By David Berman | March 6, 2023
Whether due to the pandemic, inflation or other factors, the luxury side of the hospitality industry has seen huge shifts. As select and full-service hotels offer more amenities, the lines of luxury have become blurred.
Three executives from top hospitality firms spoke on the current state of luxury at the 2023 BITAC Luxury conference on Monday at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The panel was the first of three industry panels at the conference — the second BITAC conference of the year.
Speaking in front of a sold-out audience, the panelists gave their perspectives on recent luxury trends during the 25-minute session. They were first asked to define what exactly luxury means in the modern day.
Each panelist gave their own unique definition. Mitch Patel, CEO and senior managing principal of Platinum Companies, said he doesn’t feel there is a true definition anymore. Danny Williams, Managing Director for Trump International Beach Resort in Miami, said it’s about the kinds of products a hotel or resort offers. For Thomas Zarikian, CEO of EB Hotels, it’s about the “wow factor.”
But all of the panelists agreed that there are certain services and amenities that must be offered at a luxury destination. Zarikian said it starts and ends with the guest room.
“If the guest room is not ‘wow,’ then everything else falls apart,” he said. “You can have the most beautiful property with super high end materials, marble floors, mahogany furniture, but at the end of the day, if you go to bed and the bed doesn’t sleep well or the AC is making some weird noise, the whole thing is ruined. they just lost all your investment. So you have to make sure that the sleep quality and the room itself is perfect, basically.”
Patel said customers now expect entertainment options to be the same in their room as they can access at home. Making guests feel comfortable is key.
“If you make that all easy, and it’s all integrated, so you’ve never felt like you’ve left home … I think that’s what the definition of that is, is to take my experience at home and bring it to the hotel that I’m staying at and make sure that all those same conveniences are there,” he said.
Zarikian said that guest expectations have shifted to accommodate their time — services must be delivered quickly and efficiently. They also are seeking in-hotel entertainment options more than ever before.
“We talk a lot about experiences and entertainment,” he said. “I think now the guests want to be more and more entertained when they go to a hotel like “Okay, I get there and then what can I do once I’m there without leaving the hotel? I think that’s something that’s going to pave the way for the new type of luxury is what kind of amenities that are entertaining are inside the hotel.”
Williams said he has implemented “fun coordinators” in the past to make his hotels more entertaining. Like a cruise ship, activities are offered each hour to keep guests engaged.
“Luxury’s got to be fun,” he said, “and I think people that are wealthy want to have fun.”
To wrap up the panel, the executives answered a question on the future of luxury over the next 5-10 years. Williams believes turning to the guests for consistent input is a strong way to ensure luxury properties keep up with the latest trends.
“Understanding and talking to the guests on a consistent basis and trying to understand what they’re interested in and trying to figure out how we can innovate and make things happen quickly is probably the biggest challenge I see,” he said.
For Patel, luxury has changed rapidly — for the better.
“I think the evolution has already happened, right?” he said. “I think our space needs some disruption.”