You’ll Want to Spend Your Marriott Bonvoy Points On These Stunning Luxury Hotels

The Royal Hawaiian in Honolulu. Bellagio in Vegas. Gritti Palace in Venice. Afar talks to Philipp Weghmann, global brand leader of Marriott’s Luxury Collection, about what ties these and other legendary hotels together.

Exterior of Hotel the Mitsui Kyoto at night, with entrance flanked by maple trees

Hotel the Mitsui Kyoto, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa

Courtesy of Hotel the Mitsui Kyoto, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa

Marriott International’s Luxury Collection of hotels is impressive in its range of properties, in terms of both experience and scale: There’s the iconic, pink-walled Royal Hawaiian Resort in Honolulu. The sustainability-focused Nines in Portland, Oregon. The eleven-villa North Island in the Seychelles. The Yabu Pushelberg–designed Las Alcobas in Mexico City. And, as of 2024, the 3,900-room behemoth that is the Bellagio in Las Vegas—a destination unto itself in Sin City.

The Luxury Collection was originally founded in Venice, Italy, in 1906 as Ciga Collection, which contained some of Italy’s most celebrated hotels. It became Luxury Collection in 1994, and several Ciga hotels remain in the group, including the Gritti Palace in Venice and Cala di Volpe in Sardinia. While the Luxury Collection has been hovering at 113 hotels, watch this space: It’s poised to reach 120 properties by the end of the year, more than double its normal annual growth.

Philipp Weghmann became vice president and global brand leader for the Luxury Collection in 2021. He’s tasked with growing the hotel portfolio while ensuring all properties deliver world-class hospitality as they continue to set themselves apart through their guest experiences. And he’s the right person for the job: Weghmann, who hails from Cologne, Germany, spent his childhood visiting independent hotels with his travel advisor mother. Before joining the Luxury Collection, he worked close to 15 years at Preferred Hospitality Group, helping grow the company’s Preferred Hotels and Resorts hotel collection to 650 independent properties.

I caught up with Weghmann to learn more about what’s in store for the Luxury Collection. We dove into the luxury all-inclusive resort trend, the collection’s Global Explorer program, and the group’s exciting expansion in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, and beyond.

Philipp Weghmann iseated and wearing a gray jacket, with bookshelves behind him (L); a curving stairwell at Las Alcobas in Mexico City (R)

Philipp Weghmann is the vice president and global brand leader for Marriott’s Luxury Collection. Right: A stairwell at Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, in Mexico City.

Courtesy of the Luxury Collection

Where are you now—and where are you traveling next?

I’m home in Bethesda, Maryland, in the Marriott headquarters, which is a stunning office building. I am traveling to New York next week for a one nighter, and then I will go to Isla Mujeres in Mexico, in about two weeks because we have a wonderful hotel that’s very close to opening. We’re doing a final guest journey workshop to make sure everything is perfect, including the ferry ride over from the mainland. You fly to Cancun, but then you must take this boat across to the island, and we just need to make sure that experience is perfect for the guests. It’s our second all-inclusive property ever for a luxury Marriott group, so that’s the other reason why it’s important.

Can we talk about the fact that more luxury hotel collections like yours are joining the all-inclusive trend?

Most major hotel chains have seen potential in this space and have since entered it, and so have we. The verdict is still out there whether it’s successful in the long term. But clearly there’s a lot of interest from travelers who maybe in the past would not have considered doing an all-inclusive because of the stigma associated with quality of experience for the longest time. But obviously the model is very attractive for the traveler. You pay once and then you forget about it. And if you’re traveling multi-generationally, which as you know, has been this big trend for many years now, it’s just a nice, easy environment to be in because everybody eats whenever they want, and nobody has to sign checks for anything.

The first all-inclusive luxury hotel at Marriott was Sanctuary Cap Cana, which was an existing hotel that had a nice renovation and converted into the Luxury Collection about year and a half ago. And now with Luxury Collection, we’re opening the second [all-inclusive resort] on Isla Mujeres, and then a third in the Riviera Maya in 2025. And then W and Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott will also open all-inclusives.

The Coppa Volpi Heritage Suite at Gritti Palace in Venice, with sofa, floor-to-ceiling widows with drapes, a chandelier, an ornate gilt mirror, and stone floors

The Coppa Volpi Heritage Suite at Gritti Palace in Venice

Courtesy of Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel

How will Luxury Collection’s Almare resort on Isla Mujeres feel different from the traditional all-inclusive?

Most all inclusive resorts are larger hotels—that’s how the model works. They typically have 300-plus rooms, and our first all-inclusive hotel, Sanctuary Cap Cana, is more than 300 rooms. But now we are opening some really small ones with the Luxury Collection. The Isla Mujeres resort will have fewer than 100 keys. The next one in the Riviera Maya will also only be about a hundred. So we’re trying to do the all-inclusive experience with all the benefits, but on a smaller scale so that the service is very personalized and speaks to that luxury customer. We will try to bring a lot of experiences that represent the destination into the hotel through local partnerships, and we want them to go and explore and discover the destination.

How did you fall in love with independent luxury hotels?

