My expectations about where I choose to sleep, eat and play have changed. And I'm not alone. I am a child of Generation Travel: affordable flights have made it easier to get to far-flung spots, while the rapid evolution of the internet means I have all the information I need to contemplate, compare and commit at a mouse's click. And, with new hotels opening up daily, I'm spoilt for choice in a way that even a decade ago – when I set off on a round-the-world trip with just a backpack for company – was unimaginable.
Meanwhile, product differentiation and market segmentation have become increasingly difficult to achieve, even among the savviest hoteliers. A great view and a welcome glass of champagne no longer suffice; hotel groups are scrambling for distinction, pitching schemes and programmes to obtain prime position, offering extravagant additions from personal chefs to Google Glass loans, complimentary gym clothing and even cosmetic fridges in some bathrooms (see the Jumeirah Emirates Towers' Chopard Ladies Rooms in Dubai).
Good hotel design and architecture are important to me, but getting the most out of an experience is my priority – with value for money coming a close second.
I have come to expect hotels to offer style and luxury at competitive rates. The shift from old-fashioned, passive customers to today's more demanding, creative class has changed the dynamics of the hotel industry – charging for Wi-Fi, or even the minibar, is becoming outdated. Undoubtedly, the profit margins of these frills are substantial, but the modern hotel is now restructuring its traditional business plan to accommodate such new expectations.
On a recent visit to Toronto, I stayed at The Ritz-Carlton hotel and upgraded to The Club, the hotel equivalent of a business-class lounge, with a dedicated concierge and a complimentary assortment of meals, snacks and drinks readily available throughout the day. A similar experience at the Rosewood London provides suite guests with an in-room maxi-bar, in which a series of own-label spirits, along with a host of treats, are on the house.
Hotel perks are not exclusive just to the expenses-paid business traveller: the Andaz group offers all its guests a complimentary minibar stocked with local products, while Niyama in the Maldives has popcorn, Ben & Jerry's ice cream and gin cocktails on tap. North Island in the Seychelles will whip up a sushi platter from the fresh fish you catch.
However, it was a simple, complimentary pillow scent at the Park Hyatt Vienna that made the biggest impression on me. Perhaps I'm not so demanding after all.
Lauren Ho is the travel editor of Wallpaper*