Sarah Keates sits down with Raili Summers, owner of Last Minute Luxury to discuss the latest trends in Hong Kong’s staycation scene.
1. What is Last Minute Luxury?
It is the Instagram profile I created to showcase my work as a Luxury Travel Agent with 360 Private Travel, a high-end travel concierge company with our head-office in the UK. We specialise in bespoke and personalised travel experiences by referral only. We do not advertise, so my Instagram page is a fantastic way to inspire and inform my clients.
2. What sort of travel options can you help with?
We work globally with all the top names in the industry and are proud members of the prestigious Virtuoso network which offers you VIP status and exclusive benefits at over 1,000 worldwide luxury hotels. In addition, we are partnered with the best luxury brands including Four Seasons, Aman, Rosewood, Shangri-La, Grand Hyatt, and Mandarin Oriental to name but a few. This ensures that VIP added benefits such as complimentary upgrades, daily breakfast, flexible check-in and check-out times, and hotel spending credits are a standard inclusion in my bookings. Although currently I am mostly focused on local staycations, I look forward to once again helping clients with their international travel when borders open and quarantine rules are relaxed.
3. Since the outbreak of COVID how has your business been affected?
Initially, travel ground to a halt here in Hong Kong as people came to terms with what was happening and thought if they sat tight for a little bit then things would return to normal, which obviously was not the case. Dreams of ‘holidays’ have now been put on hold as people focus their plans on travelling to reunite with friends as family as the first port of call when they can. As most people here quickly realised that this may well be a while off, the focus has shifted to making the most of being in Hong Kong for the summer, and this realisation coupled with some glorious spring weather meant the demand for local staycations literally exploded overnight.
4. Obviously, staycations are huge right now, what are some of the most popular destinations in Hong Kong?
My 3 top properties would be Rosewood, Island Shangri-La, and Grand Hyatt. Between them, there is something for everyone and a great selection of price points and packages for me to work with. And of course, they all offer great benefits to my clients that you can’t get by going direct!
5. What makes a great staycation?
The number one request right now is for early check-in / late check-out because unlike regular times, people have nowhere else they need to be, so they want to stay as long as they can. This has really been the most challenging thing for hotels to try and adapt to when you have 500 rooms all wanting a late checkout and 500 new guests all wanting an early check-in on the same day, my hat goes off to them! The other big selling point is pool access times and procedures. Some hotels have handled this brilliantly and have made it a dream for my clients and they are the ones I recommend time and time again.
6. What are some of the luxury trends you’re seeing right now?
Most definitely luxury travellers are becoming more conscious of the footprint they leave behind, by choosing sustainably aware suppliers or giving back to each community visited. Privacy and seclusion are huge trends also, and there will be a big surge in requests for more bespoke group and family options such private villas and homes.
7. How are the top hotels adapting to evolving consumer needs?
Obviously, the focus is on the ever-changing requirements and restrictions related to the current global pandemic. It has been a hugely challenging time as not only are there increased protocols and guidelines to follow but customer trends that had been set in stone have gone completely out the window. I think seeing the way the big hotel groups have embraced previously unfathomable scenarios without compromising on the guest experience has been so impressive. An example of how hotels have pivoted include turning unused Grand Ballrooms and function spaces into children’s playrooms and Summer Camp programs with all sorts of fun activities which have been hugely popular not just for kids, but for their ‘home school weary’ parents!
8. How does your service work?
As a travel agent, I am a complimentary service to my clients, as the hotels absorb the cost of my time. I add value by passing on the benefits and extras offered to me as a preferred partner of most of the global hotel groups. I also have a constantly updated ‘little black book’ of all the staycation options offered so I can easily access them to recommend and compare the best packages for my client’s requirements without them having to lift a finger. Having close relationships with all the big hotels in the city also means I can work magic with restaurant bookings, tricky availability, special requests, and troubleshoot any problems with a quick phone call to my trusted contacts. I also get invited to regular site visits and stays in order to keep up to speed with any new room types, renovations or dining options that I can advise my clients on. People often grapple with the concept of using an agent, it costs you nothing but can save you time, money and help you get benefits and extras and with a personalised VIP service that you will not get online, and navigating travel Overseas in the future is going to be quite tricky and time-consuming so having a trusted professional agent to take away the pain/confusion/time is invaluable…
9. What is the most highly coveted staycation right now?
Probably an affordable well-appointed, family-sized private villa with pool and beach access (of which there are practically none in Hong Kong) or a night at the Rosewood with Manor Club access (for the all-day Champagne) and a coveted dinner reservation at their amazing Indian restaurant Chaat for which I am endlessly being asked to use my insider contacts to procure.
10. Where can people connect with you?
Thank you for reading, stay tuned for the next in this series.
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