Connect with us

Tourism

What has the pandemic taught hotels about luxury. Is ‘less’ more?

The Thaiger

Published 

 on 

What has the pandemic taught hotels about luxury. Is ‘less’ more? | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Naka Island - The Luxury Travel Expert
  • follow us in feedly

by Anthony Lark

“Let’s say goodbye to all that stale pretence and manufactured pomp”

Until the collective nightmare that was 2020, many of the so-called high-end hotels had a reputation for trying to convince guests to pay for often dingy guestrooms lacking any real views inside an otherwise ornate structure with a storied, celebrated past, where the first impression was a check in often akin to applying for a bank loan. Defined as “luxury”, in the good old days they got away with it.

Over the thirty years I spent running Amanpuri and Trisara on Phuket, I heard hundreds of people complain of feeling ripped off at “legendary” and “iconic” hotels by staff that rudely treated them as anything but guests.

How many of us did not tip the head waiter after dinner on the first night, to return the next evening and find ourselves stashed at a table by the kitchen door, or getting ushered past the prime and utterly empty deck chairs (with a book on them) by an indifferent pool boy rushing to count his bounty at the pool bar.

As we in the hotel business look towards vaccine jabs while collectively praying for people to start travelling again, let’s say goodbye to all that stale pretence and manufactured pomp. Emerging from the darkness that was 2020, we hoteliers need to consider that life will not bounce back to all that, nor should it. Good riddance to the seller’s market when hotels could charge like the light brigade for sub-par accommodations and indifferent service while expecting our guests will automatically keep coming back for more.

Merriam-Webster ‘luxury’ definition #1: a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort.

“There will always be people willing to pay,” said the late, great Natale Rusconi of the Cipriani in Venice and Splendido in Portofino.The size of the room didn’t matter, he observed, nor did the price of a cup of coffee, as long as they felt cocooned in an ‘exclusive’ world with an established reputation of being the “best.”

A classic negroni or a plate of risotto on the terrace at Cipriani is luxurious, not so much because of the ingredients of the food and beverage (although it is the best), but because it’s a rare experience.

Sonu Shivdasani, owner of Soneva resorts, hits it on the head when describing luxury.

He points out “Our external communication focuses much more on our brand proposition of “Inspiring a Lifetime of Rare Experiences”.

For example, we touch upon the point of our guests being able to walk barefoot for a week. This is rare and hence a luxury.

Change is in the luxe-wind

There is definitely change in the post-covid wind. In virtual conversations with many wealthy, well-travelled former guests of mine living in the northern hemisphere, they are explicit about what they yearn for on the other side of their drawn-out lockdowns.

These people are the ones who every year asked me for the largest villa with the bluest views and the most kitted out yacht for a day on the Andaman Sea and now I sense they seek something distinctly less material. While I am not surprised to hear them in their Bel Air mansions and apartments overlooking the River Seine asking for deals, what they say next piques my interest. “Anthony, I don’t need the presidential suite when we come back,” they say without a whiff of disappointment to downgrade. They are increasingly asking not for the specs on yachts but for news of wellness offerings and rare, secret local experiences.

One company already excelling in this beyond luxury space is Six Senses, purchased in 2019 by the behemoth InterContinental Hotels brand but left to run relatively independently under CEO Neil Jacobs. In interviews and on panels throughout the pandemic, Jacobs has spoken often of his personal aversion to the very word ‘luxury’ as well as to ‘exclusivity,’ which he sees in direct opposition to Six Senses’ holistic ethos.

Community engagement, he argues, is not only an aspect of the brand’s sustainability guidelines but also critical to “the intrinsic value of the content around what is being offered” at each individual property.

Like Jacobs, I noticed even before Covid that bragging rights back home no longer focus solely on price-tagged acquisitions. Those same guests who regaled me during lockdown with tales from their past travels, talked about meaningful encounters with Bhutanese textile weavers, Portuguese sourdough bakers, Colombian coffee farmers or Thai fishermen with whom they shared meaningful encounters on immersive, often unexpectedly transformative journeys. Perhaps we all learned in lockdown that these memories endure far longer than we can linger on even the most decadent bed linens or the hotel’s fluffy-as-a-cloud bathrobes.

