As the hospitality industry strives for a more equitable future in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, more women have moved into leadership roles creating the luxury hotel brands we know and love today.
While we are still waiting to see a woman become CEO of a major hotel chain, it is not surprising that hotel companies have tapped women to lead the luxury sector. Research by MMGY Global, a travel and tourism marketing agency, shows that women make close to 85% of all travel decisions: where to go, when to fly, where to stay and what to see.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we’ve checked in with eight female brand leaders to find out what’s hot and what’s coming up in the luxury travel industry.
The overriding theme: Luxury travel is booming. Along with lots of new properties that promise more authentic local experiences, the all-inclusive concept has been upgraded for luxury customers, brands are expanding into growing and emerging destinations, and the big players are curating exclusive one-of-a-kind experiences for their loyalty program members.
President, luxury, Marriott International
Recently promoted to president, Tina Edmundson manages a portfolio of nearly 500 properties that encompass some of the world’s most coveted luxury hotel brands: The Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Edition, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, JW Marriott and W Hotels.
“We know our guests are prioritizing more meaningful travel and seeking experiences that enhance their overall quality of life, so this year we are focused on applying innovation and fresh thinking to where and how our luxury brands are growing,” Edmundson tells TPG.
2023 will be a year of many firsts
This year, a number of highly anticipated properties will break the mold. JW Marriott is set to debut its first luxury safari property, JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge, in Kenya’s renowned Masai Mara National Reserve. The lodge will feature 20 private tents, including two interconnecting canopied suites that are ideal for families, and sweeping views of the Talek River, Edmundson says.
“This will also be the first full year of sailing for Evrima, the first yacht from The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, which officially launched in October 2022. The guest feedback thus far has been amazing, and bookings are strong for the upcoming season,” Edmundson adds.
There are more than 35 luxury hotels opening in 2023, but there’s one in the Windy City she’s particularly excited about.
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“St. Regis will debut in Chicago,” she says. “The hotel was designed by world-renowned architect Jeanne Gang and it has already changed the city’s skyline.”
Fresh on the heels of the debut of Sanctuary Cap Cana, a Luxury Collection-linked adults-only, all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic, Marriott will also continue its foray into the all-inclusive market with the opening of Almare, a Luxury Collection All-Inclusive Resort, Isla Mujeres.
“We’re excited to continue to reshape both the perception and experience of what an all-inclusive resort can offer,” Edmundson says.
Related: Marriott’s 1st Luxury Collection all-inclusive, Nobu’s hotel empire and other hotel news you missed last month
Other hot openings include The Ritz-Carlton, Melbourne, which will open in time for the Australian Grand Prix this spring.
“This will be a lot of fun since the brand has a partnership with the Mercedes-Petronas AMG Formula One Team,” she says.
Additionally, a Ritz-Carlton property is coming to Portland, Oregon. It’ll be the first property for the brand in the Pacific Northwest.
“Both of these hotels [in Melbourne and Portland] will showcase the brand’s new, more contemporary aesthetic,” Edmundson says.
“The W Hotels brand is also having an exciting moment of growth and is set to debut in Prague, Budapest, Edinburgh, Macau, Sydney and Milan,” she adds. “And The Luxury Collection is coming off a year of openings in captivating destinations, including Paros, Greece, and Madrid. This year the brand is anticipated to bring its destination-driven point of view to Nara, Japan, and Tbilisi, Georgia, a destination that I think is primed for its moment in the spotlight.”
New Bonvoy experiences on land and sea
In terms of Marriott Bonvoy, Edmundson believes, “It connects our brands and inspires our members to keep traveling and pursuing their passions. We announced in late 2021 that The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection would join Marriott Bonvoy, and it’s amazing to be able to say our members can now earn points with us on land or at sea.”
Upcoming on the Marriott Bonvoy Moments platform, members can bid points for unforgettable experiences.
“As I mentioned, Marriott Bonvoy and The Ritz-Carlton have a long-standing partnership with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, and we’re looking forward to new Moments packages that will give members unmatched access to race weekends on and off the track,” she says. “We’ll also be offering immersive culinary experiences with some of the world’s best chefs and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities at the hottest events, concerts, and sporting events throughout the year.”
