What does luxury really mean?

Inside a five-star hotel.

Luxury has meant a lot of different things over time.

In 2019, hotels are very quick to throw out the word 'luxury' in their marketing, promotional material, and sometimes even in the property’s name.

The Oxford Dictionary definition of luxury is “a state of great comfort of elegance, especially when involving great expense.”

But when every hotel is calling itself luxury it is hard to define what really captures that essence.

Traditionally, hotels have used a star-rating system, grading hotels from one to five based on a set of features.

The Accommodation Association Australia suggests five-star hotels are “properties that typify luxury across all areas of operation. Guests will enjoy an extensive range of facilities and comprehensive or highly personalised services. Properties at this level will display excellent design quality and attention to detail.”

Even this description is quite vague and doesn’t go into detail to explain what “typifying luxury” requires.

Renowned New Zealand interior designer Paul Izzard, the founder of Izzard Design, said flashy goods no longer define luxury.

“Luxury doesn’t have to be expensive. But how do you experience it? Was it comfortable? Was it striking to look at?”

Izzard suggested that modern luxury is defined by experiences and how you interact with a hotel.

“In a good hotel you want that higher end feeling. You want experiences to elevate you to a place of luxury."

An example he mentioned was staying at a hotel with Egyptian cotton. Guests don’t necessarily have those kinds of indulgences at home and get a special experience because of that.

“That romanticism around staying in a hotel, being transported somewhere else that isn’t your own home, again that’s an experience. It’s about giving guests something they perhaps don’t have in their normal lives.”

In the future, Izzard sees trends pushing towards creating that luxury experience in the areas around hotels, not just inside the property.

“How do they influence the area around them? The whole area, not just the hotel. You walk out the hotel door and there’s something else linked to the hotel, bringing the hotel revenue, but makes you feel like you’ve stepped outside.”

The other aspect Izzard said was important was something that has been becoming increasingly relevant recently: capture the essence of the hotel’s city in the design.

“If I’m in Chicago I want to feel like I’m in Chicago. Therefore, is there jazz music in the lobby? Make me feel like where I am. Everything needs to take you to the place.

Franz Mascarenhas, managing director at Cordis Auckland, agrees that the meaning of luxury has changed.

“Luxury has been redefined in the hotel industry and today it is all about fulfilling our guest’s unique needs through personalised services. Cordis is an approachable luxury hotel brand with a service style that is heartfelt and intuitively generous,” said Mascarenhas.

Mascarenhas said at Cordis, the team personalises service to create luxury experiences.

“Here at Cordis Auckland, we aim to deliver an experience that exceeds our guest’s expectations through the provision of a luxurious facility and personalised service to match.”