The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd. teamed up with Market Metrix this past April to survey 2,000 hotel guests and 211 general managers across the globe on how the economic landscape is affecting their hotel behavior. The results suggest that the future of luxury accommodations might not be as dismal as crawling stock tickers imply.
First, 56 percent of surveyed luxury guests said that the troubled economy has not changed their travel plans, and 15 percent even said that recession may inspire them to travel more. This was especially true for travelers from Europe; guests from North America, Africa and the Middle East reported more adjustments to their travel habits than did their European counterparts. Across the board, though, most respondents who were traveling on business said that their companies had cut travel budgets.
The way that luxury guests choose a destination and what they expect once they get there are also evolving. When compared with guests of lower spending levels, those who stay at luxury hotels have shown the largest increase in Internet bookings over the past two years, and 80 percent of respondents said they checked user-generated reviews online while more than 30 percent said they had written their own review. As a result, the study suggests, general managers are trying harder to connect with guests to give them a positive, memorable experience. They're also careful not to make staff cuts which could negatively impact the guests' experiences, and when they must make reductions, managers surveyed were more likely to cut back-office workers or restaurant staff before those in the front-of-house.
Finally, survey results showed that luxury guests are becoming less interested in pampering perks and more interested in cultural pursuits like shopping at neighborhood markets and taking the opportunity to practice a foreign language.
The biggest takeaway is that, among the top-tier consumers and general managers surveyed, leisure travel isn't dead yet. Ninety percent of guests said that “leisure travel is of the utmost importance to them and they may delay or cancel other leisure activities before canceling or delaying travel in 2009," and only 9 percent of general managers said that they were likely to reduce rates to attract business.