Since the turn of the millennium, the ‘on demand’ accessibility of high-end luxury has driven an appetite for prime real estate, propelling demand for exceptional private facilities, interior design, one-of-a-kind architecture and world-class services, to deliver the ultimate luxury lifestyle.
Certainly, real estate developers in Sri Lanka are competing to offer the most sophisticated living experiences, spearheaded by Colombo’s Sapphire Residences, which are widely regarded as some of the finest luxury apartments ever seen in South Asia.
When residential developers plan their projects, considerable thought goes into which amenities will most impress buyers and ‘out-feature’ their competitors. Continually striving to offer distinctive design, cutting-edge innovation and 5-star facilities, the bar gets raised even higher as developers compete to deliver new and original conveniences and comforts.
However, luxury means different things to different people; so, in the context of hospitality and real estate, how can we benchmark it? Luxury Portfolio International opined that ‘what passed as a luxury experience even five years ago, today feels tired and uninspired. The principle of luxury that matters today is emotional connection’. Indeed, in recent years there has been a growing shift from physical to experiential.
“In 2017 the World Ultra Wealth Report accurately predicted that service would become a strong differentiator for luxury brands, highlighting a growing desire for personalisation in the search for exclusivity, peace of mind and uniqueness,” observes Chris Graham, author of a leading report on branded residences, "and it is no surprise that luxury experiences are overtaking luxury purchases – a shift from ‘having’ to ‘being’.”
To illustrate this, Graham cites Luxe Hub Consultancy, which defines luxury as seamlessness, convenience, speed and quality of personalised service. “There’s no mention here of any physical elements.”
“The definition of luxury isn’t static. It shifts with the times,” observed Patrick Whyte, Editor of Skift. “What was once considered appropriate for the high-end traveler can quickly fall out of fashion as tastes change.”
Graham points out that for decades 5-star was accepted as the hospitality pinnacle, yet now this is up to 7-star. "How long until we reach 10-star – and what will it look like? It’s no longer enough simply to offer a wider range of features, more marble and gold-plated taps; the focus is on creating a personal and emotional engagement.”
Pre-COVID, luxury was already shifting towards a modern, affluent, and more ‘aware’ consumer with an ever-growing variety of tastes and inspirations. The trend continues to evolve, extending into personal space and security, wellbeing and the environment – all of which have been impacted by the pandemic and hastening a shift in consumer awareness.
Indeed, consumers across the board are now more thoughtful in their decisions. For the ultra-wealthy, this means allocating their resources toward luxury goods and experiences that prioritise values like privacy, wellbeing, and family. “That shift is now irreversible, as luxury today is more bespoke and must therefore be designed to suit an individual’s requirements,” adds Graham.