Related: 40 most exciting new hotels opening this year
Crystal Vinisse Thomas
Vice president and global brand leader, lifestyle and luxury brands, Hyatt Hotels Corporation
In charge of several of Hyatt’s luxury brands, including Alila, Andaz, Thompson Hotels and Park Hyatt, Thomas is excited about the expansion of luxury brands in key destinations globally.
“As the leader behind these brands, my vision is to continue setting Alila, Andaz, Thompson Hotels and Park Hyatt distinctly apart from their competitors,” Thomas says. “Perhaps you can chalk it up to a woman’s touch, but my strategies in bringing this vision to life include heightened sensitivity, listening, empathy and openness to change.”
Hot Hyatt properties to watch
As for exciting new markets to look for: Park Hyatt will reestablish its presence in South Africa with the 30-room Park Hyatt Johannesburg, a conversion overseen by award-winning global designer Yabu Pushelberg that sits in the iconic Rosebank neighborhood, and enter Morocco with Park Hyatt Marrakech, a 181-room resort with a Moroccan garden-inspired 18-hole golf course designed by award-winning golf course designer Kyle Phillips. Both of these hotels are slated to open in the fall of 2023.
Related: Your ultimate guide to Hyatt hotel brands
Andaz is now in Thailand with the 204-room Andaz Pattaya Jomtien Beach, which opened in January. Also debuting in January, Andaz Mexico City Condesa is a 213-room lifestyle hotel and the first Andaz property in Mexico City. Coming up for Andaz is Doha, Qatar, slated to open in mid-2023 with 256 rooms and 32 suites, including four Royal suites.
While 2022 was focused on Thompson Hotels’ expansion in Europe with Thompson Madrid, in 2023 the Thompson Hotels brand plans to continue to grow across the U.S. with three chic urban oases set to debut: Thompson Houston (fall 2023), Thompson Palm Springs (late 2023) and Thompson South Beach (late 2023).
New World of Hyatt experiences
As for loyalty, at the end of last year, Hyatt rolled out the new Find platform of 200-plus curated experiences across more than 85 destinations in 30-plus countries for World of Hyatt members. Additionally, it added more than 20 European all-inclusive properties, part of Hyatt’s acquisition of Apple Leisure Group in 2021.
President and CEO, The Leading Hotels of the World
With more than 400 hotels in 80-plus countries, LHW is the largest collection of independent luxury hotels.
Business is booming, according to Knapp.
“We recently conducted a study on the attitudes and behaviors of luxury travelers and if I could sum up the findings in one word, it would be ‘more.’ They are traveling more, spending more and expecting more from their travel experiences. People are in search of even more authentic and tailored experiences. Leading Hotels is well positioned to meet this moment with our exceptional hoteliers who have been delivering these experiences for decades — like the Scherz family of Gstaad Palace, the Fiorentino family of Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento, and the Ghitis family of Nayara Resorts,” she says.
Landmark additions across the globe
Last year, LHW had nearly 30 new members join the collection. Recent openings have spanned the globe, from Portrait Milano and Casa Baglioni in Milan to Ambiente, a Landscape Hotel in Arizona.
Openings scheduled for 2023 include The Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City and The Legian Sire, Lombok in Indonesia.
“We’ve also welcomed a number of iconic hotels to the collection, such as The Dylan Amsterdam, Casa Angelina in Italy, Jackalope in Australia, and Nayara Gardens in Costa Rica,” Knapp adds.
Related: Leading Hotels of the World expands with 13 new properties opening this year
Leaders Club adds travel advisor programs
Leaders Club, LHW’s loyalty program, includes pre-arrival upgrades, the chance to earn free nights, members-only extras and offers, and on-property benefits such as complimentary breakfast for two.
“As many of our customers prefer to book through a trusted adviser, last year, we expanded Leaders, making it combinable with travel adviser programs, which means travelers get the benefits and advisers still earn a commission,” Knapp tells us.
