“Eco-Friendly or Brand Unfriendly? NY Hotels Grapple with Toiletry Dilemma in the Hospitality Industry”

"Eco-Friendly or Brand Unfriendly? NY Hotels Grapple with Toiletry Dilemma in the Hospitality Industry"

In the highly competitive world of hospitality, every detail counts. Now, hotels across New York State are about to lose a powerful branding tool and, at least for some guests, a desirable amenity. Come January 1, 2025, those tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner that have long been a staple of hotel bathrooms will be banned in establishments with 50 or more rooms. While well-intentioned, this environmental measure may have unintended consequences for both hotels and their guests.

Miniature Memories: The Hidden Power of Hotel Toiletries

For many travelers, those little bottles or tubes are more than just a convenience; they are a tangible piece of the hotel experience that guests can take home. These mementos can serve as powerful brand ambassadors long after checkout. Some may get stashed in a closet, never to see daylight again. But others will sit on bathroom counters and lurk in travel bags, ready to trigger fond memories of a stay. With each use, they remind the customer of the hotel’s brand and, just maybe, influence future booking decisions.

Balancing Act: Eco-Friendly Policies vs. Guest Satisfaction

John Fitzpatrick, owner of two upscale Midtown Manhattan hotels, understands the delicate balance between environmental responsibility and guest satisfaction. Speaking to the New York Times, he explained, “In this day and age, we have to watch our carbon footprint.” But he’s also aware of the challenges this ban presents to maintaining the luxury experience his guests expect.

The Luxury Dilemma: Wall-Mounted Dispensers in High-End Hotels

The shift to larger, mounted bottles,while eco-friendly, risks diluting the personalized touch that high-end hotels strive to deliver. There’s a big difference between a guest pocketing a petite bottle of premium shampoo and eyeing a wall-mounted dispenser with suspicion. The latter, while practical, lacks the allure and perceived hygiene of individually packaged products.

Specific concerns have been raised about safety and other aspects of the dispenser bottles. Some may not be completely tamper-proof. Room attendants may forget to fill empty bottles (it’s happened to me). A hotel operator could choose to refill a dispenser labeled with a premium brand with something cheaper.

Dispensers Are Old News at Many Brands

Of course, many hotels switched to dispensers long before any ban was imminent. Marriott began the process as far back as 2019. That was the year that California passed a law that would ban little bottles by 2023. Even Marriott’s Ritz-Carlton hotels made the change, although for that and other luxury brands in the family the dispensers are “untethered.”

By and large, guests seem to accept the change. There have been a few hiccups, though. One dispenser design rolled out by Marriott made it nearly impossible to distinguish which was shower gel, shampoo, or conditioner (photo), provoking ridicule on social media.

function loadConnatixScript(document) {
if (!window.cnxel) {
window.cnxel = {};
window.cnxel.cmd = [];
var iframe = document.createElement(‘iframe’);
iframe.style.display = ‘none’;
iframe.onload = function() {
var iframeDoc = iframe.contentWindow.document;
var script = iframeDoc.createElement(‘script’);
script.src = ‘//cd.elements.video/player.js’ + ‘?cid=’ + ’62cec241-7d09-4462-afc2-f72f8d8ef40a’;
script.setAttribute(‘defer’, ‘1’);
script.setAttribute(‘type’, ‘text/javascript’);
iframeDoc.body.appendChild(script);
};
document.head.appendChild(iframe);

const preloadResourcesEndpoint = ‘https://cds.elements.video/a/preload-resources-ovp.json’;
fetch(preloadResourcesEndpoint, { priority: ‘low’ })
.then(response => {
if (!response.ok) {
throw new Error(‘Network response was not ok’, preloadResourcesEndpoint);
}
return response.json();
})
.then(data => {
const cssUrl = data.css;
const cssUrlLink = document.createElement(‘link’);
cssUrlLink.rel = ‘stylesheet’;
cssUrlLink.href = cssUrl;
cssUrlLink.as = ‘style’;
cssUrlLink.media = ‘print’;
cssUrlLink.onload = function() {
this.media = ‘all’;
};
document.head.appendChild(cssUrlLink);

const hls = data.hls;
const hlsScript = document.createElement(‘script’);
hlsScript.src = hls;
hlsScript.setAttribute(‘defer’, ‘1’);
hlsScript.setAttribute(‘type’, ‘text/javascript’);
document.head.appendChild(hlsScript);
}).catch(error => {
console.error(‘There was a problem with the fetch operation:’, error);
});
}
}
loadConnatixScript(document);

(function() {
function createUniqueId() {
return ‘xxxxxxxx-xxxx-4xxx-yxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx’.replace(/[xy]/g, function(c) {
var r = Math.random() * 16 | 0,
v = c == ‘x’ ? r : (r & 0x3 | 0x8);
return v.toString(16);
});
}
const randId = createUniqueId();
document.getElementsByClassName(‘fbs-cnx’)[0].setAttribute(‘id’, randId);
document.getElementById(randId).removeAttribute(‘class’);
(new Image()).src = ‘https://capi.elements.video/tr/si?token=’ + ’44f947fb-a5ce-41f1-a4fc-78dcf31c262a’ + ‘&cid=’ + ’62cec241-7d09-4462-afc2-f72f8d8ef40a’;
cnxel.cmd.push(function () {
cnxel({
playerId: ’44f947fb-a5ce-41f1-a4fc-78dcf31c262a’,
playlistId: ‘3e5e03f9-7925-4400-8f37-b4daede06b7f’,
}).render(randId);
});
})();

This particular gaffe confirms my opinion that most of the people who design hotel rooms and choose amenities don’t actually spend many nights in hotels every year.

