Luxury, similarly to beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. The perception of luxury to one person may be anathema to another. Traditionally though, particularly in hospitality, luxury often equates to breathtaking design, impeccable service and facilities, space, stunning locations and the very best of everything.   This remains true however the definition of luxury today is becoming less typical.  In short,  ‘luxury status’ is revolving less around things and more significantly around how we feel, from a myriad of perspectives.

From a sensical perspective, it is becoming more about access over acquisition, less about ‘what I have’ and more about ‘who I am’.  There is an attitudinal shift away from ‘things’ to a more profound reality. That reality is being referred by some as the ‘ transformation economy’. The pursuit of fulfillment is igniting something in people that pulls in the direction of awareness and clarity, away from the din of being ‘always on’ towards the bliss and contentment of knowing who we are and where we belong; our own metamorphosis.  It includes purpose and meaning, community, simplicity and transparency at all levels. This shift is also being pursued ( and supported) by the smart brands who see what is coming. One such visionary is Soul Luxury – a brand alchemy firm combining business and emotions that are facilitating and enabling luxury hospitality brands to become more emotionally connected at the core of their business strategy.

Why now?

The uncertain political, financial and socio economic landscape is magnifying an already deep seated need for one of the largest global industries (hospitality) to redefine and respond to the deafening plea for equality, meaningful human connection and authenticity amidst the relentless drive for profitability and growth. There is growing recognition that  hospitality needs to reach the next level of evolution. People feel increasingly drawn to live their lives in concord with their values. Material is no longer enough, has it ever been? The jungle call, or rather more, urban call, is for greater enlightenment in brands to put simple soul into still desired opulence. In a world where loneliness and mental health issues are exploding, real human connection (for guests and service providers alike) is as coveted as competence in the ‘transactions’ of service.

Who’s doing it?

Activists and game changers are at the coal face of crafting union between hospitality, tourism and true, deep rooted wellbeing where the driving factors and essentials are multifaceted. The profundity of human perspective (growing populism, decline in physical and mental health, millennial outlook, loneliness) is the lynchpin that personifies the gap in the market for bona fide and transformative models where human wellbeing, travel, tourism, hospitality and a strong economy (both fiscal and socio economic) are inexorably linked.

There is already evidence of transition playing out. The clear growth areas, in crude terms, are a migration to the top and bottom of the hospitality and wellbeing offering. The boom of the sharing economy, Airbnb (who excel in their responsively connective rhetoric), answer demand for affordable, accessible, ‘grass root’ lodging and experiences.  The ‘#weaccept everyone’ campaign has been a PR coup, authentically reflective of what they do and how much their philosophies resonate with the population at large. Generator Hostels (sharing from another perspective) are the epitome of hybrid evolution and with their new owner and significant investment ahead, this grass rooted, highly appealing brand is one to watch.

Biologique Recherche have announced a partnership with Wellness for Cancer that means their face and body treatments (offered in spas in 70 countries) will be crafted to meet the needs of clients who have had, or are recovering from, cancer. Most notably, they’re making it possible, through NGO partnership, to treat those who cannot afford it – at no cost to them.  The announcement from Accor dubbed ‘Accor Local’ is reaching out (not to mention creating new revenue lines) to their local communities offering services that support them and also, go some way to reversing the backlash against luxury and elites amidst what has been, growing populism. There is a sense, with all of these brands, of quiet humility in their recognition and response to what is needed.

What does it all mean?

To simplify what is infinitely more complex, the crux of the hospitality challenge is anchored in the basic but essential needs of humanity; connection with others (rising loneliness is a key trend), equality, inclusion, a sense of justice and creating balance in life: is being wrapped into the quest of travelers and guests who need ‘more’. Not more things but the ‘food’ that satiates beyond hunger. Expect to see a seismic shift over the coming years that will include public as well as private sector.

Author, Anni Hood