If there is one reason for massive growth of the global travel industry, it has to be the accessibility of air travel. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), 3.8 billion people took to the skies in 2016. By 2035, that number is expected to double.
This is good news for the hotel business, since all of those travellers have to stay somewhere. But let’s be honest: The bigger the pie gets, the fiercer the competition will be. Just look at the frenetic pace with which new hotel service models and design concepts are being brought to market. Look at the explosion of hotel stock in cities like Melbourne, where 2,249 new rooms (representing a 5% increasing in the city’s total supply) are set to open in 2019 alone.
Things are changing quickly, and thinking outside the box has become standard practice. Sometimes there are low-hanging fruits such as segments of the industry that are ripe for an update. Case in point: Luxury airport hotels becoming more popular in cities across the world.
It makes sense – especially when you think about the sharp increase in global travel. Until now, airport hotels have been the domain of weathered road warriors, exhausted business travellers, and people who may have missed a connecting flight.
But things have changed as a result of so much air travel. Many of the world’s airports have no room for new runways and gates. In order to accommodate increased air traffic, airports have to operate longer hours – which means that more travellers arrive and depart at all hours of the day and night.
In the relentless quest to “fix what’s broken” in the industry, airport hotels have become a new focal point among enterprising hoteliers and investors. The boardroom pitch is simple: Why should airport hotels be grim, soulless, undesirable places to say? Why should they not represent a flawless marriage of convenience and luxury?
The Skytrax World Airport Awards are a good place to round up some examples. An award for “Best Airport Hotel” is handed out every year, and the list of nominees shows why airport hotels are getting attention.
2018’s winner, the Crowne Plaza Changi at Singapore’s Changi Airport, features 5-star service, a club lounge, a picturesque rooftop pool, a luxury spa, fine dining options, and direct access from terminal 3 of the airport.
Here in Melbourne, the Parkroyal Melbourne Airport was nominated. The property features a business centre, 24-hour gym with runway views, lap pools, saunas and steam rooms, two restaurants, and direct access to Tullamarine Airport.
The Fairmont Vancouver (a past winner of the Skytrax Award) bills itself as “the only soundproofed, luxury hotel and spa conveniently located within Vancouver’s International Airport.” Amenities include an award-winning restaurant, nightly live music, an elaborate health club, a full-service day spa, airline check-in kiosk in the lobby, 817sqm of meeting space, and even an artist in residence.
It’s clear that the uptick of luxury hotel stock, both in and adjacent to busy airport terminals, signals a new attitude toward staying close to the runway. According to STR Global, a firm for hospitality analytics, occupancy rates at luxury airport hotels have been climbing steadily since 2011, reaching 75% in 2016. And in the aforementioned Melbourne, occupancy in the airport precinct last year was around 88%.
What are the reasons behind this?
The ability to fly in and do business for a day or two with minimal traffic and maximum relaxation is part of the trend. In some cases, shopping and sporting amenities can also provide the right conditions for adding luxury airport hotel stock. In the U.S. city of Minneapolis, for example, the recently-constructed 292 room InterContinental Airport Hotel is supremely convenient not only to the international airport, but to the nearby Mall of America – a popular regional shopping venue that averages 40 million visitors per year.
The right conditions for luxury airport hotels
Of course, luxury airport hotels will not work for every city in the world. The list of necessary prerequisites might include large airport facilities with direct international flights, bustling corporate cultures, and convenient public transport to city centres.
But the list of cities that meet those criteria is long, and luxury airport hotel stock is a relatively untapped idea. As air travel in general continues to gain popularity, the allure of comfort and legitimately good guest experiences near the airport might give people the impetus they need to use such properties for short stays. The experience of rolling your bags directly from a luxury hotel room into the airport terminal – especially if you have an early morning departure – is so novel that many travellers may find it difficult to resist.
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