Opinion: Is luxury one of travel's most dangerous words?

Opinion: Is luxury one of travel's most dangerous words?

The word luxury is becoming so over-used in travel that it is losing its meaning, says Brighter Group's Steve Dunne

Is luxury the most over-used word in the travel sector?

I only ask because most weeks I will typically have several new business tenders cross my desk that heavily feature the word.

The range of companies seeking PR or marketing services is eclectic at the moment – from boutique hotels to tourist boards, from international resorts to global hotel chains and from cruise lines to airlines.

While they are all vastly different products, with different customer profiles and different price ranges, one word seems to unite them all – luxury.

Nearly every brand, product and organisation in the travel sector, it would seem, cannot resist using the word.

I’ve never done a study on it but I wouldn’t mind betting it is one of the most common descriptive words in our industry for a product – any product.

But here’s the thing. Luxury is also one of the most dangerous words around, for luxury means different things to different people.

You and I, for example, may have very different views on what constitutes luxury – having arrived at our perception of the word by way of upbringing, cultural exposure and, of course, personal taste.

And if every brand uses the phrase luxury to differentiate itself then, by default, those brands are not truly differentiating themselves.

So why is it that everyone in travel seems to be jumping on the luxury bandwagon when marketing their product?

Why does every marketing person bandy the phrase around at the drop of a hat? Why is every press release and copy on websites and in brochures full of the word luxury?

One can only conclude that there may be a degree of laziness involved or, more likely, that these brands have simply run out of ideas on how to express themselves and differentiate their product.

Of course we are seeing that some travel brands have spotted this and have set to work changing their description, for example we now see emerging variations on a theme such as ultra-luxury, six-star, premium and upper premium.

However this doesn’t solve the problem; replacing one cliché with another rarely does. 

What travel brands need to do may be as simple as revisiting the vision and mission of the brand.

What is its position in the marketplace? How does it appeal to the emotional instinct of its target audience? What are its values and how do they resonate with the target customer?

Knowing the answers to those questions and positioning messages accordingly will prevent brands from hiding behind clichés that at best do not differentiate them and at worst fail to meet the expectations they build up in the customer.

So the next time you come across a travel brand using the word luxury ask – what makes you so different?  And let’s see what’s in a word.

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