Even before any of us had given a thought to wet markets in Wuhan, our industry was abuzz with these ‘experiential’ and ‘transformational’ travel offerings, and we see smaller, more nimble independent hotels and resorts luring guests away from staid grand dames of the past, while commanding higher rates.

I suspect we will now enter a new era, best described by Morris Sim, one of the smartest marketing minds I know.Travellers he predicts, will be embracing the idea that “ luxury is the outcome of an experience, not a product.”

Merriam-Webster luxury definition #2: something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary.

To be clear, this is not a rallying cry to spend amidst an economic crisis. Luxurious experiences may be as humble as a thoughtful gesture or act of kindness by a staff member. It’s surprising our guests on their return to the hotel room to find their laundry cleaned, folded and tied with a beautiful bow, or that feeling of being cared for to discover one’s toothpaste, sunscreen and deodorant arranged like tiny soldiers on the bathroom vanity.

Going forward, those hotels that also help guests to make meaningful, immersive connections with the surrounding culture and environment while also delivering unpretentious, anticipatory service with thoughtful human touches will redefine luxury.

Merriam-Webster luxury definition #2b: an indulgence in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease

Throughout the heady 1990s, we opened a new Amanresort every year or so. While now considered places of beauty that were undeniably desirable, they were initially revolutionary upstarts compared with the most famous resorts of the 70’s and 80’s where gold sink taps stood out against bathrooms laden with Carrera marble.

Into this arena where remote controlled toilets that blew air on your arse were regarded as luxurious, Adrian Zecha’s vision for each Aman was unashamedly simple in design and utterly lacking in superfluous finishing’s. The late architect Ed Tuttle, who mastered this design of understatement used to tell his team (including his lead designer Pin Tan, who now holds that title at Six Senses) and clients that “it’s not about embellishment, it’s about owning the space.”By this he meant that humans are most at ease in spaces that function well when for them rather than for shelter magazines and marketing brochures.

As we look towards leaving hibernation behind, I strongly believe our guests will gravitate to uncluttered places where simplicity reigns, where they can look better and feel better about their emergent selves and where they can enjoy consequential encounters with fascinating strangers, after feeling cut off for so long.

At Trisara Phuket, the team here serves local residents and Bangkokians down for the weekend gourmet Thai-inspired lunches prepared by chefs under a Thai carved sala roof overlooking a charming lake at the resort’s nearby working farm, engaging with locals tending the farm while keeping comfortably cool and exquisitely sated.

My personal view is that successful hotels must throw off any remaining shackles of our industry’s past definitions of ‘luxury’ and pivot towards delivering authentically local guest experiences and anticipative service that surprises and delights.

Are we headed towards a new paradigm where our job is to nurture the “outcome of the experience” rather than the showmanship of counting threads of Egyptian cotton and embroidering initials on pillowslips?

What has the pandemic taught hotels about luxury. Is 'less' more? | News by The Thaiger

Anthony Lark is the founding and current president of The Phuket Hotels Association. He also runs his own luxury hospitality company focused on resort and residential villa design & master plan concepts, plus management auditing of existing properties as hotels prepare for a post-covid world.

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jason

    Friday, December 4, 2020 at 2:52 pm

    What is valued by tourists above all, is feeling welcomed and valued by the Hotel. I stay at a small boutique Hotel in Phuket. I am treated like a friend and I trust the advice of the Thais who run the Hotel. I am known by name (first name). No pretence, no mention of being “farang”. Just good friends who look after me as they would do for a close friend. That is worth more than anything else. You don’t need to pay top dollar to get top service.

    • Avatar

      Ray

      Friday, December 4, 2020 at 5:02 pm

      Agreed, I also prefer to stay at a homey place above sterile luxury. It is the same as with designer clothes, some people just pay a premium for the reputation. It is often those snubby guests in higher-end resorts who spoil it. When they treat staff as servants these hardworking people will become indifferent in turn. I am also under the impression that they are instructed not to become to familiar with guests. To some extend this is understandable due to their workload. I never been at an Aman resort where they seem to do it differently. Of course this comes with a hefty price tag.

