So what is luxury?

When I learned that the theme of this month’s Hilton Head Monthly is “Luxury,” I decided to take a look at the definition of the word. Webster’s Dictionary says luxury is a noun and means: “A condition or situation of great comfort, ease and wealth; something that is expensive and not necessary; something that is helpful or welcome and that is not usually or always available.” My reaction was, “Yep, not much of a surprise there.”

From an economic, or business, point of view, how do we indulge in luxuries here on Hilton Head Island? Let’s start with the premise that by living in such a beautiful place, we are blessed daily with the luxury of our environment. We have the luxury of walking our beaches, enjoying our mild climate, breathing in the freshness and scents around us, and having a community that is focused on protecting these gifts. Some of life’s greatest luxuries may not easily fit Webster’s definition.

Our local economy is based on the luxuries that Lowcountry residents get to enjoy every day. Think about how most of us were first introduced to Hilton Head Island: We vacationed here. While folks visit the island all year long, the bulk of visitors arrive in the summer; nearly 2.5 million people are expected this year.

The results of our success in attracting visitors to our island are impressive. Roughly 31 percent of all employment in Beaufort County is tied to tourism. A full-time population of roughly 50,000 people on Hilton Head and in Bluffton can choose from more than 250 restaurants. We have wonderful amenities like the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina and the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, and we have a thriving arts community. Plus, international events like the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing and the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d'Eleganceare held in our backyard and produce incredible economic value.

My point here is that the most important luxuries in life may just come from stopping for a moment and looking around. Permit me to go off on another tangent and tie it to the concept of luxury. Many members of our local, full-time population come to Hilton Head after completing successful careers — in other words, we have a bunch of retired folks here on Hilton Head. Many of our retirees come to enjoy golf, tennis or other leisure activities, and then find themselves looking to contribute in some way to our community. Many subscribe to the concept that we spend the first half of our lives building legitimacy and the second half building a legacy.  Volunteerism here on Hilton Head brings luxuries to our communities that are hard to find anywhere else in America.

Through volunteerism and the sharing of personal treasures, we have the luxury of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry, Volunteers in Medicine, Hope Haven of the Lowcountry, Memory Matters and the Children’s Center, just to name a few.  The contributions by so many in our community make Hilton Head a unique place, and we make it a luxury to just live here.

I guess the point that I am trying to make is that luxuries are all around us if we just take time to think about it. It really isn’t just about buying that extra pair of shoes or those new golf clubs. There comes a time in our lives that luxury is the product of what we already have and how we use it to better the world around us.

Elihu Spencer is a local banking expert with a long business history in global finance. His work has been centered on understanding credit cycles and their impact on local economies. The information contained in this article has been obtained from sources considered reliable but the accuracy cannot be guaranteed.