Brand Identity Impact

The toiletry dilemma primarily affects mainly luxury brands and hotels that offer a unique experience. Few guests look for a way to remember their stay at a cookie-cutter chain hotel.

On the other hand, people do seem to eager to collect mementos that specifically remind them of the brand and/or their experience. Fitzpatrick had a problem with guests stealing towels until he switched from branded to plain ones. Clearly, the larcenous guests were seeking not a functional towel but a specific souvenir.

Luxury hotels understand these details. Many establishments partner with luxury brands or create custom-scented products to enhance their brand identity. These collaborations often extend beyond the hotel stay, with guests seeking out these products for home use – a marketing opportunity that wall-mounted dispensers simply can’t replicate.

After a long-ago stay at the Las Vegas Wynn, for example, I carried off a few small bottles of their Desert Bambu products. Even after the original contents were used up and that particular brand was phased out, I continued to refill the sturdy little bottles and use them daily. Each use was a tiny reminder of the brand and my pleasant experience.

The Scent of Memory: Neuromarketing and Hotel Amenities

From a neuromarketing perspective, the loss of these take-home items eliminates one aspect of a hotel’s ability to create a lasting emotional connection with guests. Scent can trigger powerful emotions – Proust’s fictional madeleine that triggered a flood of memories has its roots in science.

By removing this sensory touchpoint, hotels make it a little harder to stand out in guests’ minds after they’ve returned home.

The Future of Hotel Amenities

Regulations aside, hotels are clearly in the process of eliminating little plastic bottles. From an environmental and cost standpoint, that clearly makes sense.

Fitzpatrick and his team are exploring alternatives, including single-use foil packets. However, these solutions lack the premium feel of bottles and may prove frustrating for guests to use. At the moment, there’s no clear option that balances environmental concerns with the need to maintain a luxurious, memorable guest experience.

For shampoos and other liquids, branded dispensers will likely be the main solution. For luxury properties, the products should be premium and, ideally, unique to the brand. To assuage guest concerns, they should be entirely tamper-proof, non-refillable, and transparent enough so that room attendants never leave a guest with an empty dispenser. From a practical standpoint, the dispensers should be clearly labeled and the spigots should function smoothly.

Beyond The Stay

How can hotels remind guests of their experience after they return home? Some customers might choose to buy a shampoo or gel they enjoyed at the property if offered. Or, the hotel could gift each departing guest with an amenity of their choice. Shipping the gift to the guest’s home would add cost but would be convenient for those who travel light. And, a gift arriving several days after the conclusion of a trip would be a memorable reminder of the brand and the experience.

Hotels can use these and other creative ways to leave a lasting impression on their guests – even without the help of those little plastic bottles.

Adblock test (Why?)

How a Hackathon Led to Sabre’s First Generative AI Product for Hotels: A Customer-Service Chatbot

How a Hackathon Led to Sabre's First Generative AI Product for Hotels: A Customer-Service Chatbot

Skift Take

Generative AI is still young, but some travel companies are encouraging workers to experiment as they determine how the tech will be used in the future.

Sabre wanted to know how generative AI could improve the customer-service experience for hotel operators, so the company made that topic a category for an internal innovation competition last August.

One of those teams developed an idea for a customer-service chatbot, and the pitch to Sabre executives went smoothly. There was a prototype by October. 

And last month, that competition idea became Sabre’s first generative AI product for hoteliers. 

“That’s nine months from idea to deliverable product. That only really happened because we’re giving the team flexibility, the opportunity to experiment with these new tools and these new ideas and bring them forward,” said Scott Wilson, president of Sabre Hospitality, in an interview with Skift.

The chatbot tool is called Concierge.AI.

It was designed to answer hotel operators’ questions about any of Sabre’s products without them having to pick up the phone. The generative AI essentially has access to all of the training materials for Sabre’s hotel software products. The hotelier can ask the chatbot a question in everyday language, and then the chatbot draws upon the training materials to provide an answer. 

The Sabre customer service team also uses the tool when hoteliers call, which Wilson said can be especially useful for new call center agents. 

“It’s a strong double-digit reduction in calls and call time. So fewer people are coming to call at all because they can self-help completely, or if they do call because they didn’t use the tool, our agents are able to use the tools themselves,” Wilson said.

“Call centers have turnover anywhere, and so you can get a new agent and have their level of productivity go up many [times]. That’s been a huge gain for us.”

The prototype had an accuracy rate of about 75%, Wilson said. By the time of the release, the tool’s answers were accurate around 93% of the time, he claimed – though Skift hasn’t tested the product. The AI comes from Sabre’s ongoing partnership with Google, which has the Gemini generative AI model.

How Sabre’s Hackathons Work

Google famously encourages employees to spend about one day per week experimenting with tech. Sabre doesn’t have anything that formal, Wilson said, but its couple of hackathon events each year are meant to encourage innovation.

