The meaning of luxury in tourism, hospitality and events
- 169 Downloads
The meaning of ‘luxury’ in the market is certainly a topic that needs to be highlighted within academic and practitioner arenas. In the opening rationale for his book, The Meaning of Luxury in Tourism, Hospitality and Events, John Swarbrooke states that definitions for luxury have come from industry insiders instead of from academics, and, in terms of airlines and hotels, he has found no industry definition that merited inclusion in his book. Following on from this, Swarbrooke suggests that the term ‘luxury’ in some ways is ‘meaningless’ due to companies and destinations using the designation more and more to gain success in the marketplace, and that the changes responsible for this need to be researched. The purpose of his book is to stimulate further research on what luxury means in tourism, hospitality and events.
Within the book are six sections, entailing fifteen chapters and ending with 21 case studies. The first section sets the scene and outlines what will be discussed in the rest of the book; definitions of luxury and the evolution and historical context of luxury are explored. The link between luxury and revenue is discussed in the phenomenon of ‘upgrade luxury’—this is a way in which a hotel can grow its revenue by offering upgrade deals whereby customers pay more to enjoy a better room.
The second section examines the demand side of luxury. Swarbrooke attempts to determine how large the luxury market really is, the typology/typologies of luxury consumers and the motivators and determinants that combine in their decision-making processes. Motivators and determinants models are adapted from Horner and Swarbrooke (2016) in this look at the luxury consumer decision-making process. The geography and demographics of the market are also dissected, showing that it is growing rapidly.
The third section focuses on the supply side of luxury, particularly exploring the traditional attributes of luxury products and the places where luxury consumption takes place. The links between pricing and luxury are identified in the changing attitudes towards the old maxim that ‘luxury has a premium price’. Changes to this attitude are revealed in: (1) the discounting of prices of luxury hotels, cruises and airfares; (2) companies offering incentives; and (3) companies offering loyalty programmes. Luxury tourist destinations are examined in an attempt to determine what formula they use to justify designating their establishments as ‘luxurious’.
The fourth section looks in-depth at five areas that will have an impact on the future of what luxury will mean in tourism, hospitality and events; these areas are technology, service, the ‘experience economy’, sustainability and brands. Technologies such as mobile phones and the internet have transformed the nature of luxury, so that services previously seen as luxurious are now seen as the norm. Service is rapidly evolving towards self-service in many organisations; people are forgoing personal service in order to gain more choices and/or greater convenience. We have moved away from consumption to experience and will continue to move even further, towards co-creating our experiences. ‘Sustainable luxury’ has always been an oxymoron but the book suggests it is time to get luxury consumers to be more willing to modify their behaviour. ‘Luxury’ and ‘brands’ are seen as a contradiction in terms, because consuming brands entails conforming to standardisation, whereas luxury is seen as rarity or uniqueness; thus, the term ‘luxury brands’, it is argued, may be redundant in the future.
The fifth section concludes the book by drawing together everything that has been previously discussed, resulting in an agenda for further luxury market research as well as eleven predictions for its future. Nine areas needing further research are brought to light—from looking at a new definition of luxury in relation to tourism, hospitality and events through to identifying cultural and national differences in the meanings of luxury. Some of the eleven predictions made are quite thought-provoking, one being the idea of security and safety becoming more of a luxury and a rarer commodity instead of something that we take for granted as being the norm. It would have been interesting to gain Swarbrooke’s perspective on the impact Artificial Intelligence will have on tourism in the future (Yeoman 2012).
The sixth and last section is a compilation of twenty-one cases that add a useful international element to the discussion. There are many strengths to this book, one of them being that Swarbrooke has written it in the first person. This gives it a very personal feel and will enable a wide audience (students, practitioners and academics) to understand and relate to it. Along with its strengths, there are a few weaknesses, acknowledged in the introduction: the book was written by a European in the UK; hence, the inclusion of 21 international case studies selected from a wide range of countries in order to counter balance this authorship limitation. These case studies would make great teaching tools for the classroom and introduce both undergraduate and postgraduate students studying luxury management and consumer behaviour to some of the issues that are covered within the book.
In terms of readership, Swarbrooke says that his target readers are students, who he hopes to engage and inspire in the subject of luxury, but the book is also aimed at practitioners. In closing, this is an interesting and thought-provoking book that will hopefully encourage academics to have conversations about the opportunities that are open to them in researching luxury, because not only is the luxury market a worthwhile area of study (starting with the challenge of defining luxury), but to date it is still a much under-researched topic.