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By Sonia Tatar and Radha Arora

With the luxury hospitality industry delivering a healthy seven percent growth in 2015 and the global travel and tourism industry continuing to grow at an impressive rate—more than one billion tourists travel to an international destination every year, while tourism contributes 10 percent of global GDP and six percent of the world’s total exports—we could not help but wonder if the luxury traveler still shared traits with his traditional archetype, known for being highly concerned with opulence and pampering. 

As CEO Worldwide of Les Roches Global Hospitality Education—one of the world’s highest ranked hospitality schools—and President of the Rosewood Hotels and Resorts and a Les Roches alum, we combine many years of experience in the luxury hospitality industry and have concluded that a new breed of traveler has emerged in recent years.

Influential explorers, as we have come to call them, are less concerned with traditional luxury than the generation of ten or twenty years ago. Instead they are focused on finding value, authenticity and truly local experiences.

To best meet the needs of these influential explorers, the entirety of the hospitality industry—from hotel owners to tour operators, destination marketers and hospitality management schools—must rethink its approach and leave behind an outdated traveler profile.

The industry should incorporate the culture and heritage of a property’s location into all facets of the property, through art, architecture, design, dining, and service offerings. For example, Rosewood San Miguel de Allende in Mexico has created a unique welcome amenity called The Artist in You, where guests are provided with a fully equipped easel and are invited to create an original artwork to take home as a memento of their stay. Similarly, at Mexico’s Las Ventanas al Paraiso, the director of romance works with guests in advance of and during their stay to understand a couple’s specific tastes to help plan anything from an intimate dinner to a marriage proposal. Such experiences help foster close and long-term relationships with guests and communities.

Wellness is also top of mind for the influential explorer, and health and wellness management is one of the fastest growing segments of the international hospitality industry, creating increased demand for qualified and experienced managers. In 2014, Les Roches developed a new health and wellness specialization to prepare students for an industry experiencing double-digit growth worldwide. Students learn the business and operational aspects of spa alongside health management, aesthetics, spa medicine, treatments, hotel-spa services, and health care management.

These personalized amenities should continue beyond the walls of the hotel as guests are increasingly interested in exploring the local area, going on excursions, and having unique experiences outside their room. These activities account for a high percentage of non-room spending and of overall revenue.

To make an experience even truer to a destination and take into account the behaviors of the next generation of travelers, hoteliers should incorporate the latest technological advances, such as 360 degrees video or an app that offers commentary during a local tour. But they should also recognize that there are some experiences that technology cannot replace. From a staff education perspective, the addition of technological features in hotels requires hospitality managers to be digitally literate and cyber security conscious. Les Roches has developed a challenge-based learning program, confronting students with real-life cyber security issues and challenging to solve them. This program is not about transforming students into technical experts writing lines of code, but will raise their awareness on how systems can be compromised and how to put in place the best programs, equipment and policies to prevent and respond to breaches. With human error accounting for 95 percent of cyber security breaches, this program is a vital step.

In 2017 and beyond, we expect the number of influential explorers to grow substantially, and this new breed of luxury traveler will increasingly seek active adventures wherever they go.

About Sonia Tatar

Sonia Tatar is CEO Worldwide of Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, a private institution based on the Swiss model of experiential learning, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields of hospitality, tourism and event management. In 2016, Les Roches opened the school’s U.S. branch, in Chicago.

Contact: Julie Bagdikian / 212-601-9341

About Radha Arora

Radha Arora is the President of the Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, bringing 30 years’ luxury hospitality leadership experience to his role, including serving in top positions at some of the world’s finest and most celebrated luxury hotels.

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