Sabre started the G-Blitz competition — where Concierge.AI was born — in 2021. Participants from across Sabre’s six main offices worldwide select teams of around five people, and they’ve given free reign to develop and pitch a product within one of three categories. The project can be focused on tech or a new idea around policy or market approach. 

The latest competition had 40 teams and more than 200 participants. 

At the end of the work session, the top projects are invited to pitch their ideas to Sabre executives. Winners get credits toward items in an employee gift catalog. Three of the winners recently presented their ideas to the tech committee of the Sabre board of directors. 

There’s likely more to come with Concierge.AI, Wilson said. With future advancements, the tool could complete tasks for the customer instead of just sharing information, he said. Some hotels have asked about the possibility of licensing the product as a guest-facing tool, though he did not say if there are plans for that.

“There’s a real opportunity to take this Concierge.ai concept and turn into … self-help on steroids,” Wilson said.

Adblock test (Why?)

Preferred Hotels & Resorts Adds New Member Properties to its Legend Collection

Preferred Hotels & Resorts Adds New Member Properties to its Legend Collection

Preferred Hotels & Resorts has announced that its Legend Collection has reached over 100 member properties. From palace hotels in India to coastal resorts in California, each of these properties provide custom-curated guest experiences. Legendary Collection members include The Mark (New York, NY), Post Ranch Inn (Big Sur, CA), Salamander Middleburg (Middleburg, VA), Passalacqua (Lake Como, Italy), The Sanchaya (Bintan, Indonesia), The Alpina Gstaad (Switzerland), The Fullerton Bay Hotel (Singapore), Lefay Resort & SPA Dolomiti (Pinzolo, Italy), Hotel Unique (São Paulo, Brazil) and The Leela Palace Hotels in Udaipur and Jaipur (Rajasthan, India), among others.

“I am honored to represent so many exceptional properties across the globe. This milestone also coincides with the 20th anniversary of my family’s ownership—marking two decades of believing in the spirit of travel and independent hospitality,” said Lindsey Ueberroth, CEO of Preferred Hotels & Resorts.

The Legend Collection continues to see strong global growth as it surpasses 100 members. The latest properties to debut in the Legend portfolio include:

  • The Hotel Maria (Helsinki, Finland) – Opened December 2023
  • Grand Velas Boutique Los Cabos (Mexico) – Opened December 2023
  • The Global Ambassador (Phoenix, AZ) – Opened December 2023
  • The Newman (London, U.K.) – Opening spring 2025

Through its four global collections—Legend, L.V.X., Lifestyle and Preferred Residences—Preferred Hotels & Resorts connects travelers to luxury hospitality experiences. Travelers can book via the Preferred brand website, while travel advisors can book client stays via GDS using the “PH” and “PV” chain codes.

Related Articles

LVMH, Accor Partner to Develop Orient Express Brand

Italy’s Patria Palace Reopens After Four-Year Makeover

Glenapp Castle Launches Downton Abbey-Inspired Package

Maria Sharapova Launches Retreat Experience At Amanzoe, Greece

Adblock test (Why?)

U.S. Hotel Performance Divides Along Income Levels: Luxury Hotels Thrive Amid Economic Pressures While Economy Hotels Slump

U.S. Hotel Performance Divides Along Income Levels: Luxury Hotels Thrive Amid Economic Pressures While Economy Hotels Slump

Skift Take

Today’s economic pressures are impacting consumers differently across income levels.

Luxury hotels in the U.S. have recently experienced robust growth in demand and room rates, while economy hotels have declined year-over-year. The numbers for the first five months of the year suggest a break with broad historical patterns.

“We’re seeing a bifurcation by hotel class,” said Jan Freitag, national director, hospitality analytics, at CoStar Group. “The higher-end traveler and, therefore, the higher-end hotels are showing robust growth in demand and room rate. But the same cannot be said for the lower end of the market.”

Here are the year-over-year trends for the first five months of the year, according to CoStar:

  • Luxury hotel occupancy was up 1.8%
  • Economy hotel occupancy was down 3.4%

This divergence breaks a long-standing pattern in the hotel industry. Typically, room demand across all segments tends to move broadly in tandem with GDP growth. The current split suggests that today’s economic pressures are impacting consumers differently across income levels.

“That roughly 5 percentage point swing is arguably quite unusual compared with historical trends since the 1970s,” Freitag said.

Strength in the luxury segment might be chalked up to a “wealth effect” from a recent sharp run-up in stock prices and increased home values, which makes affluent travelers feel more comfortable spending on luxury hotels.

Meanwhile, high inflation for core things for lower-income households, like housing, food, and car payments, may force them to prioritize essential expenses over discretionary travel.

“When you are a consumer in a household with a sub-$75,000 income, you feel the pinch,” Freitag explained. “There are things you have to have, and then there are things you want to have.”

The trend is particularly noteworthy given that it follows a period of strong performance in the economy sector, partly driven by pandemic-era stimulus payments. “We are basically just coming back down to normal,” Freitag noted. “But because GDP continues to grow, you would expect more growth in hotel spending than the deceleration we’re seeing at the lower end.”

While the national trends for luxury hotels and economy hotels are clear, there are local variations and exceptions. Markets that grew extraordinarily after the pandemic, such as Tampa and Miami, are now experiencing flattening demand even in the luxury segment.

