Skift Take

Park Hyatt established the business case for offering local, experiential travel options in the luxury sector, where luxury amenities are no longer a differentiator for well-heeled clientele.

Park Hyatt Hotels was one of the first major hotel brands to differentiate itself in the marketplace by creating destination-specifc experiences that guests could not create on their own. For example, Park Hyatt developed what is considered the first food and wine festival in America at the ex-Park Hyatt Carmel in the 1980s, called The Masters of Food & Wine. That event is regarded as a primary catalyst for the “farm-to-table” trend now common in hotels nationwide.

In 2011, Park Hyatt rolled out variations of the culinary event as a standard offering at its hotels worldwide, taking place four times a year during each season. For guests not visiting during those specific weeks, Park Hyatt continues to develop other immersive insider experiences like pearl diving and fishing aboard a dhow with Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi.

New programs created this year include an overnight excursion from Park Hyatt Tokyo to a Yamato tea farm in the Nara Prefecture outside Tokyo, where guests learn every aspect of the tea production process. In September, Park Hyatt Saigon took guests to the Grand Place Cacao Farm on the Mekong Delta. They learned about the life cycle of chocolate while touring the farm, before participating in a pastry-making class.

Next year in February, Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow will host an exploration of different vodkas, followed by a five-course, vodka-paired Russian meal.

“We have nurtured exclusive relationships with experts, influencers and tastemakers around the world through which our guests are granted unique access to our local communities,” says Katherine Melchior-Ray, VP of luxury brands at Hyatt Hotels.

Melchior-Ray explains the days are gone when luxury meant a standardized experience that often mutes the vibrancy and personality of a destination.

“We know that for our guests, intuitive service, exquisite linens and curated wine lists are the common denominator, not the differentiator,” she says. “Time is a luxury for our guests, they want to be sure that theirs is well spent…. Rather than seeking value in terms of deals or discounts, they consider whether price reflects the distinctive quality, craftsmanship and service that they expect.”

Is this type of programming a significant driver of business?

“Our strong relationships with local experts, and the authentic experiences we are able to offer as a result, are absolutely differentiators that make us attractive to the cultured and curious affluent travelers,” answers Melchior-Ray. “Masters programming at our hotels is popular among guests and locals alike, and due to the exclusive and immersive nature of these events, they often sell out months in advance.”

The Park Hyatt Experience

This past summer in Argentina, the historic Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires partnered with several boutique luxury resorts in the outlying pampas to create the The Polo Collection. The initiative packages the hotels with a variety of experiences in Mendoza wine country and various polo horse farms. This is long overdue. While Argentine wine tourism is well established, there’s never been the tourism infrastructure to capitalize on the birthplace of western polo culture.

“Even though polo is a world class sport in Argentina it’s not really oriented to tourism; it’s much more a close secret for people who buy horses,” says Claudio Oliveira, director of The Polo Collection. “So there’s a small niche for people who want to learn more about polo. We created this travel product to make it easier for luxury travelers to try a different, novel experience. You know, one year you ride an elephant in India. The next year you play polo in Argentina.”

To learn more about Park Hyatt’s insider experiences at the local level, Skift spoke with Tom Puntel, director of sales/marketing at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek in Colorado.

Skift: Are more guests seeking a local, authentic travel experience in the luxury sector? Is this a significant trend?

Tom Puntel: Absolutely. It’s something we have seen amplified each season, especially in concierge requests. There has also been a recent tide shift in what level of experience they seek out. Guests who used to request standard trail maps are now outnumbered by those calling in advance to plan their adventure to make the most out of their trip, such as local backcountry expeditions, fly fishing experiences and white water rafting tours.

Skift: What is an example of a specific program created by your hotel that provides a more local experience?

Tom Puntel: This summer season we created a ‘Summit @ The Park’ package catering to guests looking for an authentic local experience. The package includes the opportunity to climb ‘fourteeners’ [mountain peaks exceeding 14,000 feet], which is definitely a true Coloradoan experience. Climbing these mountains is bragging rights among locals and natives, so extending this experience to travelers was something we felt we had to offer.

Skift: Park Hyatt’s individual hotel websites have always included local, insider destination info. Does that significantly drive bookings?

Tom Puntel: Every hotel website should have information regarding its onsite and offsite activity options with direct links with partners to help facilitate more information at the traveler’s fingertips. An overall updated and informative website tends to help drive bookings because being user-friendly is what resonates with our consumers.

Greg Oates covers hospitality trends and next generation hotels. He has participated in 1,000+ hotel site inspections in over 50 countries.

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Tags: luxury

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