Not so long ago, luxury holidays were defined by status symbols – the cabin class you travelled in, the opulence and glamour of your chosen resort or villa, the exclusiveness and rarity of the available wines and so on. But it’s fair to say this is no longer the case for the majority of high-end travellers. Today, those same visitors are unquestionably savvier, and they know that holiday fulfilment is achieved through more authentic, less material means.
‘The biggest shift in vacation priorities is the importance now placed on service,’ says Todd Cilano, Regional Vice President and General Manager, Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita. ‘While there remains an expectation that hotels will offer the latest amenities, the best locations and the highest quality product, all of these elements combined no longer define a truly exceptional holiday experience. Time on vacation is precious and guests are looking for hotels that can intuitively meet their individual needs through personalised service, to offer more than just a functional role and create a connection that demonstrates genuine care for their experience.’
Jacque Charles, Complex General Manager of Le Meridien Ile Maurice and The Westin Turtle Bay Resort & Spa Mauritius concurs. ‘Guests’ expectations in terms of services and quality have changed. They want to be surprised and amazed with the standards of the hotels. We need to know and understand our guests’ preferences. Personalisation is an important factor to consider for luxury holidays.’
One of the biggest changes to luxury holidays over the past few years has been the ever-increasing emphasis on attaining a genuine sense of wellbeing, whether manifested in physical, mental or emotional ways. It’s all about elevating the ordinary beach holiday to an entirely new level.
Jean Pierre Auriol, General Manager of LUX* Le Morne, sums it up: ‘The sense of locale is critical as one cannot be fulfilled just with a great beach, some soft linens and great food. Visitors want a sensory experience, amazing surprises and a huge sense of hospitality from the people at the resorts and destination.’
Hotels and resorts have been quick to respond to this need, not least by the upsurge in spa and wellness facilities, highly personalised treatments and holistic rituals for the body and mind. On top of this, many resorts have brought in external experts in the fields of yoga, meditation, diet, fitness and emotional wellbeing – either as permanent members of staff, or to run special one-off courses, classes and events.
It’s not just the provision of people and treatments either. Our immediate physical environment has an equally important part to play in our health and wellbeing, and the best resorts have recognised this by creating exclusive, relaxing spaces where guests can sit back and unwind.
In addition to the standard swimming pool, guestroom and restaurant combo, we’re now seeing extras like the private cinema, cosy library and drawing room of St. Regis Mauritius Resort, private plunge pools, secluded dining spaces for two, and unexpected retreats like the glamorous Alice Temperley-designed One&Only Tipi at One&Only Le Saint Geran.
François Eynaud, CEO of Veranda Leisure & Hospitality, the managing company of Heritage Resorts agrees. ‘The trends are moving towards exclusive experiences, intimate and smaller hotels, space and variety of choices. We also observe a rise in sustainable tourism,’ he says.
The other noticeable shift in luxury travellers’ habits is a renewed focus on activities. Spending quality time with loved ones is an undeniable luxury, but doing it while discovering a new sport, learning to cook traditional dishes, or exploring a new stretch of coastline leads to deeper, more meaningful memories in the long run. In response to this, many resorts have widened and improved their activity programmes, with hotels such as Zilwa Attitude even offering the chance to take Creole language lessons and learn more about local culture by dining in a staff member’s family home.
‘Nowadays, travellers are very well informed and connected to many websites,’ says Eynaud. ‘The new generation of travellers expect the service provider to connect with them, listen to their particular needs and deliver a personalised service. They want unique experiences, activities and discoveries. Our challenge as hoteliers is to address the needs of these very fragmented market segments’
Ultimately, regardless of visitors’ personal preferences for relaxation, action, wellness or any other aspect of a luxury holiday, it ultimately comes down to one thing. ‘Within the luxury market,’ says Jacque Charles, ‘guests want to be astounded.’
This post is also available in: French