Smaller chains redefine luxury hospitality, leaving behind major players

With porfolios of less than 20 hotels, top locations, outstanding quality of service, an impeccable product, highest level of technology and comfort, exquisit fine dining - a number of luxury hotel groups are claiming their highest positioning among luxury hoteliers, a level higher than many other established, larger hotel chains : Oekter Collection (7), Peninsula Hotels (9) Dorchester Collection (9), Swire Hotels (2) and Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. (17). These hotel chains have been forming a league of their own, above the larger luxury hotel chains.

One of the major competitive advantages of these smaller players is the fact that most of them own and manage their properties, thus being able to maintain a highest level of service and facilities, thus providing consistency throughout their entire chain. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many other luxury hotels, most of which are only operators, managing the respective properties.

The vital relationship between hoteliers and owners has indefinitely changed in the past 5 years, with many hoteliers (operators) acquiescing to more compromises whether it is delayed renovations, investments in technology or marketing activities (i.e. sponsorship of key events etc). The once very strict criteria of many of the luxury hoteliers when signing on a certain property has also been loosened, to say the least. Although some of these larger luxury chains have maintained a high level of service, their product, at many of their properties is below the luxury hospitality standard of the 21st century. Other compromises include lower quality furniture, basic in-room technology etc.

Another major differentiator between these smaller chains and the large chains is marketing / communications and the way they understand social media. By allocating considerable marketing budgets, the smaller chains are seemingly ahead many of the larger luxury hoteliers, some of which have had to freeze any advertising since the debut of the international crisis 4 years ago.

Michelin starred Chefs in their restaurants, state of the art SPAs; highest standard of sound-proofing; natural bathroom amenities; ultimate services (helicopter or private jet transfers from nearby airports); custom made interiors of luxury limos; butler service for suite guests; technology butlers; touch pads to control AC, curtains, lights, TV, DND; complimentary high speed wi-fi internet in all rooms and suites; complimentary long distance non-limited international phone calls – are just some of the exceptional services that these hotels provide.

The strategic approach of Peninsula Hotels ‘to sit at the same table with shareholders, as they are partners and not like operator – owner’, is the winning competitive advanatage for luxury hotels to maintain their consistency, providing the highest standards. With the exception of Beijing (soon to undergo renovations), all the other Peninsula properties are among the top 3 highest rated* luxury hotels (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Manila, Bangkok, Chicago, New York, Beverly Hills). In each city tney are present, Peninsula Hotels are often considered true institutions. Peninsula Hong Kong  and Peninsula Shanghai boast the highest standard of in-room technology.

Peninsula Paris, the first property of the chain in Europe which is due to open 2014, is set to be one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Peninsula Hotels co-own the hotel, with majority shareholder and developer Qatari Diar.

The Peninsula Hotel, New York

Since acquiring the Le Bristol Hotel in Paris, the Oekter family has expanded its Oetker Collection with masterpiece properties such as Hotel Eden Cap Roc (recognized as the top luxury hotel of the French Riviera), Brenners Park in Baden Baden, Chateau St Martin, and more recently Palais Namaskar (constantly ranked among the top 3 most luxurious resorts in Marrakech), L’Apogee Courchevel (soon to open in the French Alps) and the Saint-Barth Isle de France (the finest hotel in St Barth, The Caribbean). The extensive renovations of the Le Bristol in Paris have earned the hotel the Palace distinction, the highest luxury rating offered by French Tourism Authorities, positioning the hotel among the top 3 luxury hotels in Paris. Recently, Le Bristol received its 4th (combined total) Michelin star for its restaurants.

Hotel du Cap Eden Roc, French Riviera

Today, Dorchester Collection, owned by the Brunei Investment Agency (BIA), is today a collection of some of the finest luxury hotels in the world – Le Meurice and Plaza Athenee in Paris, Principe di Savoia in Milan, 45 Park Lane and The Dorchester in London, Beverly Hills Hotel and Bel-Air in Beverly Hills.

Most of the properties have been undergoing extensive refurbishments and renovations in the past years which have been overseen by reputed interior designers (Alexandra Champalimaud - The Dorchester, Bel-Air and Le Richemond) Several of the Dorchester Collection Hotels have been introducing the latest in-room technologies (ICE by Intelity). Celebrity Michelin starred Chefs oversee their fine dining restaurants (Wolfgang Puck at 45 Park Lane and Bel-Air; Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester)

In 2014, Le Richemond, a luxury hotel in Geneva, will join the Dorchester Collection, after extensive renovations, becoming the first hotel which is only managed by the Dorchester Collection, without ownership. The group seems to be prepared for the very high expectations of this new opening, especially, given the take over of an existing hotel

Swire Hotels, a member of the Hong Kong based  Swire Group, has opened the Upper House Hotel in Hong Kong and The Opposite House in Beijing, both properties becoming an instant success, ranking among the top luxury hotels in each city. The Upper House in Hong Kong received the highest rankings, worldwide, for two consecutive years from Tripadvisor. Both hotels offer organic bathroom and SPA amenities and the Beijing property is built according to the highest standards of eco-certifications.

With new landmark properties opening 2013 in London, Beijing and Dubai, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts own and operate probably the highest rated luxury resorts in the Americas and the Caribbean. Rosewood have become synonymous with the highest standard of personalized service and a product with a unique sense of place. While it owns and operates at the same time, many of its properties, Rosewood will manage the new hotels in London, Beijing and Dubai. Recently, Rosewood has been reported to be in advanced negotiations with the owners of Parisian luxury hotel Le Crillon, due to re-open in 2015.

Rosewood Hotel Beijing



Oliver Petcu