Darren Darwin, general manager, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, returns to talk about about the value of luxury in a hotel
In my last article, I talked about one of our brand pillars, indigenous, and how that related to our resort. I decided to continue along a similar path and train of thought, now reviewing and discussing another brand pillar, authentic luxury, two of the most popular, yet overused buzzwords in the industry today.
Authentic, fundamentally surmounts to trust, being unpretentious and genuine, whether it be product or service. Additionally, luxury is often defined as comfort, refinement and stylishness, usually involving great expense.
Authentic luxury could in essence be summarised as the delivery of a genuine, organic and reliable world-class product and service, whereby the customer trusts in what they receive, even without visiting the chosen resort beforehand.
In other words, the brand identity and brand equity will be so strong that wherever consumers are staying in the world, the customer will trust in the brand to deliver premium touches with an energetic local spice, not faceless glamour. From Sydney to Shanghai, Muscat to Mumbai, the authenticity of the encounter, or to be precise, the whole customer journey should be unified.
Furthermore, the experience should match the expense in relation to value proposition. However I do not consider authentic luxury to always be expensive, and here’s why.
We’ve all heard the expression: “You get what you pay for”. For myself, authentic luxury really depends on the individual needs of the guest when they visit a luxury resort. It could be world class service with a variety of luxury products thrown in, be it fine Italian coffee or mature Japanese wagu beef.
On the other hand, our guests don’t really care if the bath tubs are Italian marble or from the quarries of China, as long as they are luxurious in comfort and experience.
They are more interested in the preparation and execution that follows. For example, we have slumber gurus to prepare various bath salts and oils, creating a very relaxing and soothing memorable encounter, which in turn creates an authentic luxury experience driven by care and attention, and the guru’s understanding of the discerning traveller’s needs.
The key is to have genuine experiences. We’ve all been subjected to the, “have a nice day greeting” with a smile as false as the world is flat, after all we do not live in utopia. Idyllically, we want all of our time, especially our leisure time to be authentic. For sure we have all experienced less than authentic practices in our lives over the years. Remember, the brand reputation can only carry so much weight before you start to question, did that waiter or sales agent really care about what I want or how I feel? It is vital that we offer a service that feels natural and at ease with our surroundings, never affected and stuffy.
At Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort we have over 2000 reviews saying that we do it right, the majority of the time, nevertheless let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground. It is critical that we also listen to our guests and adapt.
From baby boomers to millennials, our guest’s needs are evolving rapidly. We constantly need to think differently in how we approach the consumer, and really get a feel for what they want through engagement and asking them to try things without it seeming like a sales pitch. Even better if you’ve tried it yourself, you can attest to the authenticity of both the sell and the experience. I don’t talk about any of our activities unless I’ve tried them myself, the same goes for my team.
When I ask my guests personally, they said, with Anantara we feel secure knowing that when we spend a lot of money in advance on a booking, we will never be let down. We will receive pampered unobtrusive service, excellent interior and exterior design that blends seamlessly with the local environment and culture, and a high-end luxury quality product, irrespective of country or continent. However, we are not cookie cutters or pretentious but instead offer non-formulaic experiences alongside premium, locally inspired touch points.
That’s some burden to carry as an operator, then again, a very nice burden, which in turn will create guest loyalty and the best marketing strategy of all, promotion by word of mouth. Let’s not forget that word of mouth these days is mostly via online reviews, an article and topic I will certainly write about in the future.
Finally, we should never deviate from being authentic, it should be part of our DNA, and distinguish us from our competitors. This distinction is why our guests trust us, believe in our offerings, and as a result, return to us many times. Our guests accredit us with a safety net in their mindset of us delivering authentic luxury, and we should stay on point in ensuring we deliver genuine heartfelt experiences day in day out.