Luxury Hotels: Myth or Reality?

    150 150 Daniel Fountain
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    I recently had a debate about a newly opened London five star hotel with a couple of hoteliers from two major brands. More accurately one hotel GM, and one ‘human resources’ expert working within another major brand. Basically their argument was that the hotel is a very profitable unit therefore it is a good luxury hotel. There are so many flaws in this that it seems well worth analysing, because their logic explains the rise of the boutiques at the expense of the brands. It also explains the increasing number of new brand launches that seem to focus on the creation of hotel ‘boutique chains’ that are then labelled luxury and sold at exorbitant rates, particularly in London.London is a peculiar hotel market that every operator wants to be represented in. It is one of the world’s most visited cities, and of the many 30 million tourists who come to the UK every year, 52% never go outside London. Nationally overseas tourists spend was over £18billion, internal tourists over £74billion, with tourism employment over 7% of the UK workforce. Surveys persistently show London hotel occupancy running at around 90%, so making money from a London hotel is a no-brainer – indeed I have joked for years that money could be made renting out park benches overnight in London, such is the demand. To judge a luxury hotel a success solely by its occupancy and profitability in the metropolis is therefore a completely false argument.

    So how are we to judge the provision of luxury, and thereby a successful luxury hotel? My argument with the hoteliers was in part sparked by the poorer quality of many of the hotels opened or refurbished in London over the last couple of years, compared to their tourist rivals in other countries. It is not just the congestion at our airports that deters visitors to the UK it is the comparison of what is provided by an hotel compared to what can be experienced elsewhere. During my discussion I was encouraged by the nods of agreement from the European developer side of the table, when I said that there is a growing gulf between the real luxury market and what is seen by the hotel major brands as luxury.

    Daniel Fountain / 08.11.2012

    Editor, Hotel Designs


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