The luxury hotel industry is increasingly competitive – good news for travellers, as growth in the quality and volume of supply can only mean great things. The demand matches too – all I’ve heard about in the first couple of weeks of 2020 is just how business is booming for the hospitality superbrands, not to mention new, innovative independents and boutiques opening or reimagining their offering – and changing the landscape of, and to some extent – how – we view ‘luxury travel’.

The new year inevitably provides hoteliers with the opportunity to flex their muscles, coming out of a profitable festive period, but I am encouraged to see that they’re not resting on their laurels and continue to come up with new and innovative ways to capture our attention in 2020 and beyond.

OutThere travellers are also getting far savvier. They are pushing hoteliers to deliver better ‘value’ from their stays. I’m not talking price here, but increased service benchmarks, more diverse, experiential offerings and greater innovation and personalisation when it comes to the guest experience.

I know this, as at the start of the year we released some highlights from our annual luxury travel trends reports that gave us the inside track from OutThere’s community of luxury travellers – our needs, wants and more crucially, our decision making determinants. I analyse the luxury hotel section of the report primarily to help me plan the sort of properties and resorts we’ll feature editorially this year; but I am keen to share it with you as perhaps it’ll help you navigate this fabulous, but cluttered world of choice and assist in evaluating what to look for when choosing a hotel on your next holiday.

Do take it personally

Us OutThere travellers are on a quest to redefine luxury, with our top priority being all about personalisation. So in 2020, hotels and resorts should be going out of their way to celebrate our individuality. Luxury hotels often talk about their ‘guests’ collectively, but the very best properties go the extra mile to provide a level of personalisation that is both intrinsic to the DNA and ethos of the brand or property, but also individualistic of each and every person that checks in.

With the environment and social responsibility high on our travel agendas in 2020 (alongside a desire for healthy hedonism), it seems that we’re looking for properties that care, not just for us, but for the world that we exist in. Six Senses appears in our top 5 favourite luxury hotel brands for the very first time and frankly, I’m not surprised. They’re a brand that is outspoken and honest and merge sustainability, empathetic hospitality and wellness to create something out of the ordinary. And beyond the brand promises, they take each customer as they come too. When I visited Six Senses Nihn Van Bay in Vietnam, and Six Senses Duxton in Singapore, the teams there went out of their way to create a personalised stay for me and were ever mindful of my needs as an OutThere traveller. The butler at the former even suggested that my partner and I could marry on resort; which came a little out of the blue, but lovely in sentiment.

Experience counts

OutThere travellers are increasingly looking for hotels that put experiences first. Last year, I spent alot of time talking about ‘experiential hotels’ and properties that are ‘destinations in their own right’, because of what they offer beyond their beds, spas, pools and restaurants. Rosewood Hotels came top of our list this year and while there is no doubt that their hotels are stunning and staying at a Rosewood is often an experience in itself, it is the brand’s commitment to transformative experiential travel, and their Rosewood Limited Edition programme that won them the top spot.

Everyone loves a gift

As the saying goes, give and you shall receive. Luxury hotels that ‘gift’, like many of those in the Preferred Hotels and Resorts portfolio; (who came in as 6th favourite) are well-loved by OutThere travellers. I mean, what can I say, we all enjoy being spoilt and being surprised (beyond the in-room bottle of bubbles or fruit-bowl amenity – if you’re not getting this as a standard when you arrive on property, then you need to consider book with a good travel advisor), be it in an in-suite his-and-his couple’s massage at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, or a complimentary hotel limo pick-up at Grand Velas Los Cabos. Some properties even make the process super fun, leaving or getting you to hunt out treats in your room or around the property for you to ‘happen upon.’

Inclusive is the new exclusive

When we last did this survey, the need for hotels and resorts to demonstrate that they are inclusive in their marketing and communications fell out of the top 5 priorities for OutThere travellers, much to my surprise. However, this year it has returned and ranked high on the list, signalling a renewed demand for hotels to outwardly demonstrate that they are welcoming of all travellers, whatever their backgrounds and needs.

You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but I guess we can become complacent at times and in destinations where we are feeling most secure. But in today’s lean to the right in global politics (like what happened to the Sultan of Brunei owned Dorchester Hotels) as well as changes to the community demographic (we are now travelling with children more than ever before), we are looking for concrete assurances that properties are welcoming of the community. This will be why brands like Belmond continue to appear as an OutThere favourite; they ranked 7th on our list. Not only do they outwardly express their support for the community, but they do everything they can to understand the complex needs of their travellers regardless of demography. I should know, I sit on their pioneering LGBT+ advisory board. And they apply the philosophy to all their properties and experiences, around the world from Peru to Anguilla.

We’re the loyal family

It has been long documented in our research that OutThere travellers are extremely brand loyal. I am for example, a hashtag waving #AmanJunkie and tend to declare it for all the world (well, Instagram) to see. (Aman came in as our 2nd favourite hotel brand, by the way). But beyond our addictive personalities, we are moreover, avid point collectors. It seems airmiles and hotel point collection is at an all-time high with savvy OutThere travellers citing as a priority when selecting a hotel, the opportunity to score points that they can put towards future rewards. It has previously been and no doubt will continue to be a winning territory for the superbrands (with ACCOR relaunching ALL (ACCOR Live Limitless) and Marriot’s Bonvoy scheme) but smaller properties are getting in on the game too, like those who are part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, with their recently re-imagined rewards scheme, ‘INVITED.’

Which hotel brands are our favourites?

Each year, we ask OutThere travellers to tell us what their top 10 hotel brands are. Here is the 2020 list, many of which appearing in our annual hall of fame for the first time this year.

*OutThere 2020 luxury travel trends report was produced as a result of a survey independently conducted with 2,500 subscribers of OutThere magazine.

1. Rosewood
2. Aman
3. Four Seasons
4. The Peninsula
5. Six Senses
6. Preferred Hotels and Resorts
7. Belmond
8. Small Luxury Hotels of the World
9. Ritz Carlton
10. Soho House Group