What’s Next

The trends may change, too, if overall performance improves in the second half of the year with predicted cuts in interest rates supporting economic growth.

CBRE’s latest forecast projects a 3% increase in revenue-per-available room on average for the rest of the year, driven by international tourists, summer travel, and limited supply growth. If it materializes, that performance would be above the weaker-than-expected first quarter but below 2019 after adjusting for inflation.

But continued economic growth is no sure thing.

Looking at the long term, the industry is also eyeing potential catalysts for growth, particularly in the economy segment. Infrastructure spending, long anticipated as a potential boost for budget hotels catering to construction workers, has yet to materialize in force. “We’re waiting for this to happen in earnest,” Freitag said.

Last year, U.S. hotel supply growth was only 0.5%, held back by high construction costs and high interest rates in a tough financing environment. That represented a trend over multiple years. A weak level of supply additions should help support hotel rates in the medium term, based on data from STR.

So far this year, demand for economy hotels has weakened at a pace that overcame the supply constraint factor.

“Occupancy levels are affected by supply, but if you just look at demand as a factor, demand for luxury hotels was up 5% in the first five months of 2024, year over year, while demand for economy hotel rooms was down 4%,” Freitag said.

Accommodations Sector Stock Index Performance Year-to-Date

What am I looking at? The performance of hotels and short-term rental sector stocks within the ST200. The index includes companies publicly traded across global markets, including international and regional hotel brands, hotel REITs, hotel management companies, alternative accommodations, and timeshares.

The Skift Travel 200 (ST200) combines the financial performance of nearly 200 travel companies worth more than a trillion dollars into a single number. See more hotels and short-term rental financial sector performance.

Read the full methodology behind the Skift Travel 200.

Adblock test (Why?)

“Hotels Strive to Adhere to California’s Junk Fee Laws for Pricing Transparency and Compliance”

"Hotels Strive to Adhere to California's Junk Fee Laws for Pricing Transparency and Compliance"

Come July 1, U.S. hotels will need to comply with a California state law that requires upfront disclosure of the total cost — including all mandatory fees — of hotel rooms, among other travel services like short-term rentals and cruises.

California Senate Bill 478 was designed to expose hidden “junk fees,” and marks a shift toward transparency about non-optional charges, including resort, destination, and parking or facility charges. A similar law, AB 537, creates the same restriction to let consumers do quick and accurate cost comparisons upfront.

The laws pose a compliance challenge for hotel operators selling directly and through third parties like Google and online travel agencies.

“We’re hearing from, hotels, large and small, varying levels of comfort with the implementation deadline looming,” said A.J. Rossitto, the advocacy director of the California Hotel and Lodging Association. “Definitely some implementation pains as folks are getting it sorted out, and it’s kind of a race to the finish at this point.”

California Hotel Operators Get on Board

Maulik Pandya, whose management company runs hotels in California, said his properties are now compliant after a week-and-a-half of work.

For example, Pandya runs an independent property on Route 66 in Victorville called GT Hotels Inn & Suites Extended Stay.

“I had to make sure all the OTAs [online travel agencies] and our own website list all the mandatory fees, mainly a resort fee,” Pandya said. “I updated all the rates and codes in the property management system, the revenue management system, the channel manager, and all the OTA extranets.”

Updating rates on countless smaller online travel agencies has been the biggest hurdle for some owners.

“It was straightforward to update the rates in the owner portals for main brands like Expedia and Booking.com,” Pandya said. “But I don’t have portal access for all the subsidiary brands of Expedia Group, like Hotwire, and of Booking Holdings, like Agoda. Smaller OTAs keep displaying the wrong rates, and I’ve had to call to try to get things updated, and it’s been frustrating.”

Tech Is Mostly Not a Problem

Last-minute hiccups aside, most hotel owners don’t anticipate a problem on July 1, according to Laura Lee Blake, president and CEO of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) — whose 20,000 members own about 60% of the country’s hotels.

Broadly speaking, small and large hoteliers have the existing tech tools to display advertised prices in compliance with the law.

“Getting into compliance with the California regulations should not be an issue for most hotels, even independent ones,” said Sebastien Leitner, vice president of partnerships at Cloudbeds, a property management system. “Transparent pricing is already standard in Europe — including showing the total cost to travelers for a stay — so any hotel technology platform serving a global market would already have the capability to comply with these regulations.”

However, for smaller operators like Pandya, the struggle is real.

“As a generalization, I don’t believe independent hotels are ready to be in compliance because independent hotels operate with more constrained budgets,” said Mark S. Adams, a partner at the California law firm Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell (JMBM).

“Also, smaller operators don’t seem to be fully aware of the new law and its requirements,” Adams said.

Even especially conscientious operators face headaches.

“There are also a few online travel sites like Skyscanner or the app Super.com where there’s no portal access for owners, and I am trying to navigate how to get our rates to correctly display as we don’t know where they’re getting their feeds for rates,” Pandya said.

A National Ripple Effect?

California’s move could be the first domino in a nationwide shift toward pricing transparency. Minnesota has already passed similar legislation.

Wary of a patchwork of state regulations, the American Hotels & Lodging Association is pushing for federal standardization.

The hotel industry broadly prefers that the federal government step in with nationwide regulations to streamline operational challenges.

