Where Are the Hotels that Offer Indelible Experiences?
By Katharine Le Quesne Senior Director, HoCoSo | August 18, 2019
I have a confession to make: I am waiting to be swept off my feet, charmed, amused, intrigued, even challenged … by a hotel. I want an experience that changes me a little, leaves a tattoo on my memory bank. I have quite a few notched up actually, but the list involves very few luxury hotels and resorts, which is surprising, given my track record in hospitality advisory so far.
The quest for experiences is officially a craze, an obsession and a little bit yesterday's news. But who is creating these extraordinary luxury hotel experiences, why and how?
The "why" relates to money. 1970s futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler observed that under wealthy circumstances, consumers feel that material satisfaction is not sufficient, so the economy should evolve to provide psychological gratification and evoke emotions – i.e. experiences (The Future Shock, Alvin & Heidi Toffler, 1970). Fast forward three decades and the Experience Economy theory was developed (Pine and Gilmore, 1999), which concludes that as soon as a specific level of prosperity is reached, interest and demand shift from products and services to experiences – which are as different from services, as services are from products. This is where we are now. Makes sense so far.
This economic progress has ignited technological innovation and spread greater affluence across developed countries and emerging economies (such as China). This in turn, has driven tourism infrastructure improvements. More people are travelling than ever before, fuelling annual growth in international tourist arrivals of circa 4% per annum over the past two decades. Travel & tourism is the second fastest growing sector in the world after healthcare, according to the WTTC .
In addition, technology removed barriers between different areas of our lives, enabling us to blend, blur and share multiple activities – think bleisure, workspitality (thank you Wojo ) and social media. It seems we are programmed to seek things that give us purpose, stimulate new thinking and anchor our memories (how often have you been dismayed to realise you can't remember how you spent your weekends last fall?).
So, we know lots of us are travelling, but who is actually on a mission to notch up more life experiences? In the US, for example, the four principal generational groups range from 9 years old to 75 years old. McKinsey identifies the consumption patterns of each group: Baby Boomers (mid 1940-1959) consume ideology; Gen X (1960 to 1979) status and luxury; Gen Y or Millennials (1980-1994) want experiences; and Gen Z (1995-2010) is seeking the unique and ethical.