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Changing faces of luxury hotels

Luxury accommodations are getting more and more diversified to address more diversified and more exclusives needs, while the upscale clientele is getting bigger every year. New concepts and formulas appear on the market, thus forcing the more traditional segment of the luxury hotel industry to question itself and to react

Faster, higher, stronger: luxury clientele are in top shape. The world already has nearly 80 million very well-to-do people more than one third of which live in the United States, 32 million (+10%), 21 million in Europe (+4%), 14 million in the Asia-Pacific region (+8%), 7 million Latin America (+6%) and just one million in Africa- Middle East, the continent with the strongest growth (+14%). And the higher we go in the spheres of wealth, the more the rate of growth accelerates. The number of millionaires (Ultra High Net Worth Individuals), with a fortune of at least 30 million dollars, grew by 16.8% in 2006 according to a report by Merrill Lynch and Cap Gemini. At the top of this pyramid, Forbes’ annual ranking counts 946 billionaires in 2007, including 178 new members. This increasingly open club has a global fortune of 2,500 billion euros, meaning growth by 625 billion over 2006.And to satisfy this demanding clientele, hotels rival in terms of ingeniousness to offer ever more luxurious, trendy or intimate products. But today, properties belonging to chains must now compete with a new flourishing offer resulting from the appearance of new specialized actors at villas or private clubs, city apartments or very upscale leisure residences with hotel services or even ultra-exclusive hotels that are the preserve of a wealthy elite.If we look more closely, this ranking reveals a new world condition: wealth is no longer the privilege of the Old World and the American continent: the new members include 19 Russians, 14 Indians and 13 Chinese. In the list of billionaires, Russia is on the heels of Germany. With Lakshmi Mittal in the lead, India has largely surpassed Japan, with China following closely behind. And the two tenors of this ranking, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, are gradually being gained on by the Mexican Carlos Slim Helú, the telecommunications and real estate magnate. Forbes’ annual study also shows an evolution of the list of the world’s wealthiest people, with a population that is being feminized and growing younger with the arrival of the X Generation. This new generation of entrepreneurial thirty-year olds contributes to breaking the traditional codes. As millennium children, they are independent, shrewd negotiators, keen about new technologies and globe-trotters. This generation is disturbing because of its sometimes contradictory demands; they are simultaneously alternative globalists, skilled and hedonistic businessmen, in search of a new well-being.The world of travel largely benefits from this rapid growth in the number of great fortunes. According to a study presented at the salon ILTM (International Luxury Travel Market), 25 million luxury trips are recorded each year in the world, for a relatively low total – meaning 3% of all trips– but they are strong contributors as they generate 25% of spending. On average these travelers spend between 7,000 and 14,000 euros on a “luxury” trip. Among the favored destinations, the Mediterranean returns to the forefront and Italy was favored as THE luxury destination for 2007. Behind it, countries in the Far East or the heavenly islands in the Indian Ocean are sure values. Then, one day, perhaps space tourism will gain favor as Space Adventures and Virgin Galactic are planning.Thanks to rapid growth of this clientele with full wallets, private aviation, cruises and yachting are all doing well. And the hotel industry is no exception and is part of this trend as well. The clear results of the upscale hotel industry and the remarkable development of luxury brands – Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Shangri-La Banyan Tree and others –are there to prove it. For showbiz or sports celebrities, young golden boys in jeans and sneakers, media magnates or industry leaders dressed to the nines, nothing can be too beautiful or too exclusive.And to satisfy this demanding clientele, hotels rival in terms of ingeniousness to offer ever more luxurious, trendy or intimate products. But today, properties belonging to chains must now compete with a new flourishing offer resulting from the appearance of new specialized actors at villas or private clubs, city apartments or very upscale leisure residences with hotel services or even ultra-exclusive hotels that are the preserve of a wealthy elite.

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