Given that 78 per cent of millennials would rather spend money on experiences than material possessions, Utopian Hotel Collection has been savvy in luring this consumer group with top-end properties offering an array of unusual activities. Globetrender speaks with Ronald Homsy, CEO and co-founder Utopian Hotel Collection, and discovers why fig foraging and Leica photography workshops are giving it an edge.

What is Utopian Hotel Collection?

Utopian Hotel Collection is a consortium of luxury, unique and independent hotels with a youthful mind set, handpicked for travellers in pursuit of extraordinary experiences in unforgettable surroundings. It launched in September 2018.

Can you give me some examples of existing members? How many do you have right now?

Today, there are 31 hotels signed to the collection, including Le Burgundy (Paris), Le Grand Bellevue (Gastaad), Park Hotel Vitznau (Lucerne), the Chetzeron (Switzerland) and the collection’s newest member, Brach Paris.

You talk about tapping into the experience economy – what unique experiences would the hotels offer?

From a hot air balloon ride over the majestic Swiss Alps at the HUUS Gstaad to a specialist sushi-making class at Nobu Marbella or a Leica photoshoot through the winding streets of Florence at the Portrait Florence hotel.

At the Park Hotel Viznau, guests can take sommelier tours of the property’s six cellars, which store over 32,000 bottles and 4,000 different types of wine. Among them is the oldest wine stored in a golden casket, dating back to 1811, from the cellars of the Château d’Yquem. Other experiences across the collection include foraging for figs, mountain-top yoga and hiking.

Why is it innovative?

Utopian Hotel Collection (UHC) is offering something totally new to consumers within the luxury hotel market. Through unique partnerships with like-minded brands such as meditation app Headspace and Mayfair bookshop Heywood Hill plus a devotion to curating the world’s most exceptional hotels, we offer a truly special guest experience for those with a millennial-thinking mindset. Our hotels recognise that guests want to discover the local area, be adventurous, authentic and have memorable fun.

How is Utopian Hotel Collection redefining luxury travel?

We are determined to pioneer a shift in the luxury travel industry away from old school luxury norms to one that focuses on one-off authenticity and openness. By curating and redefining the guest experience, through our selection of hotels and partnerships, every Utopian guest will experience a modern, youthful, playful and personalised luxury holiday experience.

Emblem hotel, Prague

What is the definition of luxury today?

At first, luxury simply equaled opulence. Today, it is just as much about attitude. 78 per cent percent of millennials would rather spend money on experiences than things; with travellers now seeking more than just exceptional service, fittings and furnishings. There’s an appetite for the intangible and a desire for truly authentic adventures that enrich and surprise. This same zest flows through every Utopian hotel, which bears a luxury no longer defined by the old school; but by exceptional service, a richness of experience, one-off authenticity and a youthful character.

What is the significance of millennials as a consumer group?

According to a white paper by marketing expert Pam Danziger, the millennial market is set to become the biggest consumer group over the coming years. She says that millennials will reach their peak earning and spending years, at 35-54 years of age, between now and 2034. The group is made up of young, tech savvy individuals whose desires and demands will be incredibly influential across all markets.

What is the benefit of joining the collection for individual hotels?

Our hotels benefit from a range of expert services and years of experience in the hospitality industry – our team has spent their lives travelling the world and staying in over 1,000 hotels between them. We offer hotels the chance to change the face of travel with us, and an opportunity to adapt and grow with the demands of the new age of travellers. Hotels will also be future-proofing themselves in being relevant to the next biggest market in luxury – the youthfully minded and millennial traveller.

What do you offer hotels and what must they provide? Do they have to pay to be a member?

Utopian Hotel Collection offers a booking platform and membership services, which include marketing, public relations, sales, distribution, reputation management, revenue management and other consulting services.

What are you looking for in member properties?

To become part of our collection, a hotel must pass a strict curation process underpinned by five key Utopian principles: people-to-people service, unexpected adventure, a story, seamless technology integration and playful character. Once a property has the Utopian seal of approval, guests are guaranteed an authentic and world-class experience with a completely different energy than ever before.

What are your plans for growth?

We have ambitious goals for the coming years and aim to have signed 125 hotels by the end of this year. This number will grow to 225 by 2021 and 340 by 2022. We have also announced our third round of investment, which is a testament to the resilience of the high-end luxury sector in the wake of the current economic climate.