In October, President Biden announced efforts to address junk fees. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed a rule to ban misrepresentations of total costs. In February, the American Hotel and Lodging Association submitted a letter on the FTC’s proposed rule, which remains under consideration along with 12,000 other comments.

A National Solution?

Meanwhile, the main national effort against junk fees came earlier this month when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill for essentially a national version of California’s law.

“Rep. Kim is thrilled that the No Hidden Fees Act passed the House and hopeful for swift passage in the Senate to provide cost transparency as families budget for trips,” said a spokesperson for Representative Young Kim of California, who co-sponsored the House bill. 

However, a counterpart piece of legislation in the Senate has stalled. The Hotel Fees Transparency Act (2498) introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) in the Senate a year ago would require anyone advertising a hotel room or a short-term rental to clearly show, upfront, the final price a customer would pay to book lodging. It would make the Federal Trade Commission responsible for pursuing violations.

Optimism for a Nationwide Fee Law

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, where it has apparently stalled. Senator Klobuchar’s press office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We’re hoping to avoid having multiple standards across multiple states,” said Rossitto of the California hotel lobby. “When you create a patchwork of statutes that don’t align, implementation becomes much more difficult, especially if you’re a hotel owner with assets in multiple states and you have to create customized solutions and processes.”

A key difference between the Senate and House bills is that the Senate has a provision that requires hotel companies to share accurate rate information with online players. That’s according to Laura Knapp Chadwick, president and CEO of the Travel Tech Association, which has helped work on the Senate bill.

Chadwick said the Senate bill currently also requires intermediaries, such as online travel agencies, to have a clear way for hoteliers to complain if something needs fixing, such as the accidental display of so-called rogue rates.

“For 916 to move forward, it will need to be reported out of the committee and then passed by the full Senate before being reconciled with any House versions and sent to the President for signing,” said Adams of JMBM. “That’s a lot.”

Yet others say there are reasons for optimism a national law will get passed.

“All the key players support it, and it’s bipartisan, so we are very optimistic a bill will come out of reconciliation by the close of the [legislative] session,” Chadwick said.

Supporters include hotel groups like Hilton.

“We support legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House to establish a uniform standard for mandatory fee display across the entire industry – from hotels to online travel agencies to metasearch sites and short-term rental platforms,” a Hilton spokesperson said. “We continue to work with the federal bill sponsors to ensure any final legislation that may be signed into law captures this standard.”

Transparency Is the New Black

A hotel era of hidden fees may be ending, as we previewed it might in Skift’s Megatrends for 2024. Non-compliance with California’s legislation has a steep cost: $1,000 per infraction, plus potential additional damages and legal fees.

California’s move may also force some hotels to rethink their pricing strategies and potentially squeeze margins for those who relied heavily on hidden fees. Skift will watch the shake-out after July 1.

For now, most hotel owners seem to be embracing a level playing field.

“We’re all in agreement that it makes sense that guests should know up-front what they will be paying,” said Blake of AAHOA. “Everybody hates surprises.”

Major Hotel Groups Say They’re Ready

Major hotel chains, including Choice Hotels, Hilton, InterContinental Hotels, Marriott, MGM Resorts, Sonesta, and Wyndham have adjusted their pricing systems to comply with the new law. We asked if they felt ready for the July 1 deadline, and here’s what Skift heard back.

  • Marriott: “We are committed to providing customers with clear and transparent pricing and have long been focused on ensuring that any mandatory fees charged by hotels are clearly stated prior to booking,” a spokesperson said. “In May 2023, we updated the room rate display on Marriott.com and our app to include the mandatory fees in the initial display of price, leading the industry on this important issue. We also provide mandatory fee information to our distribution partners, improving the customer search experience broadly.”
  • Hilton: “We have implemented enhancements to Hilton’s websites and apps to ensure mandatory fees are displayed upfront,” a spokesperson said.
  • Hyatt: “The most prominent rate shown throughout the booking process on Hyatt channels for properties in the Americas currently includes both the room rate and any resort or destination fees implemented by hotels,” a spokesperson said. “Hyatt complies with all local consumer regulations and is working to display any additional mandatory fees (excluding government-imposed taxes or fees) by July 1, 2024.”
  • Wyndham: “Mandatory resort fees are not common in our economy and midscale core, but when they are charged, they are clearly and prominently displayed prior to completion of booking,” a spokesperson said. “We are committed to price transparency and ensuring compliance with all upcoming laws and regulations.”
  • Choice Hotels: “We’re committed to making sure that any resort or other automatic fees charged by hotels in the U.S. are disclosed through our booking channels. Consistent with guidance from the State Attorneys General, Choice discloses such fees, with the total room price displayed on our web pages throughout the booking journey. As a result, we are fully compliant ahead of the State of California’s new law, as well as the proposed FTC rule, should it become final.”

Adblock test (Why?)

“Marriott’s Tina Edmundson Discusses the Future of Luxury Travel: Hotels, Yachts, Chatbots, and Trends in Luxury Hospitality”

"Marriott's Tina Edmundson Discusses the Future of Luxury Travel: Hotels, Yachts, Chatbots, and Trends in Luxury Hospitality"

As the newly appointed President of Luxury at Marriott International, Edmundson reveals what’s next for the world’s largest hotel operator.

