Do Americans want the luxury of the “white lotus” or is the future of travel really a three-star hotel?

Like Hollywood, travel is a glamorous industry. Photos of people on sunny beaches, partying by the pools of Las Vegas, toasting on cruise ships or splashing in crystal clear waters from Bali to Bermuda are designed to do one thing : sell trips and experiences.

Hollywood also helps sell tourism. There’s a reason people long to walk where their favorite characters have been, whether it’s a remote peninsula in Spain where ‘Game of Thrones’ was filmed, or the swanky hotels where the women of ‘Sex and the City” frolicked. HBO’s “White Lotus” will no doubt lead tourists to its first and second season locations in Hawaii and Sicily.

But there’s a big gap between the vast and expensive picture the travel industry likes to paint and the reality. In an insightful article by The street“The future of travel is a three-star hotel,” writer Veronika Bondarenkonov writes that for many properties, the goal is to attract influencers and roundup “the most expensive hotel in the world” .

She added that a “Las Vegas hotel that normally charges around $200 a night created a 19,000 square foot suite with 12 beds, 25 TVs, a basketball court and an on-call butler for $150,000.” It was created for a TV show, of course, but you can still rent it or dream about it.

But the reality of the type of hotel stays on the rise is quite different. Bondarenkonov scoured the 2023 Expedia Group Traveler Value Index (EXPE) and gleaned that demand for three-star hotels grew by more than 20% between 2021 and 2022. She notes that this is not not of a post-COVID rejection of the materialistic flash, but of the state of the population. finance.

While most non-Covidians are ready to pursue their travel dreams, financial reality can get in the way. According to Bondarenkonov, hotel prices have increased by 12% compared to 2021, and up to 50% in some popular destinations. Not to mention the airline (and gas) prices to get there.

There are many things in the Expedia report that I intend to review later. There is the anemic return of business travel and the rather anarchic desires for sustainability of travellers, who hardly want close airports to save the planet. But Bondarenkonov is onto something when she points out that in 2023, “40% of American travelers plan to stay in hotels rated between one and three stars.”

Perhaps, as an Expedia executive told me at the Expedia 2022 conference in May, the travel industry has trained consumers to always look for the lowest price in hotels, not necessarily the best value. price quality. Although true, this ignores the do that in 2022, the average personal income in the United States is $63,214, with the median income across the country being $44,225.

It’s no surprise, then, that Expedia’s survey found that nearly 60% of travelers are obsessed with “getting the right price” on a hotel or package, or even that nearly a quarter of those surveyed , 23%, favor low prices over cleanliness. As Bondarenkonov astutely observes, people stay in one- to three-star hotels not because they want to, but because they have to.

A cynic might say that Expedia is trying to give its low-end properties some love. It’s hard to find a one star hotel rating on online travel sites (there is some rating inflation there). I haven’t checked their star rating lately, but I remember at least three stays at a one star hotel.

While visiting my son in Princeton, I picked a motel that turned out to be more Trenton than Ivy League. On the second floor, I was kept awake by conspiratorial whispers outside, which I responded to by pushing all available furniture against the door as an early warning device.

On my way to a playwriting conference in Kansas, I spent the night in Tulsa, a city I later grew to love. However, the $60/night hotel I had chosen (“just for a few hours”) was not only dirty but had no hot water. Late at night, exhausted, I stayed there, took a freezing shower and got no refund. “He said we had no hot water when you arrived.”

One January, I stayed at Alexis Park hotel in Las Vegas for CES. It was raining and the rain was pouring through the roof in three places, including the bed. The hotel refused to move me to another room and the town was full. I stayed in the damp room and got sick. Current rating: 3.8.

It’s hard to believe anyone would actually consider staying in a one star hotel unless there is no other choice. Yet people want to travel and get away from it all, regardless of their financial means. National parks were packed again this summer, as were many driving destinations. And despite delays and cancellations, low-cost airlines have been doing good business, with numbers actually reaching pre-Covid highs.

Putting the best face on it, Expedia told Bondarenkonov: “Showing a shift in mindset from the post-pandemic bucket list mentality and moving towards a more spontaneous approach, a third of travelers would prefer to do more trips to three-star properties than splurging on a grand luxury getaway.

So does the travel industry really need to teach consumers how to search for value, or do they already know this very well? The challenge for the travel industry is to ensure that these three-star hotels, such as Residence Inns (Marriott) and Hampton Inns (hilton) comfortable, clean, well-lit places, as I found them. Airbnb also needs to up its game: unnecessary deaths like this can’t happen.

If the future of travel is that the three-star hotel is a clean, safe and comfortable place with workers whose priority is to take care of customers, I look forward to it. Hollywood-style luxury is great, but most of us plan to get out of our hotel beds to see the sights.

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