There is no one recipe for all luxury hotels, each vary in accordance to the context – both from the point of view of Covid-19 and the lack of demand
With the U.S., South Korea, Japan, China, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia unlikely to resume any long-haul travels before mid December, all luxury hotels and resorts in major European destinations will continue to suffer, unless they also consider alternative markets with very wealthy travellers – Netherlands, Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Poland, Serbia, Romania, India and Mexico.
Russia has been cleared by EU authorities and it is subject to lower Covid-19 stats while direct flights to Moscow will recommence end of August. The UK and Italy are key beneficiaries of Russian travellers, especially in major cities such as London and Milan.
Hotels must also look at increased revenue potential from F&B, especially those in metropolis cities. Attracting locals (non-hotel guests) and guests from other upscale / premium hotels and even guests from Airbnb apartments nearby – remains critical for luxury hotels for the rest of 2020. The staycations during the summer season, which were actually brief weekend escapes, are unlikely to remain a trend as we head into the colder months of a Fall
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, luxury hotels in Barcelona would reach out to nearby Airbnb units owners and propose them a very competitive rate for breakfast and wellness at the hotel. Like in many other cities several properties downtown have a common owner.
Luxury hotels in Europe at key leisure destinations (sun or snow), for the rest of this year, the key focus will remain on locals and those who are able to drive (for ex German, Austrian, Swiss drive to northern Italy. Trust in the consistent implementation of the most strict safety and hygiene measures against Covid-19 will also be critical, flat or declining curves in cases will also be an important criteria. Another very important factor is how stable and reliable is the political governance in each country – CPP will be reporting on this critical aspect in all reviews.
Low Covid-19 stats in a respective country do not imply relaxed measures and restrictions. Strict safety and hygiene measures should still be applied. One such example is Germany, which saw an overnight spikes and a major epicentre at a huge meatpacking factory with hundreds infected, local authorities and owners of the company hiding for weeks the dramatic situation. No country is by default experiencing consistently long term Covid-19 stats, especially a large country such as Germany – country’s national airline is a key ‘feeder’ including relatives of the many German passport holders, originally from Turkey and several other countries such as Syria.
That is why, for this upcoming winter, Switzerland will most likely be the destination of choice should also look at attracting wealthy travellers from countries which they would mostly ignore until the Pandemic. Until the Pandemic eases significantly, luxury hotels would beed to once again earn he trust even in the case of loyal / returning. Guests will be seeking very clear information on he measures taken by each hotel property.
At the same time transparency is critical – even for a guest who arrives at the hotel having made a reservation through a booking engine, hotels should pay utmost attention to the description of services the hotels offers – ex. in many destinations – dining, Spa / wellness services and any larger events are unlikely until next year. Guests should also be informed that early check-in or early check-out are very unlikely to be granted because according to global regulations, one full day should pass between guests who check-in in the respective rooms which are being cleaned, sanitised and disinfected.
Spas and wellness have never been an important revenue for luxury hotels in urban hotels, but this time leisure destination luxury resorts will see a steep decline in wellness service. Spas and wellness spaces pose major contamination threats, that is why even hotels that re-opened Spa because local authorities allowed it, we would advise guests to limit Spa, even if in the case of generously spaced ultra luxury where the hotel may limit the number of people who can be at the Spa at one given Spa.
There is still little applied research to the impact of Covid-19 on the Spas, especially on certain services that may pose lower risk. We would highly recommend an idea which has not been implemented yet at luxury hotels which is a ”Spa / Beauty’ ‘mini-bar in rooms with in-room Spa products – from bath oils and salts, shower oils – relaxing or invigorating (does not substitute a shower gel or foam), moisturisers, collagen mask, hair masks, anti-aging cream for him and her, special gels to ease inflammation of legs, aromatherapy for the room and bathroom (natural), special spray pillows (organic / natural). All products will be payable upon use. There are 3 luxury beauty brands which have already developed such ‘mini-bar’ together with a menu that includes a wide range of proposed in-room treatments.
Consumer show different habits & expectations
- guests pay more attention to
- the location of the hotel (away from very crowded area or markets)
- number of rooms
- size of bathrooms
- whether window open
- restaurant capacity
- guests book last-minute more than ever – and still many do it through booking engines
- with disruption of flights mostly because lack of demand, guests are increasingly checking out earlier sometimes even late afternoon (hotels should have a rather flexible policy and applies lower or no penalty fees)
- all guests inquire about the safest option to reach the hotel from the airport – hotels should advise in advance that they can arrange a private chauffeur driven car transfer – hotel should minimise the sometimes astronomical prices – either giving up on any profit or forging, otherwise common, marketing barter deals with luxury car brands – ex ‘Official Car of X Hotel is Y car for 3 or 6 months)
- discerning UHNWI travellers are more and more knowledgable, also media such as CPP, who the owners of the respective hotel are – especially in the case of boutique hotels – this is a very important safety factor
- wealthy travellers are less prepared to pay for a suite that is why the hotel should offer more flexible and more competitive rates for suites (ex include in the price of suites – return airport transfers or a value voucher against all F&B within the hotel)
- travellers are less and less loyal to a certain brand or chain and we, at CPP-LUXURY.COM have always highlighted major discrepancies between properties of the same chain – a superbly renovated property in one city and a very dated hotel in another destination – it is obvious, newer (fresher) product is much easier to clean and instills a more safety feel when it comes to hygiene and sanitation – not to mention rooms with wooden parquet.