I love independent luxury hotels, and I’m passionate about hotels that really represent their destination. My mother is a high-end luxury tour operator, still now at age 75, and her focus was always the smaller the better, the smaller the more personality, and the more interesting the service. If it’s privately owned and operated, even better. My mom took me around quite a bit, and my dad also traveled for work. That early influence of traveling with my parents to independent hotels, rather than chains, is a big reason why I’ve always been very passionate about this space.

Ironically, there’s a hotel in Mallorca we went to when I was about eight or nine called Castillo Hotel Son Vida, which is now a Luxury Collection—that’s full circle. That hotel left an imprint—it was the nicest hotel I had stayed in at the time, and it had these incredible views over the golf courses. I remember thinking, wow, this is pretty good: I want to try and stay in these hotels all the time. And one of the ways to do that, obviously, is to get a job in the industry.

 A private terrace with greenery and lounge chair that faces Mexico City at Las Alcobas

Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, in Mexico City

Courtesy of Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel

What defines a Luxury Collection hotel?

It’s the sum of many things. Some of our hotels are very historic, but it doesn’t have to be that at all—our hotels can absolutely be modern in architecture and in design. A hotel has to be in a top-notch location, and ideally for Luxury Collection, we want a local architect and designer, or at least one of the two. The hotel needs to feel very much connected to the destination. And then we have adaptive reuse projects—that’s what gets me the most excited, because that’s when we’re, say, converting an old church like the Jaffa in Tel Aviv or an old jail like the Liberty in Boston.

This year in Nice we’re opening Hôtel du Couvent, which is in an old convent. Many times, other hotel brands will shy away from some of these projects because they can’t make the standards that they have for their brands work. It’s just too complicated. But with the Luxury Collection, we can be a little creative and flexible and we can make it work sometimes—if enough money goes into it, obviously.

Our target guests don’t choose hotels based on hard and fast criteria for luxury.

What kind of traveler is the Luxury Collection for—and what kind of traveler is it not for?

We are going after a guest who appreciates when every hotel they stay in is a little different. Our target guests don’t choose hotels based on hard and fast criteria for luxury. Some travelers need a big gym every time they travel. We have a gym in 90 percent of our hotels, and 75 percent of them have Technogym equipment, but there will be other Luxury Collection hotels where the gym is very small. For example, Las Alcobas in Mexico City has a tiny gym because it’s a boutique hotel. So with Luxury Collection, if you are obsessed with consistency, we may not be the perfect brand for you. If you’re into a little bit of a surprise every time you go, and you want to stay somewhere unique that’s more of a hidden gem, then we’re the right brand.

Tell me more about Global Explorer, the program the Luxury Collection launched in 2011.

We retain this circle of friends and lovers of the Luxury Collection who are really aligned with our brand passions. Artist Laila Gohar is a great example—she’s obviously an artist, and she plays with culinary inspiration all the time. For us, she seemed like the perfect intersection. Laila sources all these small family-owned ateliers and artisans that make the products that she dreams up, helping them protect their craft. She went to Los Angeles, Paris, and Kyoto, and in each location, she was inspired by the local beverage culture and designed a beautiful barware collection for us—martini glasses, beautiful champagne flutes, and then beautiful sake cups. You can drink cocktails she created in those glasses, which also retail at our Luxury Collection Store. And then in Paris in 2023, during Fashion Week, she created this huge seven-foot-tall cake for us. A smaller version of it was also available at the bar and through room service, with champagne served in the champagne glass she had designed.

The lobby of the Nines Hotel in Portland, with pink chairs, yellow sofas, purple rugs, and a large bar

The lobby of the Nines Hotel in Portland

Courtesy of the Nines, a Luxury Collection Hotel

What made the 3,900-room Bellagio in Las Vegas the right fit for Luxury Collection?

When we looked at Bellagio, we believed it was a hotel that has defined Las Vegas as a luxury destination since it opened in 1998. It continues to do so in many ways, especially on the culinary side, but also on the entertainment side with the Cirque du Soleil show, or the Pinky Ring by Bruno Mars, which is this Bruno Mars–imagined and –designed bar and cocktail lounge in the Bellagio now. There’s also a new bar called the Vault, which I was in, which is incredible—cocktails start at $60. It’s the most expensive bar in Las Vegas at this point. The one challenge, of course, is that it’s so many rooms, right? So they’re constantly renovating. They just spent $110 million on the spa tower that was just fully renovated. It looks absolutely gorgeous. And now they’re already thinking about the next few thousand rooms that they will renovate. That’s just how Bellagio rolls. It’s like many hotels in one, and it’s just not comparable to anything else that we have in the portfolio.

What do you think will be the next big travel trend?

This is me saying this, and not speaking on behalf of the company, but I think we will have more hotels with no Wi-Fi areas. There are some restaurants in New York and other cities already where you drop your phone in a lockbox at the door, and then you go to the table, and you really connect with the people you’re with. I think there are going to be more hotels where there’s no Wi-Fi, with some exceptions—perhaps up in your room or in a lounge somewhere. As humans, we need places that help us disconnect digitally and detox—that’s the whole point of a great trip. Right now, when you go to some of our hotels, nobody’s detoxing digitally. Your phone can still be your camera, and you’re out there making some great pictures and videos, but you’re not posting it right then—you’re enjoying the moment.

Jennifer Flowers is an award-winning journalist and the senior deputy editor of Afar.
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