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No more Kowtow: Return to Simplicity in Luxury Hotels

Updated: Apr 13

The concept of luxury in hotels has undergone a fascinating evolution that can be traced back to the travel habits of wealthy Europeans, particularly the young nobles, starting from the 17th century. In the past, young aristocrats would indeed embark on what was called the Grand Tour as a rite of passage, venturing to the south of France, Italy, Turkey, and even as far as Egypt, in the equivalent of today’s gap year for university students backpacking across Europe. Fans of detective fiction might recall the classic tale "Murder on the Nile" featuring Hercule Poirot, which evokes this period of extravagant travel. Originally, these wealthy travelers were accustomed to the comforts and privileges of castle life, complete with an array of household staff and amenities. Naturally, they sought similar levels of comfort during their travels, which led to the establishment of the first luxury hotels. These establishments sprouted along popular travel routes, designed to provide an experience akin to what the elite were used to back home. Taking a step back, the precursor to these grand hotels had more humble origins. For example, the Meurice in Paris, one of the city's oldest luxury hotels, started as a 'relais de poste' or post house. It was a place where travelers could rest for the night and tend to their horses. In today’s context, arriving at such a venue on horseback would certainly be anachronistic but the equivalent would be to arrive in a top luxury car. Just as hotels would cater to your horse in days gone by, today they would seamlessly handle your expensive vehicle, underscoring how the essence of luxury services remains consistent over time.

But luxury isn't confined to one specific industry, it's a segment that exists in virtually every field. Whether it's supercars in the automotive world, the sector that currently dominates the global luxury market in volume, yachts in boating, private jets in aviation, or Haute couture in the clothing industry, the theme of luxury transcends sectors. Even in things as simple as flower arrangements, one can find the concept of luxury at play in luxury hotels with dazzling arrangements provided at high cost by high-end floral artisans. The artistry and expense involved elevate these floral compositions to something more than mere decorations; they leave the traditional field of floristry to enter the realm of luxury.

As global tourism became more accessible in the last century, the concept of luxury hospitality evolved as well. It wasn't just about replicating the comfort of wealthy homes anymore, but more about providing an experience of opulent living that most could only dream of in the past. Service became distant, almost reverent, the decor was set to impress, food was about everything expensive and rich, that was in the 80’s… However, the trend is coming full circle. As the luxury market continues to expand and guests become wealthier all over the planet, the concept of luxury hotels is returning to its origin, an upscale home away from home. This evolution is tinged with irony. While luxury hotels initially aimed to provide a home-like experience for the aristocracy, they transformed into dazzling establishments that offered services and amenities far beyond what one would find at home. Yet, today, the focus is shifting back to creating a home-like environment. 

The concept of luxury hospitality today is not different from being a guest in an incredibly lavish family home—think of a grand castle owned by a rich relative. The atmosphere is both opulent and codified, but the staff might have known you since you were a child, adding a personal, familiar touch to the high level of service. That’s what we are aiming for today.

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