Opportunities for luxury hotels
- hotels with an average number of 120-150 rooms are more likely to rebound financially faster, as they may be better equipped to manage reservations while maintaining the 24 hour minimum time between check-in s of guests in the same room
- luxury boutique hotels may have a lesser traffic throughout all public spaces – overall, interaction with staff is limited
- luxury breakfast buffets can be replaced by innovative in-room dining experiences – for instance if the property has a balcony, terrace or even a large window which can open
- an all-day dining menu with dishes only available on the in-room dining – make sure you also embellish the presentation – forget about the ‘standard white clothed table’
- hotels with outdoor spaces (even if partial) and hotels with windows that can open in their restaurants or lobby – major plus (it has been scientifically proven that fresh circulating air keeps away Covid-19; people may even convert certain venues for outdoor dining (ex courtyard space or garden as well as rooftop)
- top luxury suites can be turned into the most exclusive fine dining experience by the Chef of the hotel – one suite can have a certain theme while another one may serve more fusion — the suites would be entirely redecorated, ie bedroom type furniture remove
- hotels have a major opportunity to ‘keep’ their guests within their premises, instead of being exposed outside – however the Concierge should be in a position to provide a list of safe places – restaurants, etc.;
- now more than ever, luxury hotels should be more more open to collaborations / capsules or even pop-up spaces by major luxury fashion, watches and
Challenges for luxury hotels
- guests arriving with last minute bookings or those booking on search engines – so the hotel would not have any information on the respective guests
- buildings or properties which do not have opening windows
- hotels in heritage / historical buildings should invest in air-purifiers especially those on silver particles which can run all the time on hallways and rooms; it is impossible for any hotel in such a building to guarantee all piping has been not only cleaned but also disinfected
- hotels with no outdoor terraces
- high turnover of key staff such as housekeeping
- ensuring the same service standards despite limitations and challenges
- all staff must be Covid-19 tested twice a month
- enforcing the wear of masks for all guests while anywhere indoors (even if local legislation may no longer require that)
- hotel staff need to walk up stairs and not take the same elevator (the only one in some boutique hotels) as the guests do
- all guests must provide their own mobile number as well as the one of their party whom he or she travels with — as well as an emergency number that can be reached in the case of an emergency
- besides the apparent desire of the arriving guest to learn about the Covid-19 safety – briefing in person on arrival is a must (a delicate manner to catch the attention of the guest) – even if guests may find all details on the hotel website or on the Ipad in the room
- one key factor to address is the protocol of the hotel for a guest that shows Covid-19 symptoms – emergency number should be called and a member of the staff should personally assist, as in choosing a hospital where staff are more likely to speak English; the respective staff should also assist with translation and constantly inform the hotel.
Re-opening of hotels which remained closed during pandemic
Hotels which have remained open during the pandemic or opened earlier than most other hotels in the respective destination have the advantage of training staff and creating / re-creating scenarios. While remaining open, staff would also be much more accustomed and used to the most strict safety and hygiene measures. Concierges and Guest Relations would be already very knowledgeable about safe airport transfers, last minute flight cancellations because of lack of demand’; safe spots or restaurants to visit outside the hotel.
Hotels which remained fully closed for 3 or more months – completely locked – and many cases even with no electricity and running water – will better look for strategies to softly re-open for at least one month, with limited rooms inventory and services – until they are able to implement safety and hygiene measures. Hotel which have furloughed or even lost staff will have additional challenges to reach the before Covid19 service standards.
Hotels which have sensibly opened later or have stayed closed, but which have been conducting ‘behind the scenes’ extensive renovations including adapting venues and implementing Covid-19 measures have a big chance to return to normality. Ideally, such properties can keep their guests updated on their ‘behind-the-scenes’ works through social media and quality media like CPP.
Newly renovated hotels (not older than 3 years), with new mattresses, linens, furniture, AC – have a major edge towards all other hotels. These hotels can look spotless and instil more trust than many luxury hotels who usually claim they are constantly doing maintenance of rooms.
European cities likely to struggle, with record low occupancy levels for the rest of 2020 (luxury hotels)
Paris – especially Palace ranked hotels
Rome – especially luxury boutique size independent hotels
European cities with a higher likelihood of showing some rebound by end of 2020, including corporate travel
Munich – including ‘medical tourism’
Istanbul – already receives wealthy Russians, Ukrainians, CIS, Romania, Serbia; Istanbul will see first GCC countries (ex Qatar)
International luxury hotel groups likely to be in a better position for recovery – especially groups which work closely with third party globally reputed hygiene expert company such as Bureau Veritas or EcoLab. All groups have announced the strict implementation of safety and hygiene measures against Covid-19.
- Dorchester Collection
- Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
- Jumeirah Group
- Accor – Luxury Hotels
- Lungarno Collection
- Bvlgari Hotels
- Park Hyatt
- Cheval Blanc
- Four Seasons Hotels
- Oetker Collection
- Hilton – luxury brands (LXR, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad)
- Marriott Intl (St Regis, Ritz-Carlton, Luxury Collection)
- Oberoi Hotels
- The Peninsula Hotels
- IHG Six Senses
- Kempinski Hotels
- Shangri-La Hotels
- Langham Hotels
Criteria for above ranking included
- information collected from various sources regarding Covid-19 measures by each hotel group – including actual implementation
- feedback from guests
- financial situation – some luxury hotel groups are backed by major investors / owners
- hotels which both own and operate their hotels benefited from higher ranking – owners would continue to invest and pay salaries of all staff
- during closure some luxury hotel groups have been conducing extensive renovations, not to mention adding innovative ideas, such as venues, menus etc
- number of recently renovated properties (at least 3 years old – at least half of the hotel number of hotels)
- whether he respective group would implement its own safety & hygiene measures while many work with prestigious institutions for professional expert certifications / label
- turnover of staff
- marketing presence
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