  2. Avatar

    Sam

    Friday, December 4, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    Wholeheartedly agree with Jason’s comment, and would add that you do not travel to “stay” at a hotel, you spend most of your time visiting the sights!

    Therefore, a clean and comfortable hotel room will suffice, and what will make you return is the “welcome” feeling provided by staff and management.

  3. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Friday, December 4, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    I do not want to treated as a friend.
    I want as much value as I can get for my buck.
    I watch keenly to catch them scamming petty cash from me.
    The hotel wants to give me as little as possible for as much as they can get, and if they can swindle a bit more, they love it.
    It’s WAR!
    .
    .
    .
    lol

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Friday, December 4, 2020 at 4:50 pm

      I’ll bet you scam the mini-bar too …

      … but I have to agree with you. All this being “treated like a friend” by people who AREN’T friends just makes me feel a bit uncomfortable – I want service, not friendship.

  4. Avatar

    Ted

    Friday, December 4, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    I understand what Anthony is saying, although have never looked at it, as he does, pre-or post covid. Although, I hope he and all other leaders in the hospitality sector doesn’t forget this time and continue to let it be; the buyer’s market. And not turn it back to “seller’s market” as fast as it is possible to do so.

    I just love the hotel deals one can get now in Thailand, I for sure, do my part in helping the hospitality sector.

  5. Avatar

    Issan John

    Friday, December 4, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    An excellent and thought provoking article from someone in the hotel and hospitality industry, at long last.

    It doesn’t affect me as unless it’s for something special, like a honeymoon, a hotel for me is just a place to stay, not to “experience” while I get my “experiences” away from the hotel. When I go to Hong Kong now (not recently, but a few times post 1997) I’ll stay at the YMCA next to the Peninsula as it offers all I want and need from the Peninsula (a comfortable bed, a quiet room, and a good location) but at a fraction of the price.

    When I was based in Hong Kong and there was some re-building going on nearby I was put up in the Mandarin for a few days so they could work past normal hours without disturbing me, but it was totally wasted – rather like an ASQ paradise. I’d have drawn the line at Chungking mansions, but I just didn’t want the “luxury”.

    Horses for courses, I suppose.

  6. Avatar

    Patrick Kelly

    Saturday, December 5, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    Here’s hoping the shackles are removed for the hotel industry sooner than later. Not sure how many more months some of these hotels can last. Seems by the surveys reported if you are outside the tourism sector you want to remain on lockdown . That’s a bad omen for the future of a vibrant industry. We’ve only begun to see the carnage.

  7. Avatar

    Philippe Brown

    Saturday, December 5, 2020 at 10:58 pm

    The real change will come when travel advisors, agents and companies commit to selling less not more.

    And instead of selling they start teaching people who to travel better – whether transformationally, experientially or otherwise.

  8. Avatar

    James Pate

    Wednesday, December 9, 2020 at 6:24 am

    A very insightful article. I enjoyed it. I hope the writer can teach many in the hotel industry the lessons he has learned. Would like to read more stories like this here; not just about hotels, but from other kinds of businesses, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Phuket. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

Thailand's largest online portal for news and information.

Thailand

Thailand’s tourism targets film production to gain revenue during Covid-19 crisis

Avatar

Published

on

Thailand’s tourism targets film production to gain revenue during Covid-19 crisis | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Herrera & Partners

Thailand’s tourism officials have a new idea to draw in visitors: film production. The Tourism and Sports Ministry is aiming to generate around 3 billion baht from foreign film crews and is targeting projects with an investment over 100 million baht, hoping to compensate for the loss of revenue due to the lack of international tourists during the coronavirus pandemic.

Foreign tourism revenue drastically dropped nearly 83% in 2020, going from nearly 40 million tourists in 2019 to only 6.7 million tourists in 2020.

The tourism department’s director-general Anant Wongbenjarat says that Thailand welcomed 176 international film productions to the country last year, generating 1.73 billion baht for the local economy. But this is a sharp decrease compared to the previous year where the 740 foreign film crews generated 4.86 billion baht.

