Can Luxury be Accessible?
by David Klemt
Can everyone experience luxury or is this category of hospitality inherently exclusive, serving only a small percentage of consumers?
During a panel discussion titled “Brand Identity: The Evolution of Luxury in Lifestyle Hotels” at Hospitality Design Expo 2021, one speaker answered this question.
Moreover, this speaker’s answer was simple and definitive.
What is Luxury?
Blame luxury brand marketing but it seems many people define luxury through the Three Es: exclusive, extravagant, and expensive.
However, as people reflect and rethink their priorities, a new view of luxury appears to be emerging.
Lee Shuman, director of project management at Peachtree Hotel Group, defines luxury through the Three Cs: comfort, convenience and contemplation.
Interestingly, comfort is included in the dictionary definition of luxury as well. (And yes, I know it’s cliché to point to dictionary definitions in articles.)
We’ve been hearing for a few years now that more people, particularly younger Millennials and Gen Zers, favor experiences over material items. Time is more valuable to these consumers than possessions.
Shuman’s Three Cs, then, speak to these consumers:
- Obviously, people seek out comfort, particularly when it comes to hotels, resorts, restaurants, and travel.
- Convenience reduces friction and removes pain points, allowing guests to spend their valuable time seeking out memorable experiences seamlessly.
- When it comes to contemplation, Shuman says this is a design component that provides guests with several opportunities to notice and experience design “moments.” Contemplation also relates directly to experiences.
Operators who embrace and embody the Three Cs will meet guest expectations of luxury.
Can Luxury be Accessible?
Shuman answered this question succinctly: “Luxury has to be accessible.” Not can be accessible, not should be accessible, but luxury must be accessible.
Going further, Shuman said that “everyone in every strata should experience luxury.” There are a couple of ways to interpret this view of luxury.
Looking at this subject through the lens of convenience, one can take Shuman’s opinion on luxury literally. Everyone, regardless of the category or price point of hotel or resort (or restaurant, for that matter), should have access to luxury.
An alternate view that still relates to convenience is that if luxury is too exclusive, too few consumers will have access and the venue won’t be profitable.
Another viewpoint is that luxury needs to be accessible physically. In other words, if it can’t be touched, it’s not luxurious.
Per Shuman, guests don’t want luxury they can see but not touch.
Make it Happen
Shuman likes to see how guests are using a given property. Observing guests in situ provides him with insights that can be used enhance their experiences and improve design.
Hotel and resort guests are, from what Shuman observes, trending younger. Although, he said that could be because operators are aging.
As we’ve been learning, many younger guests are after experiences, comfort and convenience regardless of where they’re staying. Ticking those three boxes will help operators attract these younger guests.
Of course, older guests, due in part to a reshuffling of priorities during the pandemic, also have an interest in the Three Cs.
Shuman is also seeing that hotels and resorts must be enjoyable to use. Interestingly, he’s observing pools falling out of favor while the demand for well-designed health centers. His commitment to observing and learning about guests constantly provides these insights.
To make luxury accessible moving forward, operators should embrace the Three Cs, observe their guests continuously, and realize that luxury doesn’t necessitate excluding guests.
As consumer desires and expectations change, operators must adapt more and more rapidly. Increasingly, change is impacting the perception of luxury.
Yes, the Three Es still exist and likely always will. However, the Three Cs are informing a more modern view of luxury.