Beyond the commoditization of luxury: creating authentic luxury experiences

on October 5 | in Career Development Hospitality & Tourism | | with No Comments

Over the last several years luxury brands around the world have had to choose between commoditization of their luxury products in order to increase sales or maintaining the sense of exclusivity and authenticity associated with them while accepting a more modest and controlled growth.

On one end, the so-called democratization of luxury has made previously inaccessible products available to a much wider demographic. On the surface, this seems like a good thing because it points to more consumer affluence and prosperity.  However, the original luxury consumer who outwardly expressed their uniqueness through these luxury products is now at risk of abandoning them for fear of losing their uniqueness. Loyalty to the brand is put into question when the high-end consumer feels he/she is no longer unique. Maintaining the traditional luxury customer’s loyalty is and should continue to be an important element of how many brands are defined. 

Luxury consumers demand authenticity

This is especially true in the hotel industry and today, luxury hotels are redefining luxury in order to maintain the authenticness that they the are often attributed to. Expedia’s 2016 Millennial Traveller Report stresses the desire among millennials to experience authenticity during their travels. Although there are unique, landmark hotels that feature amazing amenities or a historic value that cannot be repeated, for most hotels authenticity will be less defined by location and setting and more by the uniqueness of the human interaction offered by the brand.

The hotel’s approach to attracting these authenticity-seeking travellers will need to include a comprehensive strategy that communicates the authentic experience of its brand. While it may reach the potential guest through creative marketing initiatives, it needs to be implemented throughout the hotel’s operations and especially through the unique person-to-person experience provided by the hotel’s staff. In a recent interview during the Skift Global Forum in New York City last month, J. Allen Smith, CEO of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts said, “I think what you’ve found is that there is this commoditization of luxury, in many respects, there’s an intense need to invest in personalization.” 

The role of hospitality professionals in the luxury industry

Quite possibly the best way to differentiate commoditized luxury from authentic luxury is through human interaction. Trained hospitality professionals know the value of providing an authentic and unique experience to their guests. They get to know their guests’ individual preferences and needs, their habits and personalities. They can read their moods and anticipate services that the guest may find of interest. The trained hospitality professional understands that the guest is unique and that each one should be treated individually. There is no method for commoditizing human interaction. This being said, when the hotel guest feels like they are being listened to and their needs and desires are recognized, they are more likely to end their stay feeling they have experienced authentic luxury. This translates into loyalty and in the hotel industry, loyalty is everything.

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