When it comes to C-Suite leadership in hospitality, Tina Edmundson is a name you need to know. Clocking more than 16 years at Marriott, she joined amid the company’s 2016 acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, making it the largest hotel company in the world. It now comprises 30 brands, and operates approximately 9,000 properties.

In a brick and mortar business, it’s hard to see how Marriott could get much bigger. That’s where luxury steps in. It’s seen as the ‘bright spot’ growth engine in hospitality, which puts Edmundson, promoted last year to become Marriott’s President of Luxury, squarely in the hot seat. She now oversees eight brands, including St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Bulgari Hotels, Edition, Luxury Collection, JW Marriott, and W Hotels.

Raised in Mumbai, India, Edmundson graduated with a finance degree from the University of Bombay, and then moved to the U.S. to pursue her MBA in hotel and restaurant administration at the University of Houston’s Conrad N. Hilton college. Having worked in hospitality all her life, she’s seen just about everything there is to see in the hotel business. In this interview, she shares her outlook for the future of luxury travel:


What are three major trends shaping your business?

It sounds cliché at this point, but the pandemic changed everything. People shifted their mindset around travel. Bucket lists became to-do lists. We’re not waiting, because we don’t know what the future holds.

With that, wellness travel has become so important. I’m not just talking about spas; I’m talking about holistic wellbeing — mind, body and soul. If they’re working and traveling, consumers want to blend both work and wellness. They want to make sure that from a nutrition, movement and meditation perspective that they have facilities, and we have hotels that do that quite well. We have a hotel in Cabo, for example, called the Ritz Carlton Zadún. They have this great experience where they provide ancient healing, spa rituals, and mindful practices. Guests can go there and get all of that, but also just be on the beach with their family.

function loadConnatixScript(document) {
if (!window.cnxel) {
window.cnxel = {};
window.cnxel.cmd = [];
var iframe = document.createElement(‘iframe’);
iframe.style.display = ‘none’;
iframe.onload = function() {
var iframeDoc = iframe.contentWindow.document;
var script = iframeDoc.createElement(‘script’);
script.src = ‘//cd.elements.video/player.js’ + ‘?cid=’ + ’62cec241-7d09-4462-afc2-f72f8d8ef40a’;
script.setAttribute(‘defer’, ‘1’);
script.setAttribute(‘type’, ‘text/javascript’);
iframeDoc.body.appendChild(script);
};
document.head.appendChild(iframe);

const preloadResourcesEndpoint = ‘https://cds.elements.video/a/preload-resources-ovp.json’;
fetch(preloadResourcesEndpoint, { priority: ‘low’ })
.then(response => {
if (!response.ok) {
throw new Error(‘Network response was not ok’, preloadResourcesEndpoint);
}
return response.json();
})
.then(data => {
const cssUrl = data.css;
const cssUrlLink = document.createElement(‘link’);
cssUrlLink.rel = ‘stylesheet’;
cssUrlLink.href = cssUrl;
cssUrlLink.as = ‘style’;
cssUrlLink.media = ‘print’;
cssUrlLink.onload = function() {
this.media = ‘all’;
};
document.head.appendChild(cssUrlLink);

const hls = data.hls;
const hlsScript = document.createElement(‘script’);
hlsScript.src = hls;
hlsScript.setAttribute(‘defer’, ‘1’);
hlsScript.setAttribute(‘type’, ‘text/javascript’);
document.head.appendChild(hlsScript);
}).catch(error => {
console.error(‘There was a problem with the fetch operation:’, error);
});
}
}
loadConnatixScript(document);

(function() {
function createUniqueId() {
return ‘xxxxxxxx-xxxx-4xxx-yxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx’.replace(/[xy]/g, function(c) {
var r = Math.random() * 16 | 0,
v = c == ‘x’ ? r : (r & 0x3 | 0x8);
return v.toString(16);
});
}
const randId = createUniqueId();
document.getElementsByClassName(‘fbs-cnx’)[0].setAttribute(‘id’, randId);
document.getElementById(randId).removeAttribute(‘class’);
(new Image()).src = ‘https://capi.elements.video/tr/si?token=’ + ’44f947fb-a5ce-41f1-a4fc-78dcf31c262a’ + ‘&cid=’ + ’62cec241-7d09-4462-afc2-f72f8d8ef40a’;
cnxel.cmd.push(function () {
cnxel({
playerId: ’44f947fb-a5ce-41f1-a4fc-78dcf31c262a’,
playlistId: ‘cce06289-75b9-40f5-8676-50e517ab7eb5’,
}).render(randId);
});
})();

Sustainability is also critically important. So, the second major trend is what we call ethical escapes, where the customer is interested in sustainable practices. They want to do business with companies that give back to the environment and the community. Particularly Gen Z and millennials, they’re much more in-tune to that trend and it’s shaping their choices.

Do customers just say they want sustainability, or are they really spending money on it?

There are two parts to this. One is, the individual traveler is hard to pin down. Because they say things like: I want low flow showers, but they really don’t. They want a good shower. So that part is hard to track. What we are seeing, though, is clear demand from group customers. More often than not, I would say 80% of the time, that when a company is sourcing a group booking, it will ask for a report card on the sustainability practices of that hotel. So the hotels are incentivized to do it.

