A luxury collection insider shares the one hotel you must visit


The Luxury Collection spans more than 120 hotels in 35-plus countries, and the brand has ambitious plans for this year. It will open more than 10 new properties everywhere from Barbados to Patmos, Greece.

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To learn more about the upcoming new hotels, we talked to Philipp Weghmann, vice president and global brand leader for The Luxury Collection. He revealed plans for the company that go beyond hotels, where to go this summer and the one Luxury Collection hotel you must visit.

The Luxury Collection’s Philipp Weghmann. THE LUXURY COLLECTION
How do you differentiate The Luxury Collection from other Marriott luxury brands, like The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis?

Two of our closest sister brands are, indeed, Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis. These are hard brands, and The Luxury Collection is a soft brand, a collection brand.

That’s the main difference. The Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis these days all look different, from a design and an experience perspective.

But there are things that you will find in every Ritz-Carlton, like a Ritz-Carlton lounge, a Ritz-Carlton club lounge or a Ritz-Carlton kids club. And The St. Regis will have a few of those things carrying through globally.

We don’t really have that with Luxury Collection. We want every hotel to be unique, one of a kind and deeply rooted in the destination that it sits in.

That then leads us to different products in terms of the design, architecture and everything that’s in the hotel, from food and beverage to wellness. There’s no such thing as a Luxury Collection spa.

Each hotel has its own take on that. Sometimes it’s their own concept. Sometimes it’s with an outside partner, but it will always have a connection to the destination.

And the same with the food and beverage. If it’s a larger hotel, it could have multiple outlets, but at least one of the restaurants will be an interpretation of local cuisine.

What is in store for the brand in the future?

For other luxury brands, sometimes it’s very specific what they’re looking for: 50 rooms in so and so location, or no more than 120 rooms. The Luxury Collection has broad shoulders.

We can go very small, we can go a little bigger and we can definitely leave this traditional city and resort space that most hotel brands are made of.

I think we can go into adjacent spaces quite a bit with this brand looking into the future and extend into experiences of other non-hotel accommodations. I’m thinking yachts, river cruises, trains, certainly safari lodges and other tented camps.

That’s one area where the brand is going to grow in the years to come because it just has this wonderful and flexible positioning that allows us to bring them in and still be very true to our brand philosophy.

Sanasaryan Han recently debuted in Istanbul. SANASARYAN HAN, A LUXURY COLLECTION HOTEL, ISTANBUL

Secondly, strategic growth. We just opened [Sanasaryan Han, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Istanbul] last week.

We are in a lot of different places, but we have huge gaps still in parts of Asia Pacific, Latin America and even in Europe and the U.S., where we have a good footprint. We’re opening at least 10 hotels, so this will be a significant year for the brand.

And then third is our concierge or destination authority positioning. The concierge is the main role that enables that positioning.

We want to have the best concierges that deliver a connection to the destination.

You see the concierge as an important role at the property?

Yeah, there’s always been one. And of course, many other luxury brands will tell you the same thing because it is that high-touch role with the guests.

But in The Luxury Collection, it’s been an important role for decades, and it’s a role that hopefully enables the guests to experience the destination in unexpected ways, maybe educate themselves in a fun way, a level deeper than you would just through your own research, your own guidebooks and even recommendations from friends.

We want the concierge team to be so well informed and connect it to the destination, then share some of that knowledge and secrets with the guests.

You mentioned all the hotel openings on tap for this year. Are there any that you think will be important for the brand?

In Asia, Istanbul is important. We just opened up this week.

We already had three Luxury Collections all over Turkey, but not in Istanbul. It’s a very important city, so it’s great to be there.

Then we will open in just a few weeks [TA’AKTANA, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Labuan Bajo] in Indonesia, which is exciting because we already have a wonderful hotel in Bali, but The Luxury Collection sometimes goes into destinations that are not yet fully established, world-famous destinations but have the potential to become that.

This is one of those destinations. I’m going in a few weeks to be there for the [May 1] opening and that’s going to be our most important opening in Asia in 2024.

