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I can’t get no Satisfaction: Satisfying Needs in the World of Luxury

Updated: Apr 13

Understanding and catering to the hierarchy of needs, as conceptualized by Abraham Maslow 70 years ago, is crucial for the luxury industry in general, and for luxury hospitality in particular.

The hierarchy begins with the most fundamental needs such as eating and drinking, and progresses to higher-level needs such as belonging and esteem, culminating in self-realization. Luxury hotels excel in meeting physiological needs with exceptional quality and service. However, the true challenge lies in addressing the higher, intangible levels of the hierarchy.

Originally, hotels were simple relays for horse riders and would only offer food, drinks and shelter. They progressively became more than a common tavern and a barn and would take real care of your horse, yourself and your possessions, thus naturally rising from an answer to physiological needs to security needs as well.

Then came hotel chains in the US and their primary offer was to allow guests to easily book in the other hotels of the chain. Simple but it changed everything by creating an identification with and within the chain and a frequent traveler's status, thus entering the field of the belonging needs. More recently, with the development of international hotel chains and their loyalty programmes, hotels discovered the power of esteem needs and rewards, the realm of the esteem needs.

The next step is obvious and the reason why most large hotels today have a spa: wellbeing was a first attempt at catering for the needs for self-realization, through wellness... But self-realization is more than mere wellbeing, and the real next step for hospitality is only happening now with the introduction of yoga, Reiki, meditation, and spiritual conferences and activities in hotels, including group activities such as ritual bathing (the new Aqua Gym), Om chanting, divination and seances… In the near future, luxury hospitality and spiritual retreat centers will merge and the hotel industry will therefore cover the whole range of human needs as defined by Abraham Maslow.

Now, let’s go back to the hierarchy of needs where we left them… Physiological needs are really well covered by the industry as it is at its core. But it is not always so clear with the higher needs. Safety and security needs for example, go beyond physical safety to include emotional security and privacy. Guests should feel that the hotel is not just a place to stay, but a secure and private haven. Same for love and belonging needs, which involve creating an environment where guests feel welcomed, valued, and part of something special. This can be fulfilled through personalized service, genuine interactions, and creating a sense of community within the hotel. Esteem needs involve recognizing and appreciating guests. This can be achieved through service, acknowledging personal preferences, and making guests feel important. Self-realization, as discussed before, is about enabling guests to realize their full personal potential during their stay. This involves offering unique experiences, personal growth opportunities like wellness programs and spiritual activities or retreats, and also providing an environment that inspires creativity and reflection…

Today in hospitality and especially in luxury hospitality, it is not just about providing a perfect service anymore, it is about creating an experience that resonates on all levels of human needs, all the way to fostering an environment conducive to their self-realization.

Here is a quick summary of how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be answered by hospitality services:

  • Physiological needs: the core offer of food, drinks and rooms

  • Security: room security including a safe, technology such as CCTV and security teams, but also privacy 

  • Belonging: loyalty programme, use of guest’s name, personalisation

  • Esteem: loyalty rewards, VIP treatment, special attentions, gifts

  • Self-realization: spa, meditation and other spiritual activities, art exhibition, spiritual books and conferences…

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