Disclosing the Secrets of Success in Luxury Hospitality

Part 1 of a two-part interview series with author, journalist, and luxury hospitality expert Rahim B. Kanani.

The world’s fascination with luxury hospitality doesn’t appear to be waning. And why should it? Luxury hospitality is currently in the throes of reinventing itself, and it’s exciting to watch. Not only is the (self-proclaimed) “7-star” hotel now a reality; changes in guest expectations are bringing about seismic transformations of old opulence-based luxury standards.

To find out what exactly is happening in the sector — and to learn what it takes to run a luxury hotel today — we caught up with luxury hospitality expert Rahim B. Kanani. Rahim’s new book, A Wealth of Insight: The World’s Best Luxury Hoteliers on Leadership, Management and the Future of 5-Star Hospitality, is already considered required reading for all students and future leaders of the industry by renowned hospitality institutions such as Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration.

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We’re thrilled to publish here on the blog our exclusive interview with this world-class journalist, who spoke with over thirty-five top-tier hoteliers while researching his book.

trivago Business Blog: Rahim, thank you so much for taking the time to share your profound knowledge on luxury hospitality with us and our readers. In researching this book, you spoke to dozens of high-profile luxury hoteliers from as many countries. What were some common trends you observed? What about common challenges?

“Meet the needs of a new generation of modern luxury travelers.”

Rahim B. Kanani: “Today, general managers are adapting their design and service offerings to meet the needs of a new generation of modern luxury travelers who prize authenticity over familiarity, simplicity over complexity, exclusive experiences over champagne and caviar, and insider knowledge over high-end shopping.”

“In other words, the very definition of luxury has evolved.”

“Provide exclusive experiences found nowhere else.”

“As the former General Manager of Wynn Las Vegas and Encore explained to me, ‘The experience economy is booming and we need to provide conversational currency to our guests. In other words, access to unique and exclusive experiences found nowhere else.’ This is a theme that cuts across the world, and every luxury hotelier profiled in the book talks about local, one-of-a-kind experiences they now offer to meet this new demand.”

“Today, luxury hotels are regularly digging up information on current and future guests using Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and beyond, in order to craft a more complete individual dossier of preferences, hobbies, likes and dislikes. While the environment in which general managers operate has become increasingly complex, core leadership and management principles underpinning the industry remain intact.”

“Build a passionate and talented team committed to perfection.”

“Every hotelier featured in this book exudes a fundamental understanding of genuine human connection. They reveal a mastery in the art and science of recruiting, developing, motivating and managing a world-class team — explicitly designed to deliver on the promise of personalized luxury at every stage of the guest experience.”

“One of the most profound insights to emerge is that the most beautiful of hotels in the most coveted of locations cannot deliver on its mission without an extraordinarily passionate and talented team committed to perfection. There is no alternative.”

A Wealth of Insight is being hailed as a must-read for all current and future leaders in the hotel industry. What secrets can you share with aspiring and established hoteliers about finding success in the luxury hotel business?

“There’s no shortcut to success.”

“For aspiring luxury hoteliers, the most telling insight to emerge from all my discussions was that there’s no shortcut to success. Many of the hoteliers either joined this industry washing dishes and waiting tables, or they began at the front desk reception following college or graduate school.”

“Experience every facet of the hotel operation.”

“You need to experience every facet of the hotel operation to truly understand the complexity of the business — every back-of-house department was as important as those meeting and greeting guests in the lobby. Virtually every luxury hotelier featured in this book has been in the hospitality industry for several decades. They’ve traveled the world and worked in different environments with different cultures, gaining more and more insight into how best to motivate and empower international teams.”

“Empower staff to own their positions and embrace responsibility.”

“For established hoteliers eager to raise the bar, there are many important lessons in this book. For example, how best to empower staff to own their positions and embrace responsibility, becoming ambassadors of the property in the process. If staff are recognized, valued, and celebrated for their achievements, that has a direct impact on guest satisfaction.”

“Another important series of lessons in the book are tied to never resting on your laurels. If you’re not experimenting and innovating — allowing and encouraging your staff to contribute their ideas too — you will inevitably give up your position as a world-class hotel.”

Photo of Rahim B. Kanani and his bookAbout Rahim B. Kanani and A WEALTH OF INSIGHT: The World’s Best Luxury Hoteliers on Leadership, Management, and the Future of 5-Star Hospitality:

Rahim is a renowned journalist who spent nearly a decade interviewing executives, hoteliers, and chefs around the world on leadership and management while researching his book.  

Composed of profiles of over thirty-five top-tier hoteliers, A Wealth of Insight is a profoundly rich deep dive into luxury hospitality on a global scale. Each executive profile includes bite-size insights, stunning photography, and real-life examples on recruiting, culture, technology, marketing, branding, personalization, authenticity, anticipation, design, partnerships and more.

Featured image by Chastity Cortijo