WITH LUXURY tourism in Asean poised for further growth, leaders of the hospitality, tourism and retail industries have stressed that sustainable development and social responsibility are keys to the segment’s resilience.
They came together at the WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council) Global Summit in Bangkok, which ended on Thursday, to discuss “The Traveller of the Future – Luxury Travel” in a session moderated by Peter Greenberg, travel editor for US network CBS News.
Chadatip Chutrakul, chief executive of Siam Piwat Co, which operates several of Thailand’s leading shopping malls including Siam Paragon in Bangkok, said her company’s customer-centric policy helped encourage luxury travel by customising shoppers’ emotional experiences.
“Siam Paragon has visitors from around the world. They come to enjoy themselves besides shopping. We manage customers’ emotional experiences: We make sure they come and get everything. Luxury by definition is about customising experiences,” she said.
Chadatip said Siam Piwat practised sustainable development through cooperation with residents of nearby communities, retailers, boat operators and hoteliers to maintain the landscape around the company’s soon-to-open IconSiam, a Bt50-billion mixed-use property that will host shopping complexes, among other things, on the banks of the Chao Phraya River.
“We’re joining hands with those people to create a river association to make sure that the river and its connecting canals are clean. With IconSiam, we want visitors to travel to the area and experience local charms,” she said.
Technology is an integral part of luxury travel, said Clement Kwok, managing director and CEO of Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels, citing the role of nifty high-tech devices in boosting luxury travellers’ hotel experiences.
“Luxury tourism is about personalised experiences, pampering guests with technology. Frequently guests [communicate] with our hotel staff with apps like WhatsApp. Increased connectivity in the guest rooms in the form of high-tech controls of the in-room entertainment systems is very important,” he said.
Kwok added that sustainable luxury was part of the hotel group’s core values and was delivered through the group’s “Vision 2020” that sets out a range of economic, social and environmental goals to achieve by 2020.
“We practise sustainable development by finding ways to build environmentally friendly hotels, avoiding certain seafood like shark fin, and promote less energy consumption and more waste recycling,” he said.
Waste recycling comes right to the fore in the sustainable-luxury policy of Silversea Cruises, said its chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio.
“In Alaska, waste releases coming out of our cruise ships are cleaner than seawater,” he boasted, adding that luxury travellers increasingly spend money to buy experiences rather materials.
However, emotional fulfilment takes precedence over technology when it comes to luxury lifestyles, said Deepak Ohri, chief executive of Lebua Hotels & Resorts in Bangkok.
“Luxury is about surprises, emotional connections and going back to the basics. Luxury travellers are knowledgeable. They know that what they experience is what matters.
“Those who don’t care much about technology care about their emotional connections. Luxury lifestyles run counter to mass trends. Luxury travellers create their own niches. At Lebua, we ban smoking in guest rooms, and the ban will be extended to our restaurants, which is our next step,” Ohri said.