Why Hospitality Is The Key To Unlocking Luxury Experiences

Georgette Davey, Managing Director of Glion Institute of Higher Education, discusses how the luxury industry is inspired by the hospitality

Glion Campus, Switzerland

What do hospitality and luxury have in common? In both industries, it’s all about the experience — something which is true today more than ever. While the quality of material goods has always been important in determining what constitutes luxury (and five-star hospitality), it’s the intangible aspects, like heritage, ambiance and service, that really makes for a memorable experience and an outstanding brand.

The rise of experiential luxury

Luxury has always involved experience. For the luxury consumer, having a luxury good is one part of the package; the experience of acquiring and enjoying that good is another. In other words, it’s not just owning a luxury car or handbag that counts — it’s the experience of receiving top-notch service, the knowledge that your dream product has been custom-built to your own specifications, and the feeling of taking your new wheels or prized accessory out for the first time.

At the same time, experience has come to play an even more important role in luxury. Claudia D’Arpizio, a partner at Bain & Company, noted in 2016 that “People still buy luxury products. But they value the experience around them more than the products themselves since the experience is more shareable.” This is not surprising, given that both Baby Boomers and Millennials have demonstrated a preference for experiences over things. According to Bain & Company, consumers are spending more on luxury experiences, with sales of high-end food and wine each up by 6% in 2017, and sales of luxury cruises up by 14%.

As a result, many luxury goods brands are actually branching into hospitality as a way to offer clients memorable experiences. For example, luxury group LVMH has developed Cheval Blanc, a collection of unique luxury hotels or “Maisons” that pay homage to the “prestigious tradition of French hospitality.” Founded on the values of craftsmanship, exclusive privacy, creativity and Art de Recevoir (Art of Hospitality), Cheval Blanc promises guests a refined experience that should meet or surpass their already high expectations of the brand.

Luxury brands have also harnessed the power of special events to treat loyal clients to an exclusive experience and generate buzz. In 2015, Hermès invited 120 clients to a guest-list the only dinner marking the opening of the brand’s Washington D.C. store. Naturally, the menu featured exotic and gourmet cuisine, but the presentation of the dinner was itself a unique spectacle, with 60 waiters serving dishes in synchronicity and changing costumes between courses.

Delivering memorable experiences

At the 2017 Glion Luxury Conference held in Bulle, Switzerland, David Sinapian, CEO of Groupe Pic and President of Grandes Tables du Monde, said that “emotions are the new El Dorado.” He observed, “Going to a fine dining restaurant is like a journey. It’s like going to the theatre.”

There is no better place to witness the “theatre” of an experiential luxury than in the world of hospitality. Customer-centric service is at the heart of this industry, and luxury hospitality brands are masters at delivering memorable experiences.

In a panel discussion at the Glion Luxury Conference, several hospitality and luxury leaders shared their insights on experiential luxury. Rami Z. Sayess, Regional Vice President of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, spoke of the need for hotels to reflect the local identity and create a unique atmosphere in each location. “It’s important to give the customer a sense of place,” he said. “What’s important is that when you leave a destination, you talk about that sensation you felt, whether it was in a hotel or in a store.” It’s that sharing of experiences, even after the moment has passed, that can connect customers with a brand.

Meanwhile, as guests increasingly demand experiences over things, luxury hotels have also had to adapt. Paul Clark, Group Director of Human Resources of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, talked about how tastes have changed over time. Although the definition of hotel luxury may once have been the lavishness of a “Presidential Suite,” today’s luxury guests may desire something a bit more modern, and more social: “In Hong Kong, our ‘Entertainment Suite’ has a massive TV, a DJ booth, an open kitchen — it’s an ideal place to invite guests.” He added, “Today delivering the expected is not enough. You have to deliver the unexpected.” 

How do you deliver the unexpected? At Glion Institute of Higher Education, we prepare students for careers in luxury and hospitality by immersing them in luxury-focused courses and degree programmes, such as our BBA specialization in Luxury Brand Management. Students develop practical skills in hotel and restaurant operations as well as vital soft skills, such as etiquette, cross-cultural communication and customer relations management. They learn a whole approach to the culture of luxury, studying aspects such as business dynamics, marketing, service, design and brand identity. And they apply their new knowledge to the real world through professional internships. 

It’s a 360-degree approach to education that is absolutely necessary when preparing tomorrow’s luxury industry leaders. Because, after all, luxury is not something you buy. It’s a mindset, an attitude — and an experience.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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