The language of luxury
The restaurant is well-known and highly regarded. Finishing up
my entree, I looked over the dessert menu, and the descrip-
tions were so detailed and the prices so high that I double-
checked to see if perhaps I were being charged by the word.
My eyes were drawn to
one offering in particular:
“Lychee and lemongrass-in-fused shortcake with papaya
tartare and olive oil gelato.”
vegetables? Scrambled 100-year-old eggs?
I’m beginning to think that, just as some
municipalities pay citizens to turn in their
guns for the general safety of the community, chapters of the Luxury Council should
refund the full cover price of any thesaurus
a member hands over. Some marketers are
giving luxury a bad name, or worse, opening the door to ridicule.
Were they serious? I was tempted to ask
the waiter if I could perhaps substitute the
papaya for some thin slices of watermelon
carpaccio. I had gone to the restaurant for
a special treat, but reading the description
made me feel silly for having splurged. I
had been served, with my
coffee, a generous help-
ing of pretension. A few days later, I was FROM THE WINDOW SEAT
listening to the marketing manager of an upscale hotel chain say, straight-faced, that a
new breakfast menu would be “curated” by
a certain celebrity chef.
I write this not as someone for whom
luxury is a way of life, but someone who
likes to indulge from time to time. It’s pos-
Curated? Would diners be served a still
life of fruit? An artful platter of preserved
sible that the truly wealthy see no irony in
using “tartare” as a descriptor for a tropical
fruit or believe it’s quite logical to curate an
omelet, but I doubt it.
In fact, historically there’s some danger
in trying to lure the wealthy with a few extra syllables. The novelist and biographer
Nancy Mitford wrote in 1954 that the rich
(at least, the rich in London at the time)
tended to separate themselves
from the lower classes by adopting simplicity in language. They
would say, for example, “sofa,”
ily accommodate), sunsets on the expansive porch, croquet on the lawn. Let the
children play in the tower while you enjoy
the on-site spa. … The good life is calling.
Even today, the risks of upset-
ting the nobles with an overambitious display of language can, Arnie Weissmann
in England at least, have dire Editor in Chief
consequences. Britain’s Prince
“rich” and “jam,” while the hoi
polloi would affect airs by using “settee,” “wealthy” and “
What’s striking about this description is what’s absent. It does
not tell how many bedrooms
this “cottage” has. It does not say
whether the kitchen has been updated. It omits how many bathrooms and fractional bathrooms
the residence has.
William apparently split with his girlfriend,
Kate Middleton, because of her middle-class mother’s overuse of high-falutin’
Ultimately, it is selling feeling,
not footage. The description is
not understated, but it is economical. In a few sentences, it
describes not only a property that’s for sale
but also the life a buyer might envision for
himself or herself.
But some marketers of luxury are getting
it right. I recently came across a real estate
brochure for a wealthy New England community and read this (abridged) description for a “Berkshire Cottage”:
The lessons for marketers of luxury travel are fairly straightforward: Throw away
Roget’s. Focus on evoking emotion rather
than listing specifications. And let the price
tag take up more lineage than any single
word that comes before it.
“House some mirth. Live life grandly,
and in grand style. Throw a ball, have 100
over for dinner (the dining room can eas-
E-mail Arnie Weissmann at aweissmann@
U.S. tourism spending growth outpaces GDP in first quarter
Real Direct Tourism Output — all of the accommodations, transportation and souvenirs
purchased by travelers
in the U.S. — increased at an annual rate of 2.3% during the first
quarter, according to figures released by the Bureau of Economic
Analysis, a unit of the Commerce
REAL DIRECT TOURISM SPENDING IN BILLIONS, BY QUARTER
2000 dollars in billions, adjusted for inflation
In contrast, the real gross domestic product in the first quarter grew at an annual
rate of 0.6%.
Prices for tourism goods and services increased 3.4% in the first quarter from first-quarter 2006.
Overall, direct and indirect tourism-relat-ed sales totaled $1.3 trillion during the first
quarter, including $717.9 billion in direct
goods and $546.4 billion in indirect goods
and services sold to travelers, the BEA said.
Real direct tourism output
Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
The increase in consumer travel purchases helped bolster first-quarter tourism employment, which grew 3.1% year over year.
Tourism employment increased 6.3% in
fourth-quarter 2006; by comparison, overall U.S. employment rose only 1.5% in that
The BEA estimated that the tourism in-
dustry employed 8. 6 million people during
the fourth quarter of 2006. Of that, 5. 9 million were employed in jobs directly related
to the industry, while 2. 7 million were employed indirectly.
The BEA said indirect travel-related jobs
involved companies that, for instance, produced the ingredients used to make meals
served to airline passengers and plastics
used for souvenirs.
Employment within the lodging industry grew 4.6% in the fourth quarter from
fourth-quarter 2005, which the BEA said
was the largest increase since the fourth
quarter of 1999.
Meanwhile, employment in air transportation services during the fourth quarter
increased 1%, an improvement after seven
straight quarters of decline.
Passenger air transportation grew 3.1%
during the first quarter.
Prices for air tickets inched up 0.1% in
the first quarter.
Lodging sales rose 2.9% in the first quarter. Lodging prices were up 2.9%, marking the sixth consecutive quarter of price