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Crafted Luxury: A New Generation of Hotel



In the Oscar-winning film “The Grand Budapest,” a high-stepping and charismatic concierge dotes on his aristocratic guests, personally attending to their every whim and need—all against the opulence of 1930s red velvet, gold leaf and an amiable staff clad in stuffy military-style uniforms and pillbox hats. It depicts a white-glove travel fantasy that feels worlds away from the new generation of luxury hotels cropping up across the globe. These hotels are offering what is being called a “crafted luxury” experience: progressive design that blends with its location, planned activities that promote socializing, carefully curated moments to log in the memory banks, a barefoot stay that feels genuine, not stuffy. It’s one of the many ways luxury hospitality brands are beginning to position themselves for the flood of millennials—who have a different definition of luxury and will be entering the affluent marketplace over the next few decades.

Mark Harmon_Founder and Managing Partner of Auberge Resorts Collection_BLOG

Mark Harmon, founder and managing partner of Auberge Resorts Collection

Auberge Resorts Collection, owner and operator of five-star and five-diamond boutique luxury hotels, resorts, residences and private clubs has positioned itself well in preparation for this shift. In fact, the luxury hospitality brand recently unveiled a new lifestyle concept called VieVage Hotels and Resorts. The idea, explains Mark Harmon, founder and managing partner of Auberge Resorts Collection, is to “bring contemporary themes of design, community, locally sourced food, sustainability, fitness and wellness together in a fresh, active and social environment.” The first property, VieVage Los Cabos, will debut in summer 2016, followed by VieVage Napa Valley in 2017. Previews® Inside Out asked Harmon to share more about the VieVage brand and why he thinks “approachable luxury” is the future of hospitality, and not just for younger travelers but for all travelers.

Previews Inside Out The luxury hospitality arena typically follows tradition. Where do you see opportunities for Auberge and VieVage to follow a different path when it comes designing for the next generation?

Mark Harmon I think that we innovate, and innovation is about taking risks. We do that in a relaxed and fun way. We create “surprised delight” and approachable experiences for our guests. That’s what we’re trying to strive for with our new VieVage concept—a fresh approach to luxury. It’s a hotel where you can have a summer cocktail made from fresh strawberries picked from our own farm or pick up a bike at your cottage to ride in the hills. There’s something about getting on a bike and experiencing the outdoors. It just makes you feel young.

We’re also seeing a reaction against technology. The younger generations of guests are connected all the time. But when they vacation, they want to connect to the local environment in meaningful ways instead. It’s about being social and about community. Really, that’s not too radical.


Malliouhana, an Auberge Resort in Anguilla.

Previews Inside Out You mentioned approachable experiences. Can you talk more about that?

Mark Harmon Yes, it started in California wine country for us. As you drive into the valley and you see the vineyards and the hillsides, the pace slows down and you enjoy life a little more. It’s about being connected to the land and seasons, and something real and authentic. It’s about cultivating something of real quality. When I say approachable, it means we’re dedicated to high quality that feels authentic—like it belongs there.

Previews Inside Out What was your inspiration for creating the VieVage brand?

Mark Harmon There were a number of things that led to VieVage. We always love a challenge. And we never repeat the same formula. In Napa Valley, Auberge was catering to the romantic hideaway market, though we began to find ourselves in a position where we weren’t getting as many people to the resorts. So we decided to create a brand with a more approachable feel and social environment. VieVage marries the best of Auberge with a beautiful simplicity and understated luxury. It’s about getting groups together and appreciating the finer things in life—wine, food, good company. Vie means life in French and voyage means life’s journey, so we tried to capture these two themes in the name.

VieVage Los Cabos_Agave1 Rendering_BLOG

VieVage Los Cabos

Previews Inside Out So it was demand that drove you to create the VieVage concept?

Mark Harmon Definitely. We were seeing demand for experiences that have a sense of community and belonging. That’s true across generations for sure, but many millennials were starting to want to connect socially in authentic ways. Nowadays, people are more social and health conscious—they desire things that make them feel better. They want to have fun without the rigidity of the traditional luxury hotel.

Previews Inside Out Was sustainability a consideration as well?

Mark Harmon Yes. We’ve taken a strong hand in “green” design. We build sustainability into the conception. For us, it’s not just about recycling, but also integrating green design—geothermal systems, solar panels, energy efficiencies. The most exciting thing for me to watch is that green design engages our guests. They love it—and our staff loves it. We have green check-ins, where electronics are turned off instead of on in guest suites. We’re seeing green weddings.

Previews Inside Out Social community experiences, locally sourced food and sustainability—those qualities are important to the younger generations. Do you think the VieVage concept will naturally appeal to socially conscious millennials as they come into their wealth?

Mark Harmon I think so. Of course, there are trends that will come and go. But those values—strong design and an emphasis on communal experiences, locally sourced foods and sustainability—have a timelessness about them. The VieVage concept will stay the course through the generations. We’re addressing those wellness consumers and improving their well-being.

Previews Inside Out One of the luxury trends we continue to see is a shift away from exclusivity, toward authenticity. How will the VieVage resorts be authentic?

Mark Harmon In Los Cabos, our resort will be located on one of the best beaches. There’s a spirit of adventure there. Guests will have water sports and activities. I mean, what’s a more authentic experience than sitting down at a beach shack bar or grabbing a bucket of beer on the beach and eating fish tacos—perhaps caught from the very sea right in front of you? In Napa, we’ll have the grapes, fresh produce grown onsite and a winery to bring people into the wine experience. Guests can create their own wines, which we’re very excited about.

VieVage Napa Valley_Guest Cottage (1-bedroom)_BLOG

VieVage Napa Valley

Previews Inside Out Will guests of VieVage resorts still get that Auberge experience?

Mark Harmon We wanted people to come away from both resorts and say that was a wonderful experience. So we view the brands as equals in this way. The only distinction we make is Auberge remains popular with couples, and VieVage plays to a younger, playful, engaged audience.

Previews Inside Out Where do you see the VieVage brand fitting into the future of luxury hospitality design? Are you starting to see more upscale hotels shift to a similar model?

Mark Harmon I think they are. Even some limited-service hotels are beginning to do this. They’re focusing on wellness and social settings. We feature one-off designs by different architects and designers. We use local artists. We have created a sophisticated but approachable service of delivery. People feel like they belong there. The whole world will be moving in that direction. I think that it’s more than a trend. It’s indicative of where luxury is going.

Previews Inside Out Do you think a natural by-product of the VieVage concept could be that all your guests will feel younger, regardless of age? Why do you think that might be?

Mark Harmon We designed these places to be young, energetic and not intimidating. An older guest wouldn’t go there and feel out of place. The VieVage properties will have a lot of energy, and that makes everyone feel younger. They are properties that lift your spirits. I always like to quote William Blake: “Energy is an eternal delight.” No matter what age you are, if you are feeling energetic, you are feeling young.

Previews Inside Out Do you think the crafted approach to luxury is going to be big in the next few years—not just for hospitality, but for all service industries?

Mark Harmon Yes. If you look at affluent consumers right now, they’re seeking personalized and curated experiences. They want superior quality, but it’s not just about flash. Travel is a highly sought-after luxury because it’s an experience. And experiences count more than material things. Personalization and experiences—these are the new touchpoints of luxury.

Hotel Jerome in Aspen

Hotel Jerome in Aspen


Exterior_View Malliouhana_4498ok_BLOG

Malliouhana, an Auberge Resort in Anguilla.

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