Senior vice president, global luxury and lifestyle brands, InterContinental Hotels Group
IHG already has one of the largest luxury portfolios in the world, with 450 hotels and more than 100,000 rooms.
“This is set to grow further with 297 hotels in the pipeline globally,” Mackie tells TPG.
In November last year, IHG signed a strategic alliance with Iberostar Group to add up to 70 hotels to the network, under the Iberostar Beachfront Resorts brand, over the next two years. Locations include Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Brazil and the Canary Islands in Spain.
All eyes on Europe
Europe is a focus for 2023, specifically Italy and Portugal. New hotel openings include two hot properties in Rome this month: the 160-key InterContinental Rome Ambasciatori Palace and the 96-room Six Senses Rome.
IHG is also launching the Vignette Collection in Portugal (Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve). Additionally, three new Regent hotels will open in the next 12 months: Carlton Cannes, a Regent hotel opening this month; Regent Hong Kong, which is opening in June; and Regent Bali Canggu, which will debut at the end of the year.
Mackie tells us the multimillion-dollar gut renovation and conversion of the Carlton Cannes to a Regent hotel will “mark a historic milestone for the Regent brand since its reimagination after joining IHG Hotels & Resorts in 2018. Two legends are partnering to tell new stories together, redefining Riviera elegance for today’s luxury consumer.
1 of the world’s most iconic hotels — reborn
In Hong Kong, the former InterContinental Hong Kong returns to its Regent heritage, building upon a legacy of innovation, extraordinary views, service and dining.
“The majestic haven on Kowloon’s harbor front debuts a serene and soul-rejuvenating aesthetic by Hong Kong-born design visionary Chi Wing Lo – each of its 497 rooms with oasis baths (including 85 suites) have been envisioned as a personal haven of tranquility,” Mackie says.
IHG loyalty experiences, benefits and streamlined booking
As for loyalty, the company launched IHG One Rewards, a completely redesigned loyalty program, in 2022, as well as a new mobile app.
“We know that today’s consumers are mobile-first, and through the app, guests can find the best rates, book a room in seconds (including an ultra-fast quick book feature), enjoy exclusive benefits, and manage their stays all in one place,” Mackie says.
Another new element of IHG One Rewards is an experiences platform, IHG One Rewards Access, which allows members to use points (via bidding or purchase) to access unforgettable events and experiences worldwide. This includes everything from courtside tickets at sporting events to VIP concert passes to celeb meet-and-greets.
CEO, Preferred Travel Group
The Preferred Travel Group, which includes Preferred Hotels & Resorts and sustainably minded Beyond Green, has already announced 15 new member properties this year.
“From Antigua, Guatemala, to Washington, D.C., new additions will introduce travelers to innovative design, creative social spaces, locally inspired cuisine and thoughtful amenities that cater to family, solo, adventure, business and ultra-luxury stays,” Ueberroth tells TPG.
Reimagining the hotel experience in Europe and the US
Hot new hotels to get excited about include the 266-room El Fuerte Marbella in Spain, which launches this spring on the city’s beachfront and adjacent to Marbella promenade, placing it just a five-minute walk away from the Old Town. The BoTree in London, a 199-room property opening at the cross-section of Marylebone and Mayfair (two of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods) in July, promises an immersive experience founded on “conscious luxury.”
In the U.S., the Salamander Washington DC, formerly the Mandarin Oriental, will have 51 spacious suites, including a luxurious three-bedroom presidential suite, when ongoing renovations are completed later this year.
More sustainable properties
For the sustainable hotel brand Beyond Green, Ueberroth tells us, “There are two exciting properties in India joining this year, marking first-time presence for the brand in this important market.” Suryagarh in Rajasthan, a fort-style property at the gateway of the Thar Desert, offers 83 rooms and suites, three restaurants and a deluxe spa. Noteworthy sustainability initiatives include an on-site water bottling plant, an organic kitchen garden, solar energy use and an animal shelter.
