If I had to pick out a single word in the entire English language that was most abused when related to the tourism industry without doubt it would be luxury. Over my five decades in the sector as a travel agent, tour director, tour operator and to a lesser extent hotelier […],
I have been without doubt, highly privileged to have stayed in some of the world’s finest hotels. Often at highly subsidised rates, or in many cases as part of my work with no direct cost to me personally. Therefore it’s not difficult to remain relativity objective and fair.
When a major brand boasts ‘undeniable luxury‘, then it comes as a surprise to be offered a single type of red wine at one of hotel’s restaurants that insists on advance booking, with controlled availability, which in practice meant we could only dine on a single evening of our four night stay. Frankly, I am not a great fan of the all-inclusive concept, over the many years I have been disappointed more times than pleasantly surprised. In all too many experiences, even when accommodation is booked on an ‘all-inclusive’ basis, niggling piecemeal supplements are added if you wish to maintain normal standards, as if you were at home, let alone a self proclaimed luxury property.
What prompted these thoughts at this time is the publication of a new league table of luxury hotel brand rankings by British based international strategic consulting firm, Luxury Branding. The results or conclusions are certainly going to rattle a few within the industry, but as they rightly state ‘social media has revolutionised the role of consumers in shaping brand reputations’. The new league table of luxury hotel brands is based on a study of 2.25 million TripAdvisor guest reviews covering nearly 1,600 properties. Of the 59 global brands included, Ritz Carlton ‘won by a landslide margin and was nearly twice as popular as its closest rival, Oberoi’. Third was Raffles, Sir Rocco Forte living his father’s lifetime dream at number 5. Four Seasons came in at 13th place with an average rating nearly five times poorer than that of The Ritz Carlton and even more surprisingly, Fairmont at number 49.
There are many other interesting comparisons, too numerous to detail in this column, but any interested party can download the full report free-of-charge by logging onto www.luxury-branding.com
On a recent trip to the USA, which had severe budget restrictions, the various lodgings used were anything but luxury, however, I could not help feeling that many of the larger hotel groups are in serious danger of over branding, risking potential severe reputation damage by including a huge and differing standard of accommodation offerings. For the first time in my life, I stayed at a Super 8, Country Inn by Carlson, Howard Johnson Express and Quality Inn. Each of these are associated with brands at a much higher level and its perhaps natural to conclude that while the facilities would not be the same, the level of cleanliness and service would be similar.
Despite paying around the same nightly rate at each of the four, with all having an included breakfast, this was far from the reality and it’s a lesson learnt, even at my advanced age.