The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong, that gorgeous grand dame in Tsim Sha Tsui, turns 87 this year; but the latest addition to its array of amenities isn’t anything old school: Guests can soon rock out in their room with a selection of Beats by Dr Dre products.
The hotel announced its partnership with the audio brand last month to provide hotel guests with complimentary use of Beats’ signature Studio Wireless headphones, Powerbeats2 Wireless earphones and Beats Pill speaker during their stay. All you need to do is let your concierge know. The service was previously introduced at the Peninsula New York and will be available at the remaining nine Peninsula hotels around the world by the end of the year.
While it may seem a little incongruous at first, there’s no doubt technology is fast affecting the way luxury hotels pamper their guests and potential visitors, given the changing demands and demographics of travelers.
At the one-year-old Park Hyatt New York, swimmers in the pool can enjoy music via underwater speakers. The pool is one of the five zones in the hotel with a curated playlist, in which songs and their tempo vary according to the time of the day. Also ramping up its tech game is Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. The luxury hotel chain launched its mobile app in June, billing it as the “most inclusive global app in the hotel industry”.
“This wasn’t about being the first to market. We wanted to ensure our app was a true extension of our customized service approach and developed based on insights from guest feedback, achieving scale coupled with seamless local authenticity,” said Four Seasons regional vice-president and general manager of Four Seasons Singapore, Antoine Chahwan. “Even non-guests can access the app for tips on exploring a destination through the eyes of Four Seasons.”
“Today’s luxury travelers are younger — increasingly from emerging markets like China, India, Singapore, Brazil and Russia. They’re more mobile, tech-savvy and less formal,” said Hoyt H Harper, senior vice-president and global brand leader for The Luxury Collection of Starwood Hotels and Resorts. “When they think of luxury experiences, they want the finer points but, in many cases, in less formal settings. 79 per cent of our customers shop online and want to tell their stories and share them on social media.”
It’s no surprise then that The Luxury Collection, along with fellow luxe brand St Regis, boasts the most number of social media platforms among the hotels in the Starwood group, ranging from Facebook to Pinterest and YouTube. The Ritz-Carlton group, too, has made stays more “social” through its mobile app rolled out last year. The app’s Shareable Experiences feature allows guests to edit and enhance photos with snazzy elements such as filters and stamps to create stylish vintage-looking postcards to share or save as souvenirs.
HIGH-TECH HUMAN APPROACH
While there is much investment in technology, luxury hotels are taking care to ensure intuitive and traditional touches remain very much present in their offerings.
“We need to provide a seamless, user-friendly environment with technology. It’s not easy to achieve,” said Rainy Chan, general manager of Peninsula Hong Kong and regional vice-president of the group. “I’ve been to many hotels that are technologically advanced, but nothing works. You have to figure out how to make technology functional and easy to use—that in itself is luxury.”
To wit, the Peninsula group has in-room technology with seamlessly integrated functions — for instance, the privacy sign appears on the door and spa music comes on when a guest is in the bathroom. (At the newly opened Peninsula Paris, the bedside panel allows guests to choose from 11 display languages to control their settings.)
Four Seasons is currently working to get its app to operate in both online and offline modes by the end of the year, so guests are not dependent on WiFi to use it. “This further increases the flexibility of our high-touch service to accommodate the mobility of our guests,” explained Chahwan.
ALL THINGS GREAT AND SMALL
However, it isn’t just about technology. The Luxury Collection prefers to take a slightly different approach: Impress guests with good old books in addition to its content-rich website by working with luxury coffee-table book publisher Assouline. Harper revealed that The Luxury Collection remains committed to trusting its renowned concierges, evident through its third and latest offering. The book, Certified Indigenous, launched in May, unlocks the local secrets and tips of its concierges around the world.
Harper emphasized that while many hotels may offer local and authentic experiences, the ones in the luxury sector take them to a whole new level.
“Our hotels and their amazing stories make the destinations,” he said. “We just opened Excelsior Hotel Gallia in Milan, which underwent a truly remarkable restoration and we have a new-built in Nanjing designed by (architect) IM Pei with the largest collection of books in a hotel. We also have great restaurants and chefs that are worth traveling for even if you’re not staying at the hotel.”
For others, the sky’s the limit. Four Seasons unveiled its private jet in April, which is currently flying around the world. The 52 passengers on board get access to experiences — such as attending a private concert in St Petersburg or diving alongside a marine biologist in the Maldives — at nine locations across the globe. The plane is already taking bookings for journeys next year.
For those who prefer more grounded but a no-less glamorous experience, The Upper House Hong Kong recently launched an exclusive collaboration with Parisian shoe courtier Christian Louboutin that includes a manicure or pedicure treatment and even a pair of Louboutin Air Loubi Flats — if you opt for a suite package.
“Ultimately, luxury is about having choices and time. Because today’s travelers are so busy, they want choices that give them more time,” Chan explained. “This is why when we renovated the Peninsula Hong Kong two years ago, we made the simple decision of putting a dining table in all our rooms — even the smallest ones — for guests to enjoy eating at a real dining table instead of a work desk while facing the harbor even if it’s just a 30-minute room-service meal.”
Well, getting to savor all that while showcasing the experience on Instagram is definitely luxury, isn’t it?