Lodging industry adapts to widening income gap of vacationers

Travel-lodging business offer both luxurious and economical option to meet diverging needs of customers.
By SCOTT MAYEROWITZ, Associated Press Published: June 5, 2014
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Private elevators, personal shopping assistants, six-bedroom suites with their own postal codes. Even helipads. This is what the super-rich have come to expect from hotels.

For others, vacation now means renting someone’s apartment, a spare room, maybe just a couch — anything to save on the cost of a hotel.

As the gap between the wealthiest travelers and everyone else has widened, so has the way people are experiencing vacations. The wealthy are looking for ever-more pampering. Many others are seeking new ways to economize.

And the lodging industry is adapting — at the high and low ends — to meet the diverging needs.

Luxury hotels are catering to financial elites from Russia, China, Brazil or the Middle East who now routinely hop around the world and don’t mind dropping $20,000 a night for a glamorous accommodation.

“High-end travel in the air, on the sea and on land has never been more robust,” says Steve Carvell, an associate dean at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. “There are more people with more concentrated wealth.”

Luxury hotels are arising even at iconic middle-American tourism spots such as Walt Disney World. Four Seasons will open a 444-room resort there in August with 68 suites, including a nine-bedroom royal suite sporting a 1,000 square-foot (93-square-meter) private terrace with views of the park’s nightly fireworks.

During the Great Recession, many resorts dropped “resort and spa” from their name. The idea was to appeal to corporate organizers who didn’t want trips to seem extravagant. Excess now appears back in style.

In November, Four Seasons added the phrase “and residences” to its mountain resorts in Vail, Colorado; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and Whistler, Canada. It’s pursuing families seeking a residential experience with the pampering of a hotel staff.

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