In August, the CCSA decided to grant special entry permission to film productions. 53 film production projects were based in Thailand during August and December, contributing 1.14 billion baht to the economy. Those entering Thailand must still undergo a 14 day quarantine.

“International productions can proceed and generate income for locals despite the tourism slowdown.”

Anant also says there are 4 more film production projects underway, and it is forecasted to generate 186 million baht, bringing the total to 57 projects. In the first half of this year, there will be nine more productions expected to come in and help create at least 800 jobs for locals.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.

Continue Reading

Thailand

Massage workers in Pattaya call for reopening of spas and massages shops

Avatar

Published

on

Massage workers in Pattaya call for reopening of spas and massages shops | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Saeree News

A group of about 50 workers from Pattaya massage shops and spas gathered together to call for the reopening of their businesses after being closed for the past month due to Covid-19 restrictions. The group called themselves the “Pattaya Health Massage” presented a letter signed by 60 massage shops, spas and gyms to Bang Lamung District Sheriff this morning.

Chon Buri is listed as a “high risk” area with maximum restrictions. Many nonessential businesses in the province have been closed including massage shops, spas and gyms.

Now that Chon Buri has gone 5 consecutive days without a local Covid-19 infection, the workers say it’s time for businesses, like massage shops and spas, to reopen.

The workers also raised the point that other provinces and districts across Thailand are loosening restrictions as the number of active cases continues to drop. The workers also said that there are no Covid-19 clusters or major outbreaks related to massage shops or fitness venues.

Bang Lamung District Sheriff Amnat Charoensri met the protesters and collected the petition and says he understands that many people need to get back to work to earn income. Local officials are expected to hold a meeting within the next week to potentially loosen restrictions.

SOURCE: Pattaya News

Catch up with the latest daily “Thailand News Today” here on The Thaiger.

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.

Continue Reading

Business

The ‘office’ is SO last century. Say hello to the world of remote working.

The Thaiger

Published

on

The ‘office’ is SO last century. Say hello to the world of remote working. | The Thaiger

Do you work from home? Or can you work anywhere have a laptop and wi-fi? Are you a trader or selling stuff online? You’re part of a growing trend in modern work practices as the fancy city office becomes an expensive relic of the ‘old normal’.

2020 became the year of people working from home. In same case, it was the year of being told to stay home so there wasn’t much option. During Thailand’s lockdowns in April and May, offices were closed and employers had to scramble to find alternatives to the “office”. With the rise of Zoom and other video conferencing software, ways of tracking time-on-keyboard and hundreds of other monitoring apps, employers suddenly discovered they could actually run their businesses without an office. There were certainly new dynamics and unforeseen challenges, but for the most part, it worked.

Companies had worked from central office locations for a hundred years. The remote/work-from-home option was a new test for everyone involved but many early wrinkles have been ironed out after an accelerated learning curve due to the Covid-19 situation.

In the early days, most companies weren’t ready to close up the office and send their workers home claiming that some basic operations such as accounting and invoicing were not yet able to be done online (Thailand has a love of hard-copies and paperwork).

Team meetings were also more clumsy online. There were even companies that told their staff to keep coming in to the office as there was no legal barrier preventing them from doing so. But many smaller and less digitally-savvy firms required workers to come in and risk contracting the virus.

In the US, the Bureau of Labour Statistics found only 29% of jobs in the US could be completed from home, while in Thailand (a far less digitised and service-based economy) the percentage was probably lower.

But larger Thai firms, such as Unilever and True Digital allowed nearly 100% of their white-collar employees to work from home early during the lockdown phase. Other companies adapted quickly and found that working remotely, or from home, allowed their businesses additional flexibility. Many workers also say they enjoyed the lack of office interruptions too.

While Unilever was unable to send its factory workforce home, it was able to shift all sales and executive personnel fully online to avoid possible Covid exposure finding hitherto unknown improvements in the firm’s e-commerce presence.

