Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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The Tipping Point

MHAIRI WILSON, Travel Writer and Founder of tourism and hospitality PR agency, Shine PR, gives us her lowdown on what is trending internationally.

When I’m travelling, I’m looking at every aspect of a hotel stay – the welcome, ambience, vibe, efficiency, design, sustainability, comfort, ease of the delivery of expectations, the hotel team, service, authenticity and how that hotel positions itself within the destination.

I’m also always looking at what trends are being adopted by hotels, and why. Little changes in consumer behaviour I see which aggregate over months and years and point to something bigger. Themes I read about which become a ‘thing’.

During and post pandemic, the focus for human behaviour was on health and technology. Technology gave us new tools to work, live and look after ourselves. We found new and better ways of living and our wishes and demands as consumers have rapidly changed, including our expectations of the hotel industry.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Tipping Point’, he refers to ‘that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips and spreads like wildfire.’

The exciting part of a trend, for me, is the journey to that tipping point; examining what the drivers are, how ‘sticky’ a trend might be and the impact of that. There are of course trends within trends, from the extreme to the easily adoptable, the ‘totally out there’ to the more mainstay.

Here’s where I’m seeing a big focus; themes which I think are on their way to or have reached tipping point.

Sleep

According to research by Hilton, the top travel trend for 2024 is sleep tourism. I’ve become intrigued as to how different hotels are tapping into this trend, so recently took a five day ‘sleepcation’ at the Equinox Hotel New York.

Named one of the two hotels in the United States on the 2024 list of The World’s 50 Best Hotels, The Equinox promises ‘your best sleep’, thanks to its Art + Science of Sleep programme.

With a touch of the ‘Dark. Quiet. Cool’ option on the in-room iPad, my room shuts down to the optimal sleep setting, functioning as a ‘sleep chamber’, blocking out both sound
and light pollution.

The bed is layered with temperature regulating natural fibres and get this, not one duvet. Not a sharing duvet. A duvet each.

There’s even a movement, meditation and breathwork programme that will optimise your circadian rhythms to help you unwind at night and energise in the morning.

“Sleep is officially, the new rock n’ roll”

RoomBar is stocked with all manner of pouches and patches to induce slumber and revive. Herbal teas, tinctures, wellness patches, high-performance eye masks, collagen face masks, superfoods, snacks to support natural melatonin production, revivers, restorers and relaxers.

London’s first hotel dedicated to sleep and wellbeing, the 750 room Zedwell Hotel opened in early 2020, with three more properties opening since.

The flagship property in Piccadilly is soundproof, the air purified rooms (or ‘cocoons’) are windowless with soothing colours and cosy lights, all of which promise a whole new level of rest.

Sleep is officially, the new rock n’ roll.

Rooms

Rooms are becoming much smarter. The Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards in room iPads allow you to control every aspect of your experience such as temperature, lighting, blinds and privacy and you can book in room dining, wellness rituals, fitness classes, restaurants and taxis.

Wireless charging is no longer a hightech luxury, it’s a staple. No more messy cord dangling across your bedside table. Mats are where it’s at. And mobile keys.

In Room Wellness is also a thing. Open a drawer and you’ll find yoga mats and blocks, stretch bands and kettle bells.

Mini-bars have also had a ‘glow up’. The bar in my room in New York came with little bottles of cocktails from Via Carotta in Manhattan’s West Village, a favourite of Taylor Swift.

Goodbye Toblerone and Pringles”

I stayed at the 1886 Post Hotel in Ghent a few years ago which had the chicest mini-bar; a carefully curated collection of spirits, cocktail making accoutrements and menus, fresh lemon and lime and importantly, crystal glasses to drink your Negroni in style.

Hello, protein bars and shakes, superfoods, ginger shots, matcha tea, herbal remedies and self-care products. Goodbye Toblerone and Pringles.

Also, a high five to mini bars showcasing local provenance, whether it’s, food, drink, local textiles or crafts. Any opportunity to tell stories, connect guests with the destination and showcase authenticity is a win-win.

