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At What Price does Luxury Even Matter to Hotels in 2021?

As I have been assisting clients with choosing hotels and putting spring break, summer & festive holiday vacation plans on the books, one #elitetravel trend is sparkling clear. Rates at the busiest hotels (the five-star resorts at America's best beaches and mountains and in a few other "open" destinations) are off the charts HIGH. AND, the travelers who want to go there don't seem to care.

Let me rephrase that. Clearly, people do care what their hotel room or suite or private villa will cost. But, if there are limited options, it's likely that a traveler won't balk at the $3K-$5K average nightly rates I am seeing and booking on a regular basis these days. That's not $300-$500/night, but rather, $3,000-$5,000 for anything larger than just a "regular" room at most of the higher-end beautiful spaces in beautiful places.

This fact struck me when I was filling out my application to attend the L.E. Miami boutique high-end travel show this fall. One of the questions I was asked was: "What is the average daily spend of your typical client?" There were multiple choice options including $500-$1,000 OR $1,000-$5000. I clicked the latter. It's what is being spent on an average daily basis by today's elite traveler (the ones calling me regularly to research and plan and book their extended family trips and honeymoons).

After the year we all just had, with travel at a standstill and no one really able to go anywhere, it's not a surprise that I am getting busier by the day with vacation requests. We aren't quite yet back to booking corporate business travel---a few clients have told me they plan to start Q4--so my focus for now is on the HIGH demand spurring the HIGH rates at vacation-area hotels that were either closed or nearly empty most of 2020.

Years ago, when I was helping to launch Elite Traveler Magazine, I often traveled with our owner and the magazine publisher and executive team. This meant I had an inside seat (literally) at the table with the top advertisers, those who were invited to private breakfasts inside the suite we had booked for the magazine's owner at a luxe hotel in London, Berlin, Basel or wherever we were traveling. And I will never forget how upset our owner was once when the en-suite power breakfast that had been ordered days ahead of the meeting time showed up cold. It had to be sent back, delaying everyone who was on a tight schedule. The "luxury hotel" in London where he'd always stayed was no longer seen by my boss as worth what he was paying.

My boss turned to me and said: "Stacy, Do you know what I am paying for this hotel suite?"

I actually did know, since I was part of the team who had arranged it. And it was A LOT.

He then told me he actually didn't care if they charged him a million dollars for the suite, if everything had gone perfectly he'd never question the cost. But, because they'd screwed up the breakfast and caused a lot of unnecessary stress and schedule delays, he felt that charging him $1 for the breakfast and the suite it was served late and cold to us in was $1 too much.

I still think about that inter-change often, as it provided me with an insight into how luxury hotels can charge what they do and find clients totally willing to pay these very high rates (sometimes for the same rooms that cost half as much in less busy periods, but that's a topic for another day!). In the past few weeks, I've had several clients all paying between the $1,000 and $5,000/night having to deal with something along the lines of that "cold breakfast" my boss never forgot in various shapes and forms.

One client was told that the late check-out we had requested wasn't an option even though it easily could have been arranged. Another was told on arrival that despite it being a $4k/night "all inclusive" resort, because they hadn't booked dinners or activities in advance, they'd not be able to do anything during their stay (huh? I mean it's covid era, so we get it, but no one told any of this in advance and we had to jump through hoops to get them booked for meals and activities during their stay). Another client showed up and the room locations we'd guaranteed were all of a sudden switched last minute, without any of us being notified---again, not earth shattering or unfixable, but stressful at a HIGH price tag.

My feeling on all of this is, it's GREAT that hotels are being back to being BUSY as it means that my #elitetravel business is once again thriving and it's really fun for me to match clients to the BEST and most fun and luxurious hotels for their long-awaited holidays.

What's not fun is when some of these hotels act like they don't need the business, because they are so busy right now. I do believe that when the world opens up, starting later this year and into 2022, the ultra-high rates many are charging will level out or come back down closer to pre-covid levels.

But in the meantime, as one of my favorite clients said this week, "Hotels can charge what they want since people are willing to pay the prices. these prices, everything should be perfect." I AGREE. But, then again, I am #NotYourAverageTravelAgent and I am writing this with my journalist hat on because it's a story I've yet to even see a travel reporter cover.

As promised, I am just sharing what I learn as I go. If you'd like to talk to me about planning your future travels, email me Everyday, I am learning which hotels have availability over these very busy "almost post-pandemic" times, and am finding something to fit most clients' desired budgets and locations with a little bit of flexibility and a sense of humor when things occasionally go wrong! At any price, nothing is perfect. But...thankfully there are some hotels out there that try very hard and come very close!

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @stacyhopesmall and please subscribe to this new blog if you're interested in my take on the ever-evolving world of #elitetravel and beyond.

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