The third trend is experiential travel. Customers want more than just average F&B and a nice room; they’re looking for once-in-a-lifetime experiences and events that are unavailable elsewhere. For instance, we do pop-ups with fashion brands. The W Verbier hotel had a Valentino pop-up over Christmas time, which was wonderful because Valentino got to showcase their spring line. The St Regis in Venice did a partnership with Ginori 1735 during the Venice Film Festival last year, and they took over the garden overlooking the Grand Canal. It was just stunning.

Are you seeing big moves into ultra-luxury?

Absolutely. We’re seeing a lot of interest, and it’s become a really important asset class from an investor perspective. It’s why we launched the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. Our first vessel, Evrima, has been sailing for over a year. It’s effectively a Ritz Carlton at sea and it is all-inclusive. Our second yacht, Ilma, will set sail in September. The third will come on board in July 2025. Getting into the ultra luxury yachting space has been quite interesting for us, because 50% of the customers on our yacht are actually new to cruising.

Cruising is a big choice for Marriott; but this is not a mega cruise ship.

Right. At 149 keys, the most people you can have on the ship is 300. And it’s totally manageable, because the vessel is not dense at all. You can always find a quiet place to read a book and relax, or whatever. We’re super excited about that.

Another growth area is adventure travel, which is lodges and tented camps. These are the bucket list trips people are finally taking. We just opened our JW Marriott Masai Mara earlier this year, and we have several others signed as well.

Your partnership with Bulgari is another ultra-luxury move, no?

The partnership with Bulgari happened more than 20 years ago, before my time. But it’s been a wonderful venture; It’s their brand, their vision and design, but we manage the hotels. Bulgari is growing, which, to your point on ultra luxury, has become even more important. In that vein, we also have a brand called the Ritz Carlton Reserve, with seven open hotels in exotic, far flung places. The most recent one we opened is in Saudi Arabia, called Nujuma. The hotels tend to be on the smaller side; no more than 75 to 80 rooms or suites with extensive wellness facilities and a very high level of service.

Where in the world do you see the most promising growth opportunities?

In the luxury group, we have 513 open and operating luxury hotels, with 234 hotels in the pipeline. From a growth perspective, it’s an exciting time. We still see opportunity in primary markets, because each of our brands serve a different purpose for a traveler. (You go to W for a different reason than a Ritz Carlton.) But secondary markets have become quite interesting, like Charlotte, Savannah, Austin. It doesn’t always have to be New York and London and Tokyo. Because the customer is also visiting Kyoto and Nikko. We monitor demand and the developers are as well. If the secondary market can support those rates and that type of customer — then we should have product for that.

Is it growth for growth’s sake?

No. Well, we’re a growth company. We just are. But in luxury, it is not growth for growth’s sake. It is measured and considered and it has to match the brand that we’re putting forward. Otherwise, I think you’re going to disappoint the customer. We are quite customer-centric, making sure that we are growing in places our customer wants to be.

How do you modernize a traditional luxury hotel stay?

To me, number one is being thoughtful about design and architecture. So we have a list of approved designers and architects that we constantly vet to make sure that we are providing physical environments for our guests that are quite appealing.

The second is immersive programming. What is really interesting about where this particular hotel is located and how hotels actually help a guest culturally immerse in that locality? We’ve got tons of examples. In Edition hotels, we have directors of culture and entertainment who are completely connected to the locale, and are able to bring in lectures or local artists to enhance the guest experience. And then finally, it’s about simplifying the guest experience by removing friction through technology — whether it’s Mobile Key or allowing people to chat on the app. Because a lot of people don’t like to talk anymore!

So, it’s not VR headsets after all… Your Q1 earnings report states: “We are making great progress on the multi-year digital and technology transformation of our three major systems, reservations, property management and loyalty. Through this transformation, we expect to unlock new revenue opportunities.” My question is: Like what?

By actually being able to offer much more personalized service. Think about this: If I was driving into the hotel, and it’s eight o’clock at night. And the hotel sent me a text and said: I see you’re coming in late. Here’s our in-room dining menu. Is there something from the menu that you’d like? I’d probably buy it. Or, we have a Cabernet from Paso Robles that we know you like and it’s waiting for you. That’s delightful. Or, you’re here on vacation and I know that you love a deep tissue massage: we have these slots available. I mean, come on, I know you’re going to do it, Jennifer!

I’m so predictable! So, that is gathering data and creating a profile.

It’s creating the profile, but the technology should allow us to do it faster and with more precision. At the right time.

Your systems have to talk to each other.

Exactly. That’s part of the benefit of being a loyalty member, because we have your preferences, we know what you like.

I like my initials stitched on my pillow, Tina. How do you develop new tech?

We have multiple vendors. We don’t build it ourselves; we’re buying technology from others and customizing the portions that we need to customize in order to deliver the experience we want to deliver.

Many hotel apps have chatbots now, which are enhanced with artificial intelligence. Are you getting into that space?

We are looking at it right now, for sure.

Tech in the short-term rental space is helping platforms book more guests and smooth out operations. Is this something you’re worried about?

If you’re a good business person, you have to worry about everything. It is a very specific market. We have a product called Homes and Villas by Marriott Bonvoy; it hosts about 160,000 homes on a website where customers can earn and redeem their points.

So, you are in the short term rental space.

