What is Luxury?
The worldwide luxury market was estimated at €1 trillion in 2016, with an average annual growth of 4%. Between the year’s 2010 and 2016, High Net Worth Individuals grew in number by 52%, in addition to their wealth, which increased by 49%. This exponential growth in luxury travel was 0,25% faster than overall travel itself. This implies that luxury is still a very real aspect of the hospitality industry. However, my problem with this is the automatic connotation that comes with the word “luxury”. What is luxury?
Traditionally, luxury has been seen as something that is considered an indulgence rather than a necessity. The enjoyment of materialistic items often entertained by the more affluent individuals. More specifically, luxury hospitality is seen to be humancentric but, while luxury in the hospitality industry may remain humancentric, the nature of what is perceived to be luxury by our guests today has witnessed considerable change. We now see luxury as something unique and limited. Developed through scarcity. The luxury lies behind the fact that our guests cannot access such luxury in their own countries of origin.
This new luxury in hospitality sees modern-day guests seeking a more transformative and soul-enriching experience. Guests are turning their backs on mindless extravagance as they have become saturated with the accumulation of meaningless possessions that offer instant and artificial satisfaction. Luxury is shifting from possession and materialistic acquisitions to health, wellbeing and the feeling of purpose. Claudie Roth, the author of ‘Rethinking Luxury in Hospitality’ suggests that the most significant luxury of our time is “not having to worry”.
With that, Aaron Kaupp, the General Manager of Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris, suggests that actually, “everything is luxury”. So much so, that Aaron goes on to explain that he doesn't even think that we should call ourselves luxury hotels anymore as even a small 3-star hotel can be ‘luxury’. Today, money and the world have changed, resulting in this evolution of luxury. Our guests are now demanding the delivery of experiences through service quality, excellence and emotional engagement to achieve what luxury hospitality has now become.
While tourists are still expecting top quality products, their aspirations behind why they are travelling are influenced by the desire for transformational experiences, self-actualisation, more profound meaning and sincere human connections. Guests want to engage with the locals, to indulge in the culture and to witness once in a lifetime moment’s that cannot be achieved in their place of origin. Going to a spa and moving from one treatment room to another isn’t providing that genuine transformational experience that is now desired. As Rob Hetem explains, no longer is accommodation the priority of luxury travel but instead, a means to an end in order to achieve experiential travel. If we continue to rely on outdated strategies to deliver luxury products, we run the risk of losing touch with the evolving needs of this new generation of traveller and their influence on buying patterns. These guests are not wanting single touchpoints anymore but instead, multiple touchpoints. They are not concerned about where they will be staying on their travels but instead what they will be experiencing when staying there.
In closing, Suzanne Godfrey explains that the emotional connection – and the need for creating that 'home-from-home' feeling – is linked to the product, the service, and the people involved. Through this cohesion, a guests experience that is unique to the brand and the property is created. When genuine, authentic and meaningful – however big or small that emotional connection might be – this is what luxury hospitality is today.
Bradley Barrett | LinkedIn