Luxury.It’s a descriptor so overused in the hospitality
industry, by all rights it should have lost its meaning years ago.
When every steak, pillowcase and miniature bottle of shampoo in the
United States is being called luxury, it must be time for a new
Yet the word persists -- and travelers
still seem to recognize the difference. Consider these statistics:
In the first six months of 2006, the average daily rate for luxury
chain hotels in the United States was $271.68, fully 80 percent
higher than the $151.28 average of the upper-upscale market
segment, according to Hendersonville, Tenn.-based Smith Travel
Research. That luxury rate is up 9 percent from the year prior, and
occupancy is up a few points, as well, to 72.3 percent. Clearly,
individuals and corporations are willing to pay a premium for the
Those who can afford luxury, however,
require more than just a pleasant stay. The needs of these
travelers -- including attendees seeking a topflight experience
outside the meeting room -- are the most exacting of any, which
means luxury brands that want to thrive among strong competition
must also work constantly to improve their product.
M&C spoke with some of the youngest, smartest luxury
travel brands around -- along with meeting planners who appreciate
what they offer -- to find out what luxury is and where it’s
This exclusive chain is known for its small,
celebrity-friendly properties all around the world. Henriette
Attard (right), director, group and incentive sales, was hired in
2004 to sell to the meetings and incentives market, to prove to
customers that the company is serious about groups. Up next for the
chain is One&Only Capetown, to open in 2008 in founder Sol
Kerzner’s home country of South Africa. The resort, designed by
Adam Tihany, will feature 130 guest rooms and three meeting
M&C: What defines a luxury
Attard: I think it really is all about the
service levels and exceeding the expectations of the guest. It’s
not just about the meeting itself -- it’s the complete experience:
having a successful meeting, followed by a superb meal by a
celebrity chef, and a butler who packs your bags so you can enjoy a
last-minute swim. It’s about attention to detail. At One&Only
Palmilla [in Los Cabos, Mexico], when the butler unpacks for you,
he matches the sewing kit to the colors of your clothes.
M&C: How is luxury different today
from what it was 10 years ago?
Attard: Luxury is no longer about big
chandeliers and marble. Modern-day luxuries are time, space and
privacy. Luxury is more about creating moments.
M&C: How is the group market for
Attard: It’s very healthy and buoyant. We’ve
seen a huge increase in our groups globally in the past couple of
years. Our market mix for groups is 11 percent, whereas it was
probably only 3 or 4 percent a few years ago. And 2007 looks to be
one of our best years yet.
M&C: Where are U.S. groups
Attard: Our clients are becoming more
adventurous. They’re looking for something different, something
that sets them apart from their competition. People are spreading
their wings just a little bit farther, which we’re delighted
M&C: From which sectors do you
realize the most business?
Attard: Automotive is very strong for us,
because they do a lot to incentivize their dealers, and the
financial sectors as well, especially private banking. But the
market sectors we attract are really quite varied.
M&C: Does the hotel brand matter
to the luxury meeting?
Attard: The brand is very important to people
because it gives them reassurance; even though all the resorts are
very different, they know what to expect in terms of service and
experience. I think a trend we’re seeing is that the resorts
themselves have become destinations in their own right. For
example, we have a lot of clients who choose to hold an event at
One&Only Le Touessrok [in Mauritius] instead of first choosing
Mauritius. People actually go to the hotel regardless of where it
is in the world.