Yes, but we’re very specific. We don’t do couch surfing, and all of that. We are only in the premium and luxury space in short term rentals. The other product that we have is branded residential. Many of our luxury hotels have residences attached. When an owner buys a residence, many times they want to put their residence in a rental program. Customers can either rent a branded residential product that is attached to the hotel, or they can rent a ‘Home and Villa’ which is somebody’s home that they’ve put on our platform. [Approximately 20% of the Luxury Group by Marriott International’s business is branded residential real estate.]

Am I worried about it? No, but we watch the space closely. We think that there is a purpose for which that product is the right solution. We want to keep our customers within our ecosystem, and give them every experience in travel they need. We don’t want them to have a reason to leave us.

Everyone is looking for ways to have direct bookings on their brand’s sites. What are some cutting edge ways you can do that?

Digital marketing is the way forward, which includes social media. Social commerce is so critically important, because consumers are influenced when their friends are posting content that they engage with. That’s really the wave of the future. People are not looking at your paid advertising message and deciding to come to you. That’s more of an awareness builder. But when you think about lower funnel marketing, it’s more effective in luxury than it is for some of the other brands because we are not discount driven. That’s not what it’s about. What you’re trying to do is create desire for your brand that is prompting people to buy.

Speaking of that, you partnered with Taylor Swift for the Era’s tour. You’re part of the Swift Effect.

Absolutely! You can talk about the Swift effect. You can talk about White Lotus. What we’re seeing in media and entertainment is driving travel. People are traveling more now for concerts and sports games than they ever had before. I mean, talk about trends. It’s hard to name just three because there’s so many. And you’ve got to have your irons in all of those fires.

Adblock test (Why?)

“Minor Hotels CEO Plans Ambitious Expansion to Fill Portfolio Gaps through Mergers, Acquisitions, and Owner-Centric Approach”

"Minor Hotels CEO Plans Ambitious Expansion to Fill Portfolio Gaps through Mergers, Acquisitions, and Owner-Centric Approach"
A hotel in Minor's NH Collection.  Minor International

A hotel in Minor’s NH Collection. Minor International

Minor International runs 540 hotels and aims to grow that count about a third by 2026.

“In the next three years, our strategy is about expanding horizons,” said Minor International and Minor Hotels CEO Dillip Rajakarier. “We have a target of adding 200-plus properties in different geographies, particularly in India. We plan about 40 in Northern Europe.”

Skift spoke with Rajakarier to learn more.

Growth Strategy

Minor, the world’s 10th-largest hotel group and headquartered in Bangkok, has been introducing its European brands like NH Hotels into Asia.

  • “Our [$2.9 billion] acquisition of NH, a Dutch brand, in 2018 is a fantastic model,” the CEO said. “We took a niche European brand and have since brought it to Asia Pacific, where it’s popular. We’re bringing it to the Middle East and beyond.”

  • Globally, Minor Hotels has been shifting its mix toward upscale and luxury brands in the past few years. Last week, its luxury properties won 22 accolades at the Travel + Leisure Luxury Awards Asia Pacific 2024.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Minor Hotels is open to opportunistic acquisitions that align with its strategic goals, the CEO said.

  • “Wherever we might find a hole in the marketplace and our portfolio, we would try and fill the gap,” Rajakarier said.

  • “In India, there is a big hole in our portfolio,” he said. “We need to get more hotels there. The U.S. is another gap.”

  • “To be honest, we don’t have anything solid for me to say to you,” Rajakarier said. “We’re exploring a few options. … Of course, we’ve talked to many owners in different geographies about our expansion plan, not just India. When you look at the history of Minor, we’ve always been very opportunistic in terms of all acquisitions we’ve done.”

Is Minor open to acquiring a portfolio that may include real estate assets and not just brands?

Owner-Centric Approach

  • Local adaptation of brands is a key way the company tries to compete in appealing to hotel investors and owners. “We’re more flexible on brand standards than the major hotel groups and our teams are more responsive,” he said.

  • The CEO said his hotel group stands out in the market by providing a holistic solution to owners and managing all aspects of operations, including food and beverage, wellness, and residential. He claimed his company avoids cost-cutting that compromises guest experience, instead focusing on top-line growth and quality of earnings.

  • Medical and wellness tourism are themes the company feels especially talented at handling. This month, Minor Hotels announced Layan Life by Anantara, a new concept “blending modern medical technologies with ancient Thai healing traditions.” A newly built facility at its Anantara Layan Phuket Resort will open later this year in Thailand.

  • “Our focus has always been driving top-line revenue and high-quality earnings that flow to the bottom line regarding owner profit,” Rajakarier said. “We want to be the most profitable hotel brand in the world which gives you the best guest experience.”

Accommodations Sector Stock Index Performance Year-to-Date

What am I looking at? The performance of hotels and short-term rental sector stocks within the ST200. The index includes companies publicly traded across global markets, including international and regional hotel brands, hotel REITs, hotel management companies, alternative accommodations, and timeshares.

The Skift Travel 200 (ST200) combines the financial performance of nearly 200 travel companies worth more than a trillion dollars into a single number. See more hotels and short-term rental financial sector performance.

Read the full methodology behind the Skift Travel 200.

Get breaking travel news and exclusive hotel, airline, and tourism research and insights at Skift.com.

Adblock test (Why?)