The Argument for Luxury

 

Ruthanne Terrero and Didier Le Calvez
Didier Le Calvez, president and GM of Le Bristol Paris stopped by our New York offices to tell us about the new suites at his posh hotel. Watch for our full report in January.

 

In a tweet I read the other day, a woman complained that the only piece of luggage that had survived her travels over the years was her Louis Vuitton gear. I’m sure it would have seemed a hefty investment for her at that time, but that it had held up through years of airport handlers, luggage conveyor belts, bellmen, ships, trains and planes over six continents showed that it truly had value.

On the other hand, those luggage sets that include five pieces for just $59 tend to break very easily, especially the zippers when you’re trying to cram in 20 more pounds of clothing than will really fit. But sometimes they break just because they feel like breaking that day. The thought process to buying cheap luggage is that you can throw it out and replace it very inexpensively so that even if it somehow gets white paint all over it in transit or the wheels break, there’s no great loss as long as its contents aren’t impacted.

Ruthanne Terrero and Michael Gigl
I also got to spend quality time Michael Gigl, region manager, for the Austrian Tourist Office when we hosted a luxury roundtable together at Austria’s Pop Up Store in October.

Travel provides many options to spend in a variety of manners. If you think about the best vacations you’ve ever had, they are likely those which included a sustained period of high-end service and experiences that stood out. You might recall spending days with loved ones for hours on end in a secure environment where the wait staff is steady, thoughtful and attentive; or, if off-property, your memories are of a full day of unique access in your sightseeing, visiting local restaurants and special shops, thanks to a private guide or an itinerary that was very mapped out just for you.

I read an interesting opinion piece recently on luxurysociety.com in which author Leslie Pascaud, director of Added Value Paris (a consultancy for luxury brand development), summarized the findings of a study that Added Value had conducted to determine what the fundamental values of luxury are. Here’s what they found:

Timelessness: Luxury isn’t trendy. It is, by its very nature, durable and long-lasting.
Uniqueness: The ultimate luxury is a one-of-a-kind, tailor-made product that gives the owner exclusivity and shows an appreciation and respect for craftsmanship.

Soul: Luxury is a vector for emotion; products are charged with meaning, heritage and a story.
In this case, Pascaud could be speaking of a piece of Louis Vuitton luggage or a trip planned by the ultimate luxury travel advisor. Both entities have a long-lasting value that is difficult to replace. It’s that trip, though, that’s even more precious— and, therefore, an even more luxurious asset.

Think of it this way: If you decide to buy inexpensive luggage with a plan to toss it when it expired, the gamble may be worth it. But if you decide to buy a cheap vacation that breaks somehow (think dirty hotel room, rude and negligent service, food poisoning from a buffet), you’re gambling with something much more valuable: your time. You are throwing away high-quality experiences with your family without hope of an easy replacement.

The next time your clients call or e-mail you with a deal they’ve found that includes unknown quantities or qualities, show them this column. Ask them (feigning innocence, if you can), if the cheap vacation they’re asking you about doesn’t work out (say, they hate the hotel, their room faces the garbage dump or they get bitten by something in their bed), will they be able to take a replacement vacation soon afterward to make up for their awful experience? If so, will they have the time and the money to replace that experience with a better one? Continue feigning innocence when they tell you that they won’t be able to do that, and steer them to a luxury vacation that embraces all the qualities in Pascaud’s findings above. In the long run, they’ll appreciate it.

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