In Europe, quite a few, but if I had to call out two: Munich, which is the reentry of the brand into Germany, which is an incredibly important feeder market for most luxury brands, including ours, so it’s great to have a presence there.

It’s a very interesting hotel as well, [Koenigshof, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Munich]. It’s an iconic hotel that got torn down and has been rebuilt, and once that reopens, it will be great for the locals and visitors.

We’re opening in Nice. Hôtel du Couvent is another adaptive reuse, which goes so well with The Luxury Collection because we’re a little bit more flexible when we think about spaces, room sizes and bathroom sizes.

This one will be absolutely spectacular — an old convent converted into an 88-room hotel.

An iconic German hotel gets a huge makeover. KOENIGSHOF, A LUXURY COLLECTION HOTEL, MUNICH

If I had to pick one that just continued to evolve and change the way we think about our hotels, it’s bleisure [a mix of business and leisure] travel. People continue to combine two trips into one for so many different reasons.

Sustainability could be one. “Hey, I don’t need to go twice. I can just go once.”

Convenience, cost and how painful the transportation can be sometimes these days in airports and whatnot.

People combine the two and that obviously means the city hotels have all these leisure travelers that they didn’t necessarily have to the same extent, and the resorts have all these people that are working from their rooms or the public areas.

It changes the way you need to think about your room product, technology, infrastructure and public areas because you also want to allow people to then use those areas versus just the room to get some of the work done.

We’re social animals, and we love being in company while we do our work.

That is one that continues to fascinate me. I rarely speak to somebody who goes on a regular business trip anymore.

Everybody always combines the two and so do I whenever I can.

What are some of the travel hot spots for the summer?

It depends on where the world you live. Asia is back to significant activity and that means more travel regionally within Asia, but also the Asians coming back into Europe more heavily where Americans continue to flock to.

It’s very tough to get into any of our hotels in southern Europe at this point of the year for the summer.

And the summer season is extending like it never has before. Most hotels are adding another month at the front or end of their seasonal operation.

Some hotels are looking at staying open the entire year, which operationally is easier with staff staying on payroll.

I just came back from Greece last week and so many of the seasonal hotels are struggling with hiring 50% or more of their staff every year and training them again. Europe continues to be really, really hot — but not necessarily just the classic destinations.

I think people are starting to become a little bit wary of the rates that have become normal over the last few years in some of these destinations, so they’re looking for new exciting secondary destinations.

We just opened in Tbilisi, Georgia, which is a country that’s on my personal bucket list. I think those destinations will play an important role this year and going forward, lesser-known destinations where people are looking forward to incredible experiences at a better price point.

It might be a little harder to get to them, but then once you’re there, it’s very rewarding.

I think we’ll also continue to see a lot of that drive market trend continuing. It obviously exploded during the pandemic, but it’s still there.

And airfares are so high, depending on where you live, if you can drive to interesting destinations, that might be your preferred trip this year. I think those hotels will continue to thrive.

If you had to pick a Luxury Collection hotel that everyone should visit, which would it be?

THE MITSUI in Kyoto I think is one of the greatest experiences I’ve had lately. Just an incredible hotel.

It’s a Five-Star Forbes Travel Guide-rated hotel, which is no coincidence, it’s just a great experience. From food and beverage to spa, just really spectacular.

Then there are a few that have not stayed in, but I’m keen to go and that list is quite long. Probably at the top of the list is Cala di Volpe, which is our resort in Sardinia.

I would love to stay there at some point. It’s really hard to get a room there.

What do you pack on your carry-on?

I only do carry-on. I don’t ever check it back, even on a long trip.

[One of my essentials is] really good noise-cancelling headphones. I love the brand Bose.

And then always a book, even though it’s heavy. I love disconnecting from the screens, and sometimes it’s the easiest — you don’t have to connect to Wi-Fi.

Are you reading anything good right now?

Yes, I love detective stories. We lived in Denmark during the pandemic before we moved to the U.S.

I read a lot of those dark Danish detective stories. They remind me of our time there.

Even though people think of Denmark as the happiest place in the world, Noma restaurant and all that good stuff, there’s a really dark side to Scandinavia. The crime stories, I love those.

This article was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD.

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