Part 2 of a two-part interview series with author, journalist, and luxury hospitality expert Rahim B. Kanani.
In our recent interview Rahim B. Kanani, a luxury hospitality expert and the author of the critically acclaimed A Wealth of Insight: The World’s Best Luxury Hoteliers on Leadership, Management, and the Future of 5-Star Hospitality, we got deep into discussing two of our favorite topics: emerging hotel trends and hotel technology. He was able to provide us with some illuminating insights into both, valuable enough to merit their own blog article.
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Read on below to discover what the future of luxury hotel stay will look like, and why technology is already crucial to every hotel business regardless of their category.
trivago Business Blog: As an expert on luxury hotels, how do you see luxury hospitality evolving? What can we expect a luxury hotel experience to look like in 10 years?
“Guests will become more and more demanding.”
Rahim B. Kanani: “Just as luxury operators today are continually trying to differentiate themselves in a very competitive industry, this will continue well into the future. Guests will become more and more demanding for a personalized, exclusive and emotional experience, and luxury hotels will continue to invest in building out guest profiles to ensure those demands are met. But this can go too far: documenting likes and dislikes is more art than science. Ordering a vodka martini at the hotel bar or asking to learn about new Japanese restaurants doesn’t necessarily indicate a preference for either.”
“True preferences are confirmed by multiple encounters, requests and specificities. In other words, while technology can help document each instance, it will still be up to discerning hotel staff — trained to listen, observe and converse — to decide exactly how best to interact with guests, and this will never change.”
“Today’s concierge acts as an expert filter.”
“Looking ahead, luxury hotels are now moving into the territory of becoming full-blown destination authorities. Concierge teams are not diminishing, they’re expanding. What was once the purview of a concierge is now easily accessible to all: everyone can find city-specific information online as it relates to restaurants, attractions, museums and the like.”
“The problem is everything online has resulted in an overload of information. Now it’s too cumbersome to sift through, and credibility is questionable. Today’s concierge acts as an expert filter, and in the coming years, their services will continue to broaden in scope, scale and exclusivity.”
“Luxury hotels to promote their offerings to new markets.”
“As more and more guests from China and other emerging economies join the traveling elite worldwide, the future luxury hotel will have more and more multilingual staff on-hand to personally greet and cater to those in their native tongue.”
“In parallel, new airline routes between destinations that were previously disconnected or too many stops away will encourage even more global guests. This will steer luxury hotels to promote their offerings to new markets, updating their websites to be in five, six or seven languages, rather than two or three.”
In your opinion, what role does hotel technology play in luxury hospitality? How has digitalization changed the industry, especially luxury guests’ booking behavior?
“It’s now critical to build a seamless mobile experience.”
“Technology has had a tremendous impact on the luxury hospitality industry. On the hotel side, it’s now critical to react and respond to guest feedback and reviews online, build a seamless mobile experience, use new tools to keep track of guest preferences, likes and dislikes, and build more direct relationships with consumers via exclusive, personalized outreach and offers. A compelling social media presence has also become non-negotiable. As Aaron Kaupp, General Manager of Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris explained to me, ‘Harnessing social media to connect with people around the world in a way that sparks an instant day-dream is a powerful proposition.’”
“On the consumer side, technology means checking into your room via your mobile phone in advance of arrival, using bedside tablets to ease the ordering of room service, booking spa appointments and securing other activities, connecting to an ultra-fast WiFi service, connecting directly with the concierge before, during and after a visit using SMS or WhatsApp, and enjoying a more personalized stay that allows your mobile devices to play content on TV, connect to Netflix, YouTube and other digital offerings.”
“A digital-first outreach and engagement strategy cannot be overstated.”
“The second insight to emerge was that the value of a digital-first outreach and engagement strategy — specifically one geared toward the mobile experience — could not be overstated. A growing number of bookings occur literally from the airport to the property via mobile websites and apps. If your mobile booking process is not user-friendly on an iPhone, Android or tablet, or if it’s too slow, of if there’s a glitch, or if it just isn’t a pleasant experience, you are losing customers.”
“Sustainability is emerging as one of the most important trends of the industry.”
“Another important trend is that far-off travel has become a way to disconnect, reflect, make better life choices and bring more balance to life. As Graham Ledger, Managing Director of Singita Serengeti in South Africa and Zimbabwe explained, ‘Guests are not simply looking to sustain their own health. They are also looking to immerse themselves in new cultures and create meaningful memories, including leaving the location a little better than they found it.’”
“Indeed, this is tied to the intersection of luxury and wellness tourism more generally, as sustainability is emerging as one of the most important trends of the industry. More and more, guests will be choosing their hotels based on their social and environmental impact, and will prefer companies that have embedded eco-friendly practices into their operations.”
“Nothing can replace kind, thoughtful human interaction.”
“The third insight to cut across my many conversations about the role of technology was that while some new digital tools and services could genuinely enhance the guest experience, nothing can replace kind, thoughtful human interaction.”
Readers can find part 1 of our interview with Rahim B. Kanani in “Disclosing the Secrets of Success in Luxury Hospitality,” and can discover more insights into how to reach lucrative luxury travelers in “The Inexpensive Hotel Amenities That Luxury Guests Now Want Most.”
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