When it comes to luxury hospitality trends, one might think of Instagram-friendly designs, bespoke experiences, and high-tech amenities; but at the heart of it all is still good old-fashioned personal service. We speak to Gerard “Jerry” Inzerillo, CEO at Forbes Travel Guide, about what really matters in the hospitality space.
Before we unravel the latest trends, and what we can do to further up our game in the luxury hospitality sector, let’s dive into the history of how Forbes Travel Guide came about.
Inzerillo explains: “Forbes Travel Guide started as Mobil Travel Guide in 1958. Back then, Mobil Oil were the originators of the guidebook—and the Five-Star Rating system. The guidebook was sold in Mobil gas stations and became the go-to travel resource in North America.
“In 2009, Mobil Travel Guide relicensed with a world-renowned luxury brand and became Forbes Travel Guide. Then in 2011, we retired the printed books and became a digital publication. This was the perfect platform with which to grow our Star Rating system globally, which we have done aggressively and are now in 60 countries, soon to be 100 countries by 2019.
“I joined Forbes Travel Guide in May 2014 and have led the company from its North American origins to the most trusted and respected recognition of service excellence worldwide. Our rigorous inspection process covers more than 900 objective standards, with an emphasis on service. We have the only global, independent rating system that verifies luxury. We mark our milestone 60th anniversary this year and also debuted a newly redesigned website in early 2018.”
The key trends
On to what we really want to know in the industry – trends for 2018 and beyond. What’s selling right now? What are guests looking for? According to Inzerillo, the company sees a focus on family travel.
He says: “We at Forbes Travel Guide continue to see a focus on family travel, which we believe will continue as hotels renovate and new properties open.
“Accommodations that serve multi-generational guests who can be together in a villa setup — perhaps with some private facilities, such as a pool or access to a private chef, yet with all the conveniences of the main hotel or resort — is a growing need.
“We are also seeing unique activities categorised into adventure, art and culture, beach, foodie and Instagram-friendly. People are seeking out these personalised experiences rather than tourism for the masses.”
With so many new brands and properties out there, one could never stand out without an edge over the competition. So what can companies do to make a stronger presence in the luxury hospitality industry?
Inzerillo answers: “We would encourage companies seeking to stay competitive in today’s luxury hospitality space to focus on their team culture and ensuring employees feel empowered to respond in an intuitive manner to their guests’ needs.
“We see so many stunning facilities around the world, and a growing sector of uber-luxury properties, but at the end of the day guests will return because of the service – because they feel valued and well cared for.”
But the industry is ever-changing. There are changes in technology, travel trends, and more importantly, changes in the customers’ demand. So, what has been the most significant change in customers’ demand?
He continues: “One of the most noticeable changes we have seen is a property’s ability to adapt and redefine luxury and comfort. Linen tablecloths and tableside preparations in a fine-dining restaurant are not what today’s luxury traveller looks for to feel relaxed. It’s nice to have that as an option, but not for every meal.
“Our standards, of course, are refined every year”
“We have seen a great range of diversity in the offering of luxury experiences to be much more approachable and significantly more bespoke for a broader range of guests, notably the ever-increasing millennials. Equally, social media has been a huge game changer in how hotels do business — especially for the luxury sector. Our standards, of course, are refined every year, and over time continue to reflect the changing levels of consumer expectations.”
“We strongly believe that, while a stunning facility should rank high on a guest’s list of priorities in the luxury market, what is crucial is knowing you will receive a consistently high level of personalised service that strikes that fine line between being too attentive and too discreet.
“When the guest has to think, luxury stops”
“Hotels that have staff committed to assisting every guest in a manner that serves each unique situation or preference in an intuitive manner is what will truly make for an all-around luxury experience. We like to say at Forbes Travel Guide that when the guest has to think, luxury stops.”