Three top hoteliers have debated the future for the luxury sector and addressed the challenges ahead for hoteliers in a wide ranging debate hosted by Pride of Britain chief executive Peter Hancock at Hotelympia.
Current Hotelier of the Year Stephen Carter (pictured), and previous holders of the title Robin Hutson and Richard Ball, discussed whether the luxury sector was overcrowded and what mid-market operators might do to steal market share.
Ball said that he considered the luxury sector "overcrowded and overdone". He added: "I can see it returning to be a niche sector. There is a place for top-end luxury but I can see the market getting smaller."
However, he predicted that luxury would creep into other sectors, and that before long we should expect to hear the terms "luxury pub" and "budget luxury".
Hutson agreed that the market had changed dramatically from the "fanned napkins and gold taps of 20 years ago". He said: "The future is different elements; peace, space, and intelligent service. It's not so blinged-up as it was."
Carter added that while he thought there would be an element of self-policing as customers become more selective, he didn't believe the market was overpopulated. "Luxury will continue in experience led hotels," he said. "People still want to buy relaxation, which has become a scarce commodity."
Meanwhile, Ball said the move towards the middle would afford significant opportunities for those that could get their offer right. "I can see the top end being diluted and operators moving down, while the budget sector will continue to get better and better," he said. "The mid market has been neglected and some products are very poor and need updating."
Hutson added that those mid market operators can carve a niche with a genuine story and unique offer would prosper.
By James Stagg
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