Undeniably we can admit that the very first thing that stopped when Covid began was tourism. Loads of people who were used to traveling all around the world for any occasion, just found themselves grounded in their own homes.

The luxury world is by definition a reality without borders, a place where the most unexpected things take form, and everything seems to be just perfect and without any boundary to creativity. Though, when Covid happened, the luxury world certainly faced a few unexpected limits that affected the economy of many luxury industries, and the hospitality one was within the most hit by the crisis. 

Hence, even if in 2020 many fancy hotels reached the lowest peak ever registered, we can say that provisions for the future are even better than the prospects before Covid arise; therefore, the question is: what if the lowest point reached actually was the trampoline that will push the luxury hospitality sector to even a higher level in the incoming years?

In fact, research shows that luxury hotels around the world continued their recovery in 2022 and more good news is on the horizon: high-end hotels in the Americas and the Middle East and Africa region, nearly matched their demand numbers from three years ago. Demand for European luxury-class hotels was only off 12% from its 2019 high level. And now that China and Japan have ended their long pandemic shutdowns, this should spur intra-Asia travel as well as some additional international inbound demand.

Indeed, we have promising forecasts about the future of the luxury hospitality sector. But do you know, dear readers, where does this culture for the tourism industry come from? Well, coming back to the 17th century, young people from the wealthiest European families could finish their studies by visiting cultural, artistic, and political centers in Europe; this tradition was called “grand tour”, and it was a trip to historical and artistic places, where a person could get to know and appreciate them thanks to direct and tangible experience, instead of just studying in books.  It is from the Grand Tour onwards, that the tourism industry develops, and especially in the past, tourism was definitely a luxury since just a few rich people could actually afford traveling.

Certainly, nowadays traveling is becoming affordable for many more people, and tourists can easily find cheap B&Bs which can guarantee them a place to sleep. Yet, some still seek something more than just a room; hence, there is a huge difference between a normal hotel, and what the so-defined luxury hotels aim to offer. When going to such a hotel, people are not just buying a room to sleep, they are buying an emotion, a good way of feeling, an experience they will not want to forget.

Surprisingly, despite the plunging global economy and ongoing pandemic issues, the hotel business appears to be booming and in record numbers, and there is a dramatic increase in hotels planned within the luxury market. The top countries for all new hotel projects are the United States and China, and the leading franchise company in the global construction pipeline is Hilton Worldwide, followed by Marriott International, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), and Accor.

Hence, what changes coming from the luxury hospitality industry shall we expect from this 2023?

After people got stuck in their home for so long, now having a chance to travel again, they are even more willing to do so than previously, spending even a lot of money. Because, what if one day you just wake up, there is a lockdown, and you are grounded in your own house for months? It seems impossible but it is what actually happened, and wealthy people with are eager to enjoy and exploit the economic possibilities they have after they repressed it for a long time.

Moreover, it is interesting to see how the trends and preferences are changing; data show that customers prefer last minute stays, but longer. Another trend is linked to the way hotels sell their proposals; among guests there is a bigger need for experientiality and therefore for what the territory or structure is able to offer in addition to traditional stays. For this reason luxury chains such as Hilton increased the professional figures dedicated to this type of requirement.

Furthermore, after Covid, hotels have been giving even more importance to outdoor environments, interviews coming from brand managers of different prestigious hotel chains all stress the importance of expanding the garden areas. For instance, many structures inserted Jacuzzi tubs that add to the offer of their already existing internal spas and related wellness centers, since this is an extremely evaluated and requested service customers expect nowadays.

Though, the real question is: is it just a rebound from the terrible impact Covid has had on tourism in general? Experts say no, the recent growth of the sector confirms a positive trend, with trading results substantially higher than the pre-Covid period also at a global level. Hence, 2023 will be a crucial year to define whether the ‘New Luxury in Hospitality’, which means that the traveler is seeking a more transformative and soul-enriching experience, will still have great success.

Giulia Borzatta

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