How to wow luxury guests (hint: it's not with technology)

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Travel companies continue to scramble to find the latest and greatest ways to use technology, but executives behind brands associated with the finest in luxury service say there is still nothing that wows guests more than a simple, personal touch.

The human connection, said Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas hotel manager Angelica Palladino, is luxury's "new minimum. It's the new basic. The new wow is that you take it back to what true hospitality is about."

Indeed, while hotels today tout everything from concierge apps to artificial intelligence-activated personal assistants,  one of my most memorable experiences is returning to my room years ago at Rosewood's  Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Los Cabos to find a sewing kit, hand made to match the colors of my clothes in the closet.

It's those simple but personal little things, like putting lens cleaning cloths beside a guest's glasses, or a fresh tube of toothpaste next to their almost empty one, Palladino said, that still define luxury.

"Technology does not wow anybody anymore," she said. "Technology is expected. That curtain that opens automatically, that's just a gadget.

She said, "We get more guest feedback about putting Velcro around their [computer and phone] cables and folding them up neatly."

Personal human touches have always been a key part of the DNA of Rosewood, which was one of the first luxury brands to offer butler service, said Radha Arora, president of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts.

And while some of its resorts, like Las Ventanas, now offer guests the use of an app for  instant service, it's a tool that is offered only after the human connection has been established, he said. "We don't want to lose the relationship the foundation of who we are," he said.

Likewise, Palladino said, there is always a person, not a machine or AI-enabled program, at the other end of a Four Season's app.

Finding the people to carry out those personalized services, however, can be trickier than installing new technology. After all, Palladino says, there is a fine line between the human touch and being too personal or creepy.  

It's a talent that can't really be taught.

"It's not really about being able to train people to do it," Palladino says. "it's about being able to identify the people who enjoy it and do it naturally."

Correction: Angelica Palladino is the hotel manager at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas; an earlier version of this article listed her as GM.

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