Thai startups such as Eko (“your complete employee experience platform”) was able to capitalise on the rise of work-from-home with its “work anywhere” employee application. Eko experienced 200% year-on-year sales growth in the first half of 2020 as companies looked for solutions to connect employees from home.

Teleconferencing juggernaut Zoom was trading shares at US$88 at the start of 2020, to rise to $568 by mid-October, only to trail off to $337 by the end of the year – the fickle nature of a fast-rising tech start-up.

Employees, generally, prefer the shift to working from home and the flexible hours. It doesn’t suit all businesses or all employees, but it suits many. A study by by recruitment specialists Robert Walters Thailand found 75% of workers want opportunities to work-from-home and only 25% want a return to full-time work at the office.

Last month the police and the Bangkok Metropolitan Organisation police urged businesses to allow employees to work from home at least once a week to cut down on traffic-induced pollution.

The Covid-19 pandemic also forced countries to rethink their supply chains and reliance on foreign goods. China, for example, responded to the outbreak by shutting down factories, some of which other countries relied on for medical equipment needed to fight the virus, and vital components needed for manufacturing of goods in China and other countries.

Whilst there was an initial push-back on China, the international supply chain has become so entwined with Chinese businesses and manufacturers, and China with other countries, that it would take decades to unwind.

One of the biggest winners this year has been the rise of the delivery services. Grab Bike, Food Panda, We Serve and Line Bike are the best known but there are start ups making inroads into the growing delivery space as well as many smaller and larger businesses that have their own deliveries.

These businesses have been able to thrive on the ‘new normal’ stay-at-home culture. Eat at home, work at home, shop from home, watch movies at home – the trend is growing as people realise that they can get almost everything delivered, timely, efficiently and at little additional cost, usually free.

The big test will be once the Covid situation settles down, whatever that means and whenever it happens, and companies look back at the successes and failures of their employees working from home. But there’s no doubt the pandemic and the imposed restrictions ave accelerated the need to develop new ways of allowing employees to work safely, remotely or from home.

The successful transition of some office work to work-at-home will also put continued pressure on the commercial real estate market. Many employers are looking at their monthly office rental outgoings and starting to measure the return on their investment.

The rise of the work-at-home phenomenon and the digital nomad will be the main trends for office work in 2021.

This article was written laying on a couch, at home, at 6.15am in the morning… because we can.

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.

Continue Reading
Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21 | The Thaiger
Thailand5 days ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19 | The Thaiger
Thailand1 week ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18 | The Thaiger
Thailand1 week ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15 | The Thaiger
Thailand2 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14 | The Thaiger
Thailand2 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13 | The Thaiger
Thailand2 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12 | The Thaiger
Thailand2 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11 | The Thaiger
Thailand2 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8 | The Thaiger
Thailand3 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8

Thailand News Today | 305 infections, No happy ending for massages, Phuket quarantine mooted | Jan 7 | The Thaiger
Thailand3 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | 305 infections, No happy ending for massages, Phuket quarantine mooted | Jan 7

Thailand News Today | 10,000 schools closed, 900 new migrant infections, Gambling crackdown | January 6 | The Thaiger
Thailand3 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | 10,000 schools closed, 900 new migrant infections, Gambling crackdown | January 6

Thailand News Today | PM reverses lockdown, Southern P.D.A. crackdown, Covid update | Jan 5 | The Thaiger
Thailand3 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | PM reverses lockdown, Southern P.D.A. crackdown, Covid update | Jan 5

Thailand News Today | Record daily infections, Covid restrictions, British arrivals ‘on hold’ | Jan 4 | The Thaiger
Thailand3 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Record daily infections, Covid restrictions, British arrivals ‘on hold’ | Jan 4

Thailand News Today | Pattaya restrictions, 2021’s extra holidays, Covid update | December 30 | The Thaiger
Thailand4 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Pattaya restrictions, 2021’s extra holidays, Covid update | December 30

Thailand News Today | Covid update, Bangkok restrictions, Gold rush | December 29 | The Thaiger
Thailand4 weeks ago

Thailand News Today | Covid update, Bangkok restrictions, Gold rush | December 29

Follow The Thaiger by email:

Trending