The other property in India, Hidden India Mahavan Madhya Pradesh, is a safari lodge situated near Kanha — the land of “The Jungle Book.” It supports local communities through health and trade initiatives and is owned by wildlife conservationist, author and photographer Dr. Latika Nath, who was named the “Tiger Princess” by National Geographic.
Loyalty and inclusion
The company will be upgrading the I Prefer Hotel Rewards loyalty program this year as well in addition to “launching a series of consumer travel campaigns, repositioning Preferred Pride, our LGBTQI+ welcoming portfolio of properties that celebrate diversity and inclusion,” Ueberroth says.
Chief marketing and brand officer, Sonesta International Hotels Corporation
Sonesta is currently the eighth-largest hospitality company in the U.S. and opened 74 new properties and more than 8,500 guest rooms in 2022, further expanding Sonesta’s global presence. The company is positioning itself as a leader in the lifestyle hotel space with a growing portfolio of brands in every segment.
Locally inspired: The James
Sonesta recently expanded its portfolio with the acquisition of the intellectual property for The James hotel brand, Harlow tells TPG, describing it as “artistically inspired luxury boutique hotels with cool touches like localized cocktail programs and sneaker shine stations, aiming to appeal to the next wave of travelers.”
Two existing Sonesta properties in Chicago and Washington, D.C., will transform into The James brand later this year, joining The James NoMad in New York City.
Style and substance: The Royal Sonesta
“We’re redefining the experience of upscale travel at The Royal Sonesta, a collective of unique, memorable hotels in some of the world’s most desirable destinations. Our inspired mix of striking design, unrivaled — but decidedly unstuffy — service, and authentic local touches deliver a stay that truly can’t be replicated,” Harlow says.
“From San Juan to San Francisco, every destination offers a curated celebration of its local customs, unique sights, sounds and flavors. At The Royal Sonesta, our teams are dedicated to forging a genuine connection with guests through warm, unscripted service and elevated wit,” she adds.
New Sonesta properties in the US
In early 2023, Sonesta added four new properties in New York City: The Benjamin Royal Sonesta New York, The Shelburne Sonesta New York, The Gardens Sonesta ES Suites New York and The Fifty Sonesta Select New York. The newest member of The Royal Sonesta portfolio opening this summer, The Royal Sonesta Washington, DC Capitol Hill, features a sweeping glass facade, a 10-story atrium and a curated selection of commissioned artworks, and is near Washington’s most important landmarks. Sonesta also intends to expand in other key cities across the country, such as Los Angeles and Miami.
Sonesta Travel Pass loyalty program
As for loyalty, “We’re currently redesigning the Sonesta Travel Pass program, our customer loyalty program that offers members access to our diverse portfolio with points toward free hotel stays, access to exclusive rates, promotions and other benefits,” Harlow says. Sonesta currently has 2.7 million members.
Corporate director of loyalty integration, Kempinski Hotels
Celebrating 125 years in 2022, Kempinski is Europe’s oldest luxury hotel brand. It now operates 82 hotels in 36 countries, with 26 properties in development.
Kempinski hotels are not just known for their luxury amenities and Michelin-starred restaurants; each hotel truly embraces the heritage and cultural traditions of its location. Iconic properties include the Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, which is the only hotel housed in an Ottoman Imperial palace, and the Grand Hotel des Bains Kempinski St. Moritz, a property situated at the foot of the slopes in the storied Swiss ski resort.
Beachfront cool and historic charmers
Philpott is most excited about Kempinski coming to Mexico, where it has just opened the brand’s first property in North America in Cancun (in the former Ritz-Carlton). The five-star resort has 315 beachfront rooms, plus 48 suites with Club Lounge access.
“We’re embedding the Kempinski DNA and experience into the hotel,” Philpott says. “One of our signature features is the iconic Lady in Red hosts, with expert knowledge of the local area, which we have at all our properties.”
Other features include a private beach with cabanas, six food and beverage outlets led by chef René Camelo (two with AAA Five Diamond status), a large spa with ancient Mayan therapies, a fitness center with sauna and steam rooms, tennis courts, a cooking school, a kids club and a beauty salon.
