Famed for its highly developed tourism infrastructure and product offering, Europe still has space to grow and evolve. Emily Millett explores the variety of experiences awaiting travellers to this abundant continent.
Vast and diverse in its rich plethora of offerings, Europe continues to see its popularity increase year-on-year, as travellers seek out the continent’s most unique experiences.
“Europe has a tremendous number of interesting and vibrant cities with various offers of culture, history, beautiful and adventurous places, and endless opportunities for families, luxury lovers, backpackers, world travellers and anyone who is searching for a place to be for longer holidays or a weekend trip,” general manager, The Hotel Sacher Wien, Reiner Heilmann told TTG.
As Europe maintains its appeal and develops its product, travellers are changing the way that they experience the region, with shorter stays and combination trips proving to be the name of the game, according to industry insiders.
“One of the key trends we’re seeing within the European tourism industry is the prevalence of shorter trips, with travellers opting for city breaks over a few days rather than longer holidays,” president and managing director EMEA, Wyndham Hotel Group, Dan Ruff explained to TTG.
In the current global climate, where experiences are valued above objects, European hospitality providers are placing a new emphasis on offering authentic, local or customised experiences, as director of sales and marketing, Park Hyatt Zurich, Malte Budde said: “People look for experiences rather than holidays. Together with our concierge team, we have created local experiences such as watch making, chocolate tours or visits to local markets to meet the expectations of our guests.”
Park Hyatt Zurich is also currently undergoing a complete guest room renovation, with refreshed public spaces and suites, and new F&B concepts.
Experiencing a destination through the eyes of its locals is a growing trend in Europe, with properties such as Park Hyatt Zurich or Vienna House in the Czech Republic actively facilitating this endeavour for guests.
“Nowadays travellers are looking for destinations where they can explore the city with the recommendations and eyes of the locals,” said regional director, Vienna House, Klaus Pilz. “Restaurants, bars and famous sights, together with a great variety of cultural events, sports activities and exploration of hidden spots off the beaten path is the secret of our success. We motivate our colleagues to share their own favourite places and recommend our guests where to go personally through our mobile concierge, on our blog or via social media, because they know their cities the most.”
An upgrade on the now long-established trend for experiential travel is the move towards offering more personalised experiences.
“Rocco Forte is seeing a huge increase of feedback regarding personalised services and experiences,” global communications director, Rocco Forte Hotels, Rosie O’Brien told TTG. “Rocco Forte hotels recognise that it is a much more rewarding experience to stay in a smaller hotel where they know your name, can personalise your stay, ensure that you are booked into your favourite room, have books by your bed that you will enjoy and your mini bar stocked with your preferred beverages and snacks.”
With this in mind, the group is always looking for ways to further enhance the guest stay behind the scenes, with the concierge teams arranging behind the scenes experiences such as backstage tours of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg; out of hours tours of the Duomo in Florence; or access to London’s private members clubs.
At The Mandeville Hotel in London, guests are given complimentary smart phones, a shopping concierge, bespoke packages and chauffeurs to Bicester Village to enhance their personalised experience, as the hotel’s general manager, Chetan Bhanot told TTG: “It’s about the personal journey, the experience and the story behind it all. And that, in itself, is allowing us at The Mandeville to deliver truly bespoke and memorable experiences to today’s discerning luxury traveller. It is about enhancing the overall guest experience to be more personalised, more transparent, more desirable and much more innovative than ever before.”
And The Mandeville Hotel is not alone in its endeavours to use technology as a means of enhancing the offering, with The Edinburgh Collection hotels offering all guests smart phones loaded with information that will allow them to easily explore the city, from finding their way around and checking the weather, to discovering hidden gems and booking tickets.
“This simple technology also allows guests to share their positive experiences with their friends and family more easily, which is great for generating additional business,” managing director, The Edinburgh Collection, Ricky Kapoor told TTG. “There’s also a general lifestyle trend towards prioritising spend on experiences rather than simply shopping for items. Any innovation that allows guests to truly experience their destination will therefore have value.”
Many hotel’s around Europe are also working on personalising the stay specifically for guests from the Middle East, as director of sales and marketing, The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna, Stefan Ludwig told TTG: “A lot of Arabic guests travel to Europe during the summer months and therefore, we organise special attractions and amenities.”
The property now offers Arabic TV channels, newspapers, authentic Arabic cuisine 24 hours a day, a kids’ programme, babysitter service, a prayer mat, Quran and Qibla, as well as a transfer service to the airport or the nearby shopping areas.
“We also have Ladies and Gentlemen that speak Arabic and we have a dedicated ladies-only area in our The Ritz-Carlton Spa,” added Ludwig.
Rocco Forte hotels also strive to make their Middle Eastern guests feel at home in Europe, with female-only interconnecting suites, Halal menus and female-only staff.
THE RISE OF THE MILLENNIAL
Hand in hand with the continuous growth in demand for experiential travel is the rise to power of the Millennial spender.
“As Millennials continue to see their incomes grow, they are also becoming more frequent travellers,” said Ruff. “This generation of traveller tends to seek flexibility, authenticity and adventure. When they travel they want to be completely immersed in a local culture.”
But rather than simply relying on the Millennial generation’s desire to explore the world, many hotel groups and individual properties are evolving their offering with this target market specifically in mind.
In response to the Millennial preference for unique and experiential dining opportunities, and community living, Cheval Three Quays in London has recently launched Coppa Club restaurant bar, which overlooks the Thames and provides services to guests and the public from early morning until late at night.
“Its seasonal exterior decor has captured much acclaim by bringing a unique and fresh approach to alfresco dining in the heart of the city of London,” said operations director, Cheval Residences, Neil Taylor. “Community is a theme that we have seen growing within the London market by both European and UK based brands over the last 12 months. Primarily focused towards the Millennial customer, we have seen the concept of ‘community living’ expand its reach to both the frequent business traveller as well as those looking for a fresh faced, relaxed and socially driven environment. The momentum behind this concept relates to a society that is driven by the need to share social experiences with friends and family who are based both at home and across the globe.”
At Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch in the East End of London, the F&B and entertainment sector has quickly become a leading department since the hotel opened just over a year ago, thanks to the Millennial feeder markets. General manager, Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch, Ray Goertz elaborated: “Millennial travellers are still very dominant and their average spend is also increasing year-on-year. We have established ourselves within the East End of London and particularly the trendy/hipster Shoreditch and Hoxton area. This is evident with the guests that we have, ranging from the creative worlds of fashion, art, entertainment, as well as Millennial travellers coming for ‘bleisure’ stays.
“With a number of F&B outlets, as well as a combination of entertainment facilities in the hotel, we have also noticed an increase in local residents using our outlets on a social basis,” he added.
In a bid to embrace the local F&B scene, the hotel offers a pop up concept, changing the offering throughout the year to always provide new and refreshing options.
With its position on the must-visit list so firmly established, Europe is now keeping a close eye on developing industry trends, in a bid to stay ahead of the competition and ensure its offering appeals to the new generation of experiential travellers.