Nothing “Basic” About Going Back to the Basics for Elite Travelers

Stacy Hope Small
4 min readApr 25, 2022
ETC is for the inner circle of elite travelers

When it comes to what today’s high-end traveler wants, it’s pretty basic. And yeah, I get it better than most having started in 1991 as a journalist writing about travel; creating and editing a magazine for the elite private jet traveler; and for the last 16 years, selling life-changing, high-end travel experiences.

Since shifting my business model last fall to one of a “members-only” private club and focusing 100% on the needs and expectations of the elite traveler, it’s become crystal clear what’s required in this NEW and different era. With prices at an all-time high and coming off a Pandemic and nearly two years of little-to-no business, the reasonable expectation would be that luxury hotels are going above and beyond to welcome back this demographic willing to pay the sky-high prices they are charging.

Unfortunately, not everyone is getting it right. Many are STILL blaming covid for their understaffing issues and resulting sub-par services and missing basic amenities one would expect at a $2,000/night hotel. What’s happening is that myself and others who cater to the higher-end traveler are noticing who’s ready to provide the type of experience one wants at that price tag, and who is not. Those who are not should either lower their rates until they step up their service game OR not be surprised when I never book their property again.

After three decades of getting to know the hotel industry, I have developed a pretty on point, magical intuitive way of matching my elite travel club members to the RIGHT hotel. If said hotel lets me down, it’s not only disappointing but it makes us ALL look like we aren’t the experts we profess to be. And then I have to bear the burden of explaining to my members why the hotel fell short, when really, this isn’t a responsibility that should fall to me.

So, it’s back to the basics when it comes to me choosing the “right” hotel for my elite travel club members. Since it often is NOT about the nightly rate, but rather the location, suite size/style, who the GM is, are connecting rooms guaranteed, will an early check in be honored, is there 24-hour room service, full-service housekeeping and a flexible cancellation policy…my hotel booking decisions on behalf of my members are more crucial than ever. I simply can’t afford to take a chance booking a hotel that isn’t 1) easy to work with and knows how to get to yes in 1 or 2, not 12, emails; 2) doesn’t seem to appreciate the business or care if I book elsewhere; 3) has a GM that passes VIP requests to a junior level staffer; 4) doesn’t follow up to make sure our mutual client is happy, during and after the stay.

These are pretty basic needs, and it’s been shocking to be on the receiving end of some emails from hotels charging thousands of dollars per night that seem to care less if I book elsewhere. On the flip side, my recent visit to The Maybourne Beverly Hills restored my faith that there ARE hotels out there that truly do understand what today’s elite traveler is looking for. (See my IG posts at @StacyHopeSmall for recent pix/commentary on my stay)!

The lively scene at the very lovely Maybourne Beverly Hills (photo by me!)

As ETC global ambassador/client Dr. David Morris said: “Wow, they are doing everything right. I get it now why you told me I had to see how Maybourne has transformed a hotel I was never a fan of in Beverly Hills. They’ve brought Claridges-level service to California. They’ve made it warm, and very upscale and the suites are anything but basic. I love what they are doing, and it feels like they are on the right path to attract today’s high-end traveler.”

I was also thrilled to receive feedback from an elite travel club member who stayed at the new Four Seasons Napa this weekend, saying it’s the “best Four Seasons he’s stayed in! and that the service was flawless, spa was super clean, food was beautifully done and it was overall very impressive (and should be at the rates they are charging)!”

To my point, it’s back to the basics with high-end elite travelers. My former boss at Elite Traveler magazine drilled into us the importance of feeling like you were getting amazing value at any price. If an experience was wonderful, you’d never receive complaints about the cost…but when it’s less than wonderful, it’s too expensive!

Have a wonderful week and feel free to message me with your thoughts and comments about hotels you feel ARE doing everything right in these transitioning-out-of-pandemic mode times! Email me to set up a consultation or to learn more about the members-only Elite Travel Club.



Stacy Hope Small

Founder & CEO: Elite Travel Club | Author: Why Not Me?!? | Santa Monica, CA