Luxury. It’s the big suite, the room with a view, the penthouse, the stretch limo. It’s time, it’s space, it’s flexibility. It’s the name on the label, or maybe it’s the spa where they know your name. It’s far from the maddening crowd. It’s the distinction of knowing you are getting a product or service that’s “exclusive,” literally not for everybody. Even so, everybody wants it. And, increasingly, everybody can afford a taste of it.

Today’s market for luxury goods and services is broader then ever. Those baby boomers you keep reading about are in their peak earning years and are just beginning to retire to a life of leisure and travel. They have money to spend like never before, and they want a room with a view. They are, relatively speaking, “rich.” Boomers are the heads of households for 57% of American families with incomes over $100,000.

According to Unity Marketing, which tracks luxury spending habits, household spending on luxury goods and services rose 3.8% last year to an average of $52,588.

More importantly, products such as cars, jewelry or entertainment systems are capturing a declining portion of that total, as boomers “max out” on gadgets and gizmos and turn their attention to luxury experiences. The big news last year was not the 3.8% increase but that household spending for travel, entertainment, dining and spas nearly doubled.

For travel suppliers or travel marketers, an understanding of how such trends affect the luxury market and the affluent traveler can be the difference between good results and great results. For one thing, there are more “luxury” products competing for the traveler’s attention than ever before, and they are evolving more rapidly.

According to a recent white paper published by the Luxury Alliance, an association of high-end lodging, tour and cruise companies, the “life cycle” of the luxury travel product is getting shorter, requiring suppliers to be ever more innovative to come up with experiences and service levels that are truly “exclusive.”

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