If I had a pound for every time I’d been asked “what defines luxury?” I might be well on the way to being one of your affluent clients.
Sadly, my comment is always free, but it has been upgraded, analysed and adapted over the years, so maybe it should be worth a bob or two occasionally. Either way, I think we could all agree on what luxury is essentially all about these days – uniqueness, access, exclusivity and spirit-touching experiences, even if some of those experiences may involve wondering “where actually is the nearest toilet?” and “will I get my hands dirty handing out curry?”, instead of “what’s the thread count?” and “what vintage is the wine?”.
I say all this mindful of my most recent trip, to Myanmar with five travel consultants as part of our latest ttgluxury Experience. On the trip, Destination Asia arranged for us to give monks and nuns their daily meal at a monastery in Yangon. Nervously, we each donned disposable gloves and speedily scooped food into bowls serving some 150 monks and nuns. In their “canteen”, the nuns sat waiting patiently for their fellow residents before saying a prayer and eating. Some of the younger ones looked shyly up at us, their curious eyes and shaved heads a world away from the have-it-all kids we see these days on Instagram and the like. Was this a luxury experience? The cost to do it would certainly prohibit others, thus making it a luxury, while the sense of reward for having done something truly memorable also made it a luxury. Yet it had been the most basic of things: one human giving food to another.
The rest of the trip was filled with more easily identifiable luxury – BMWs, cold towels, business-class flights, champagne on river cruises… But I think what mixing these two sides of the luxury coin does is make you appreciate one side more than the other, and that can only be a good thing. And for a travel planner, doing the simplest of things well and making the hardest things possible – all with the aim of creating memories and showcasing service and expertise – are surely luxury’s new currency.