Bright Outlook For 2023 Travel, Says CEO Of The Leading Hotels Of The World

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The Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) is a collection of more than 400 properties in over 80 countries around the world. As a luxury hotel group to which independent hotels can join, it is an association that was created by hoteliers for hoteliers representing hotels, 80% of which are family-run.

Shannon Knapp, president and chief executive officer for LHW, shares how the group is approaching post-pandemic travel and the pent-up demand for luxury experiences. She believes 2023 is going to be a record breaker for the industry with plenty of fresh perspective and new trends shaping the way consumers view travel.

What travel trends do you see emerging for 2023?

After so much time at home, many travelers are looking for experiences to enjoy with the ones they love. Luxury travelers are willing to spend more, too. LHW is seeing that premium accommodation bookings for suites and villas are up 36% year over year. According to Virtuoso research, travel sales in general are already pacing 47% higher than this point in 2019.

Virtuoso’s travel trends also show that people are booking trips farther in advance than before, which is good news for hotels. With more interest (sometimes for the same destinations), people are turning to off-season travel as a way to avoid crowds, but also score better deals. Competition for the top suites and villas can be fierce in Europe during the summer months. Shifting a trip to the spring or fall can yield better rates, even allowing travelers to stay longer. Emerging destinations, like Saudi Arabia, are another trend where travelers are showing interest.

How do hotels join The Leading Hotels of the World?

Each year, between 400 and 500 hotels apply to join the group, but only about 5% of them are accepted. A hotel is usually referred by another existing member as part of the application, but goes through a rigorous review process to determine if it is a fit. An executive committee, which includes some hotel owners, also weighs into the process and often considers what other luxury hotel members are in the area. If it is a new destination for the group, that helps.

What are some of the newest hotels for LHW?

In December, six new hotels joined the portfolio. This includes Portrait Milano, housed in one of the oldest seminaries of Europe and now open to the public for the first time. Also new is Falkensteiner Hotel Montafon in Erlebinsverg Golm, the first certified, climate neutral ski area in Austria. Grande dame The Royal Savoy Hotel & Spa in Lausanne, Switzerland; Hotel Splendide Royal Roma in Italy; Hotel Montevideo in Uruguay; and Samarkand Regency Amir Temur in the emerging destination of Uzbekistan.

What is the Leaders Club?

This is the loyalty program for the group, and it has undergone significant changes in recent years. There is no longer a membership fee for the program, which means guests can join before their stay and take advantage immediately of the perks. All members receive complimentary breakfast for two each morning of their stay. This is a huge benefit because breakfast at a “Leading” hotel is always quite the experience. Members earn points for their stay, and then can redeem them for future hotel redemptions. Leaders Club members also receive room upgrades, early check-in, late checkout and free WiFi.

Another recent change that travel advisors will appreciate is that Leaders Club members can earn points and take advantage of benefits when booking through a travel agent. While most programs only allow members to take advantage of loyalty program benefits when booking directly, Leaders Club members can continue to use the valuable services of a travel advisor.

How is LHW helping its hotels to support sustainability?

According to recent Deloitte research, 77% of travelers are looking for a sustainability ethos when they travel. And many LHW hotels are already providing this like Nayara Resorts. Nayara Bocas del Toro in Panama is 100% off the grid using power generated by solar panels. It has also implemented a program that focuses on the restoration of the area’s coral reefs. Last year, Nayara in Costa Rica became entirely carbon-neutral, which is a tremendous milestone. Nayara Atacama in Chile is on track for the same goal in the coming years.

Nayara’s ten-year plan allows it to take smaller steps that can drive meaningful change, and it can serve as a guide for other hotels. LHW helps its member hotels learn from each other and spread the news of what each property is doing with consumers and member hotels.

LHW is also joining a globally recognized guidance organization to help member hotels connect with local sustainability certifications in their geographic area. Member hotels gain access to sustainable vendors that align with their eco-focused efforts as well as the pricing power that comes from a larger organization.

Travelers tell us that if they have a choice between hotels, they will choose one that prioritizes sustainability. And in a recent survey we conducted, 25% of travelers admit that they are willing to spend more to do so.

How is LHW connecting with the younger, next-generation traveler?

LHW helps member hotels tell their individual stories on a larger platform than a hotel could do on its own through social media and other outreach efforts. The use of social media among LHW hotels is growing, too. Some are even seeing reservation inquiries coming through social media channels like Instagram that eventually convert into hotel bookings.

Collaborations with like-minded brands are another key way to connect with younger travelers. For example, Palazzo Avino in Ravello, Italy undertook a collaboration with Santa Maria Novella, which took over the beach club and also had a pop-up store in the hotel. It was a way to reach new, younger customers who may have known one brand, but not the other. This type of crossover works well in the travel industry and will only grow as the world becomes more connected.

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