‘Travellers grow weary of uniformity’

When it comes to hospitality, what sets the luxury sector apart is not just customised service and ultimate comfort, but the promise of truly authentic and unique experiences.

At the moment, people are travelling more frequently on shorter trips to a wider array of destinations, in search of something new. Saudi Arabia’s vast natural landscapes, rich heritage and rapidly developing cultural sector represent a new frontier.

A growing number of travellers are now also prioritizing relaxation, wellness and leisure activities at smaller, more intimate hotels. These changing consumer preferences are creating space for luxury hotel brands to expand into non-traditional verticals, and really own the entire travel journey. 

In response, large corporate hospitality brands are now entering the boutique hotel market, hoping to capture more leisure travellers, rather than solely targeting the business travel market. This target demographic is growing weary of the uniformity and over-standardization of traditional offerings from large hospitality groups. They don’t want to stay in a hotel that makes them feel like they could be anywhere, they want to be immersed in a “sense of place”.

People don’t remember destinations based on how comfortable their rooms were – they remember the sights, the smells and the tastes, they remember how a hotel made them feel, and how it connected to the wider experience. This is especially true of millennial travellers, who have traditionally been overlooked by a luxury sector that doesn’t reflect their preferences. Millennials also want to stay at places that reflect their values, especially when it comes to sustainability – something the sector has been slow to embrace. This demographic is now acquiring more wealth and seeking out more luxury offerings, and they will continue driving demand in the years to come.

Reflecting this shift, several brands are focusing on high-end residential properties, which promise to combine the comforts of a luxury hotel with the privacy and convenience of a home. However, while many companies are very effective at marketing such promises, they often fail to live up to them.

In the future, I believe success in this sector will be determined by a few often-overlooked key factors. Firstly, the finest luxury hotels will make a genuine effort to engage with the local community and integrate themselves within it. This might mean supporting local businesses, creating opportunities for guests to experience the destination beyond the hotel, or providing a sense of place by immersing them in local heritage, art, architecture, cuisine and traditions. For me, food is a really wonderful example of this, as one can learn so much about a location through its culinary traditions.

At Boutique Group, we’re developing one-of-a-kind historic palaces. Combined with Saudi Arabia’s distinct brand of hospitality, and its commitment to sustainable development, we are well positioned to respond to these emerging trends.

However, for me the most important element is always going to be people – people are at the heart of everything we do.

There is simply no substitute for dedicated talent; it isn’t just crucial for the brand, but the entire sector. I sincerely hope that the young Saudis we train go on to have successful careers and inspire the next generation. Most importantly, as customer preferences continue to evolve, they will be best positioned to respond to future changes, ensuring that we remain responsive and adaptable for decades to come.  

– The author is CEO of Boutique Group

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