For this week’s Leading The Way interview, we speak to Craig Reid, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Auberge Resorts Collection about how 2020 has changed the travel industry, and the new demand for bespoke road trips.
Do you think 2020 is the year that will mark a change for our industry and if so, what do you think will change?
I believe change is constant but mostly gradual. A year like 2020 will no doubt accelerate the pace of change, and in the leisure segment, we believe that the traveller will shift to more meaningful, deliberate travel, with travellers making considered choices about not only how and where they travel but also why. The journey and experience will be just as important as the destination. People are also becoming more responsible and conscientious travellers they want to feel a greater connection to the places they visit by engaging with the local community, delving deeper into local experiences, and supporting travel brands like Auberge that prioritize all things local.
What have you come to appreciate this year?
2020 has been a year of growth, learning, and rediscovering life’s simple pleasures. I, like so many, missed the joys of travel during the lockdown. However, I cherish the extra time it gave me to be at home in Dallas with my wife, daughters, and grandchildren. I’ve also found a new love and appreciation for road trips, which have allowed me to see all of the spectacular destinations that lie in our own backyard in the U.S. this summer.
What would you say are the core characteristics needed to be successful in the luxury travel industry now?
Authenticity, transparency, intuitive service, and one-of-a-kind, personalized experiences. My conversations with Auberge guests have been very positive -people want to travel again, but they are only traveling for truly exceptional experiences. After being cooped up for so many months, they want to experience bucket list items they had previously put off, learn new hobbies, and experience the world in a way they hadn’t before. We just had a guest book a two-month stay at our hotel in Telluride so he and his family can learn how to ski. It’s something they have always wanted to do, but they could never commit to the amount of time required to learn how to become truly exceptional skiers. They will now spend every day for the next two months working in the morning and skiing in the afternoon.
With wellness, sustainability and conscious travel becoming increasingly mainstream, is it becoming more difficult to set yourself apart from the rest of the market?
In the last two years, social awareness has shifted in guests around the world. Even in destinations, you wouldn’t expect, people want to know what a hotel or hotel group is doing to give back to the local community, how they are being socially conscious and the ways in which they are contributing to the environment in a positive way, even at the top end of the luxury sector. We are seeing guests choose destinations because of what we are doing in this space. All of our properties continue to be laser-focused on connecting with their local communities, which is something guests increasingly want.
Separately these three topics are merely labels if not adopted with passion and sincerity. We are confident that the discerning traveler and or travel partner will seek out exceptional operators, who are delivering on their promise.
With private travel and domestic travel both heightened during this time, it seems your recent launch of bespoke road trip itineraries are meeting a key consumer demand, have you noticed any particular patterns in what people are looking for?
It’s all about space, convenience, and unique experiences right now. People are looking for unique destinations that are close to home, yet still, feel a world away. Our road trip itineraries have been incredibly successful because our guests want to explore multiple iconic U.S. destinations like the coast of New England or the Rocky Mountains. We’ve also seen a lot of family buyouts. Our resorts tend to be quite boutique in nature, so a hotel like Mayflower Inn & Spa in the Connecticut countryside is the perfect destination for families to take over for the week.
What can and should luxury travel brands be doing to help replenish lost revenue in 2021?
We are seeing great demand for long-term stays and tremendous on-property experiences. Guests want a change of scenery, and they are making our properties their home away from home. In fact, our long term stays are up by over 1000% year on year. We just unveiled Remote with Auberge, which is a program that allows guests to work, learn, and play seamlessly from Auberge properties. It’s the ultimate escape for parents seeking to balance the evolving demands of their careers and their kids’ educations, or for any professional looking for a change of scenery. Whether it’s for a week or for a month, it’s a great opportunity to get out of your day-to-day environment, boost productivity and leave your everyday cares to us, all while enjoying unrivaled space and knowing your kids are getting an edge with best-in-class tutors in naturally rich learning environments.
Image Reference: Mayflower Inn & Spa, Auberge Resorts Collection