Wellness

Early on in my recent stay in New York, I found myself gesturing to the spa menu with my ‘Relax’ patch covered wrists, suggesting a conveyor belt of treatments. “Shall we book an IV Nutridrip? Cryotherapy? The wave table that gives you three hours of sleep in 30 minutes? The face lift facial?”

“Shall we book an IV Nutridrip? Cryotherapy?

The Global Wellness Institute estimates that the world’s wellness market is projected to reach £800 billion in 2024 and rising. Wellness is no longer a tick box extra or a 60-minute massage in a hotel spa followed by a G&T (although that does actually sound quite good…).

It’s holistic, encompassing nutrition to the aesthetics and ambience of the surroundings, sleep and the ability to offer guests a personalised experience, curated to their needs, lifestyle and goals. Wellness and self-care has gone next level.

Design

We spend 90% of our time indoors, so it’s no surprise that hotels are adapting how they physically look to create the best possible experiences for guests. I’ve seen a huge growth in hotels which are bringing elements of nature into the design of their interiors and exteriors to create a feeling of wellness, harmony and ultimately, relaxation.

Natural light, soothing design, ‘blue spaces’ (water features), living walls, locally sourced furnishings and muted interiors is the design shift I’m seeing, whether it’s the agritourism finca in Ibiza I visit twice a year (Atzaró Agroturismo Hotel) to the big global brands.

Sustainability

According to the World Tourism & Travel Council, the tourism industry accounts for 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

We still want to travel, often long distances. When we get there, we want to know that we’re having as little impact on the environment as possible, so hotels with totally integrated green practices in all aspects of the business are going to come further up the choice list than ones that are box ticking.

A sustainability study by luxury travel advisers, Virtuoso, found that 78% of luxury travellers prefer doing business with companies with strong sustainability policies and 75% of travellers would pay for more eco-friendly options if they knew how those funds were being used.

A focus on sustainability isn’t new of course but today’s traveller is looking for ingrained practices which run through the DNA of a hotel, from its physical infrastructure, energy efficiency, waste management and cleaning products to its menus, with an increasing emphasis on locally sourced food and more vegetarian and vegan options.

“Sustainability’s no longer a tick box. It’s a lifestyle”

Little changes I’ve noticed recently include branded water flasks by the side of your bed which you can fill up at water stations during your stay, no single use plastic toiletry bottles in hotel rooms, upcycled furniture and materials, charity and local partnerships and hyper local sourcing beyond food and drink. Sustainability’s no longer a tick box. It’s a
lifestyle.

Personalisation

Having a forensic approach to collecting customer data and using it creatively to get to the hearts and minds of your audience and bring them closer to you is where it’s at. Research by McKinsey found that companies that excel at personalisation generate 40% more revenue from those activities than average players. As consumers, we constantly receive information which is customised and targeted to us as individuals, so we expect the same level of personalisation from a hotel stay, both digitally and on property.

Many years ago, I learned about The Ritz-Carlton Mystique – the ‘magic’ behind the brand and the basis for everything that they do. That was such a head turner for me. The idea of creating a service value around “the fascinating aura of mystery, awe, and power surrounding someone or something.”

The surprise and delight moments, from big showstoppers to subtle gesture, which leave a guest wondering “How did they know that?”

That’s down to data and how you use it. With brand style, flair, personality and human touch, of course. And remember ‘data’ is a broad term. I prefer to think of that as ‘knowledge’. Not everything comes from a computer report. Some things are right in front of your eyes. I could go deep on this. Another time…

“It’s crucial that our governments have a clear understanding of the potential”

I’ll be interested to see how our hospitality industry in Scotland evolves to embrace trends and changes in behaviours which are working their toward to the tipping point. It’s important that we do and it’s crucial that our governments have a clear understanding of the potential and opportunity for our hospitality and tourism industry within the global marketplace.We can realise the vision of our national tourism strategy, Outlook 2030, that ‘Scotland will be a leader in 21st century tourism’, but our industry needs focussed investment, supportive fiscal levers, and a global mindset to support us in getting us there.

 

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