection and hospitalization rates aren’t impacting Canada’s decision; the border is open as of today. Neither New York City’s vaccine mandate nor an increasing amount of counties and corporations implementing mask and vaccine mandates are deterring Canada.

Additionally, it doesn’t appear as though the Canadian government plans to implement other travel requirements (so far).

Canadian restaurant, bar, hotel, and entertainment venue operators need to be ready for an influx of guests. This is particularly true for operators in large metropolitan areas and well-known tourist destinations.

Pent-up demand for travel, experiences, reunions, weddings, and just escape should skyrocket with the Canada-US border reopening.

Also, should things go well, operators need to prepare for even more travels next month. While not written in stone, Canada plans to open the country’s borders to other countries on September 7.

Interestingly, this is also excellent news for those waiting to open a restaurant or bar. Plans to reopen borders should prove to be a boon for the Canadian economy. So, now’s the time to move forward.

Canadian operators must be vigilant about monitoring the border situation. Fresh opportunities arrive on your doorstep starting today.

Image: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Hospitality Labor Shortage not Improving

Hospitality Labor Shortage not Improving

by David Klemt

Wait station to side of busy bar

Surveys and data focusing on the restaurant and hotel employment situation paint a stark picture.

The sobering reality is that operators can’t simply point to the pandemic as the reason they’re failing to fill available positions.

Instead, we need to focus on the problems hospitality workers continue to face.

It’s not going to be easy. However, it can lead to positive change. That change can help the hospitality industry recover and thrive long into the future.

Culture is Crucial

Per several sources, millions of hospitality professionals are washing their hands of the industry.

Unfortunately, foodservice and lodging workers are citing several reasons for the exodus:

  • Lack of livable wages.
  • Inconsistent wages.
  • Stress levels not worth level of monetary compensation.
  • Lack of benefits.
  • Lack of mentoring and/or career progress.
  • Industry volatility, particularly devastating as a result of the pandemic.
  • Unhealthy lifestyle: Long shifts, late nights, and alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Cultures of harassment and discrimination.

Obviously, it’s easier to blame labor shortages on the workers. Well, being easier doesn’t make it true.

Industry and workplace culture matters. Employee turnover rates were high long before the pandemic ravaged the planet.

Rather than make excuses, operators need to look at their restaurant, bar or hotel’s culture.

Barking orders and feeling infallible isn’t leadership. Admitting failures and shortcomings—and learning from them and implementing positive changes—is how successful operators lead.

Generic Job Listings

Last week, KRG Hospitality president Doug Radkey asked a simple but poignant question on LinkedIn: Are your job listings just like everybody else’s?

He suggests knocking it off with the old standards:

  • “Are you friendly, energetic, and highly motivated?”
  • “Are you an experienced and enthusiastic [insert position]?”
  • “The ideal candidate must work well in a fast-paced environment and be a team player.”
  • List of basic job tasks.

What’s appealing about such basic, generic ads? Why would rock star talent be moved to work for operators who post these types of ads?

Instead, Doug suggests the following:

  • Hire for values, not experience. Training can address systems and standards, not personality and drive.
  • Operators should be transparent about their core values, company culture, and potential for growth.
  • Showcase the approach to inclusivity, diversity, acceptance, and flexibility. That is, if that’s authentic. If not, that’s a flashing, neon red flag that requires addressing.
  • Offer a living wage, benefits, potential for personal growth, and education.
  • Produce a video of team members sharing why they work at the company. This must be genuine and honest.

A unique approach to ads, hiring and onboarding can lead to an increase in employee retention.

Yes, it’s more comfortable to avoid looking internally for the roots of problems. It’s more comfortable to avoid blame. And it’s more comfortable to point fingers anywhere but at ourselves.

That’s not leadership. And it certainly won’t improve any operator’s situation, nor will it improve the hospitality industry and its opportunity to thrive.

Image: One Shot from Pexels

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