There are more cool properties that recently opened as well. The David Kempinski Tel Aviv, with a prime location right on the beach and 250 rooms (56 are suites) across 34 floors, opened last year. Another noteworthy option is the Kempinski Palace Engelberg Titlis, Switzerland, a 129-room property that opened in 2021 after a five-year renovation of the historic Grandhotel Winterhaus; it pairs belle epoque grandeur with luxurious, modern hotel standards.
An enhanced loyalty program
In terms of loyalty, Kempinski is part of the Global Hotel Alliance.
“With GHA’s newly enhanced luxury Discovery loyalty program, members can access 40 hotel brands, offering 800 properties across 100-plus countries. For Kempinski, you can earn Discovery Dollars on purchases across the hotel to spend as they wish: towards a stay, room upgrades, late checkout, dining, spa treatments or other indulgences along the way,” Philpott tells TPG.
Area vice president, luxury operations for the US, Hilton Worldwide
Schofield is the only executive also featured in TPG’s International Women’s Day story about female general managers; she has since been promoted from GM of Conrad Washington, DC to area vice president of operations for luxury hotels, overseeing operations for Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts across the U.S.
Conrad expands through the Americas
2022 marked a monumental year for Hilton’s luxury brands in the Americas with the opening of Conrad Los Angeles, the first in California. The arrival of this brand to Los Angeles makes LA only the second city in the U.S. to house all three of Hilton’s luxury brands: Conrad Hotels & Resorts, LXR Hotels & Resorts (Oceana Santa Monica) and Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts (Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills).
Elsewhere for Hilton, Schofield tells us, “We opened Conrad Tulum Riviera Maya and Waldorf Astoria Cancun, which also marked our 200th hotel opening in the Caribbean and Latin America.”
Coming later this year, Conrad Orlando will have 433 rooms, including 51 suites and 10 spacious family suites, plus a Conrad Spa, a water garden and numerous dining options like a signature rooftop experience. Part of the Evermore Orlando Resort bordering Walt Disney World Resort, guests will have access to a 20-acre tropical beach and an 8-acre crystalline lagoon, aquatic activities and two Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole golf courses.
“When I joined Hilton in 2018 to open Conrad Washington, DC, there was immense excitement surrounding the expansion of our Hilton Luxury Brands footprint in the Americas, and now with the opening of Conrad Orlando later this year, it’s incredible to see how far we’ve come in just five years.”
Related: Why Orlando is the best domestic destination of the year
Celebrity chef partnerships
Hilton has partnered with chef José Andrés and his team to operate several different restaurants at Conrad Los Angeles and Waldorf Astoria Washington DC.
“The debut of The Bazaar by José Andrés in the lobby further elevates our food and beverage story across our luxury portfolio,” Schofield says.
Related: From Anguilla to Dubai: These are the top hotels to be saving your Hilton points for right now
New Hilton Honors promotions and experiential focus for 2023
As for loyalty, Hilton Honors is running a doubles promotion.
“Through April 30, members can participate in Hilton Honors’ Double Up & Explore global promotion, which is making member stays twice as nice, providing 2X points on every stay,” Schofield tells us. “In addition, members who stay at one of Hilton’s brands that they haven’t stayed in previously will receive an additional 1,000 points for each new brand — with the chance to earn up to 18,000 points.”
To offer members once-in-a-lifetime experiences through the Hilton Honors program, the company recently hosted an intimate concert with multiplatinum artist, producer and Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards winner John Legend at Waldorf Astoria Washington DC.
“As part of this continued experiential commitment, we recently launched Hilton’s Connecting Room Concert Series in time for the Grammys, where a lucky group of super fans and Hilton Honors members checked in at The Beverly Hilton and saw Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile singing directly to them in the room next door,” Schofield says.
Hilton’s Connecting Room Concert Series will continue to be replicated across the globe, giving music fans and Hilton Honors members exclusive access to performances, one-on-one interviews and behind-the-scenes experiences with their favorite artists.
Related: Why is it so hard to book connecting rooms? TPG compares the process at 4 hotel brands