After almost two years of travel restrictions and intermittent quarantines, the world’s desire for luxury travel has exploded. However, consumers are approaching holiday breaks and vacations with a mindset and priorities that have been markedly transformed. The modern-day luxury traveler now expects something unique and is willing to spare no expense in order to have the holiday of a lifetime. A boom in luxury travel has ensued with the hospitality sector adopting new approaches to satisfy this growing consumer demand.
A new hotel concept by RH – formerly Restoration Hardware, a furniture store turned luxury curator of products, places, spaces and services – is embracing just this, with the hotel opening in New York City’s Meatpacking District on September 8, 2022.
“The RH Guesthouse has been designed through a lens of privacy and luxury.…We believe privacy is going to become a large and important market, and the RH Guesthouse has an opportunity to define that new market with an unseen-before level of design, quality, and hospitality,” RH Chairman and CEO Gary Friedman explained.
RH Guesthouse opened at 55 Gansevoort Street in a historic triangular loft building comprising a total of only 10 units: six adults-only guest rooms, three suites and a penthouse (Friedman’s personal space that will occasionally be offered for rent). The Fantini fixtures, freshly stocked gourmet pantry and fresh fruit in each room – in lieu of a minibar – evoke the luxury RH is known for. There are also two restaurants on the premises, serving a curated menu including everything from wood-grilled avocado with caviar to Australian Wagyu rib-eye and even an entire branzino cooked over Japanese charcoal. RH’s investment in luxury is partially informed by the success of other luxury brands during COVID and is a gauge of what will sell in the post-COVID hospitality space.
Luxury is not the only commodity offered at RH Guesthouse; the new hospitality concept also sells privacy: RH Guesthouse has a no-social-media policy, reserved guest entrance, soundproof windows and a private gym in each accommodation unit. With nightly rates for guest rooms starting at $3,500/night and suites set to begin at $7,500/night (with a two-night minimum), privacy certainly comes at a cost. However, RH is betting privacy can be not only monetized but also a market force in the post-COVID hospitality industry. There are consumers that are hesitant to return to old habits such as sharing public amenities and being in large crowds out of concern for their physical wellbeing. The privacy provided by RH Guesthouse may reassure these consumers enough for them to feel it is safe to stay there.
Despite the demand for luxury travel, there is also a growing demographic of socially conscious consumers who are rejecting overt displays of wealth in favor of more inconspicuous travel choices. Ethical living, artisanship, authenticity and sustainability drive their approach to luxury and experience is the new currency for these holidaymakers, who seek self-fulfillment through greener travel and an immersive and cultural escape. For example, the South African hotel Sterrekopje, situated on 124 acres of farmland in South Africa’s Western Cape wine region, is an eco-traveler’s paradise. It strives for sustainability in all areas, from the water treatment system to the minimum waste restaurant, to the use of eggs and seasonal produce grown on the farm itself. Holidaymakers who reside there can escape from the hectic pace of life and immerse themselves in the local culture by having a traditional Reiki spa treatment or taking a pottery class in the onsite arts studio.
When comparing RH Guesthouse to these escapist holiday retreats, it is unclear if the guesthouse provides the holistic experience that the modern-day socially conscious traveler is looking for. However, the accommodations at RH Guesthouse provide a niche offering for luxury travelers who highly value both luxury and privacy.
The success of RH Guesthouse is not a foregone conclusion, but how this new hospitality concept fares will be an important business indicator for developers, investors, operators and others. It will be particularly interesting to see both the unique opportunities and challenges presented by a concept that sells both luxury and privacy in the post-COVID era.