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These Legacy Luxury Hotels Are Reinventing Themselves

Hotels are no longer just for sleeping—in a single day, a suite might be used as a bedroom, office and entertaining space

by Todd Plummer

May 15, 2024

Rosewood Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands / Photo: Courtesy of Ken Hayden Photography

When Rosewood Little Dix Bay celebrated its 60th anniversary, managing director Andreas Pade organized a lavish party like something out of The White Lotus. While there was no death, there were pounds and pounds of caviar, champagne by the magnum, and a fireworks display worthy of a royal wedding—making it one of the grander parties the tiny island of Virgin Gorda had ever seen.

Sixty years is a long time for any hotel to operate, but Little Dix Bay feels the weight of that time more pointedly than others. After closing for a year in 2016 to complete a gut renovation, the hotel was leveled by Hurricane Irma in 2017. With all its modernizations and renovations completely devastated, the resort then found itself embarking on a rebuild, and didn’t open its doors again until 2020. At that point, it’s easy to think that any hotel owner or operator would want to throw in the towel. But as one of the Caribbean’s preeminent grande dame hotels, rebuilding was the only choice—not only to keep its long-standing, loyal clientele coming back, but also to cultivate a new one.

“By the end of 2026, almost 75 percent of luxury consumers will be millennial and Gen Z, and we also have Generation Alpha coming up,” says Tom Rowntree, vice president of luxury brands at IHG Hotels & Resorts. According to IHG’s market research, those generational groups are already having an impact on boomers and Gen X—and that when it comes to making both macro and micro strategy decisions for how legacy hotels can speak to new generations of customers, many traditional assumptions have gone out the window.

The Dolder Grand, Zurich / Photo: Courtesy of Peter Hebeisen

Hotels are no longer just for sleeping—in a single day, a suite might be used as a bedroom, office and entertaining space. We’re also seeing hotels rethink their common spaces: The Dolder Grand in Zurich, which this year celebrates its 125th anniversary, added a seasonal vegan restaurant, Blooms, and last winter the Carlton Cannes, a Regent Hotel, debuted the South of France’s first hotel ice rink, open to visitors and locals alike. A vegan restaurant in the land of cheese? A family-friendly ice rink at a five-star hotel? The reinvention of existing spaces attracts new attention to even the most established hotels.

Grand staircase at the Ritz Paris / Photo: Courtesy of Ritz Paris

Programming is also vital—which is why we see hotels partnering with fitness instructors, fashion brands and anyone who can bring new audiences into the fold. In the lead-up to this year’s Boston Marathon, Raffles Boston welcomed fitness instructor and Instagram sensation Isaac Boots for a monthlong series of his popular Torch’d class in the ballroom. And last November, the Ritz Paris released its third collection with American fashion brand Frame. The collection is sold in select retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman in New York and the Galeries Lafayette in Doha.

Terrace at Raffles Boston / Photo: Courtesy of Brandon Barre’ Photography

And at Little Dix Bay, while some guests still crave that butler experience, it’s clear that the dynamic between guest and butler is increasingly personal. At check-in, guests and butlers exchange numbers and share anecdotes, and repeat guests even ask for the same butler they had previously.