FIND THE X-FAC­TOR

More than a place to stay, ho­tels want to be part of a mem­o­rable hol­i­day

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - BEST HOTELS - AMANDA WOODS

More than a mere place to recharge be­tween see­ing the sights, ho­tels have adapted to be­come an in­te­gral part of our trav­els, and search­ing for the right place to stay can be al­most as ex­cit­ing as choos­ing the des­ti­na­tion it­self.

Here’s a look at what to ex­pect in the year ahead.

VIN­TAGE TREA­SURES

In a world where so many trav­ellers feel like they’ve seen it all be­fore, ho­tels in one-of-a-kind his­toric build­ings stand out from the crowd. These vin­tage struc­tures are not only unique, they share a sense of his­tory and place.

The for­mer TWA ter­mi­nal at New York’s JFK air­port not only looks like some­thing out of The Jet­sons, it opened the same year the TV show first aired back in 1962. Next year it will re­open as a $265 mil­lion ho­tel with a rooftop pool and mu­seum.

In Lon­don, the Old War Of­fice and one of the best-known build­ings in the city, the el­e­gant Ad­mi­ralty Arch at the op­po­site end of The Mall to Buck­ing­ham Palace, are both be­ing turned into lux­ury ho­tels.

Mean­while, in Ed­in­burgh a 1964 light­house steam ten­der is be­ing trans­formed into a “boa­t­ique” ho­tel to be an­chored next to the for­mer royal yacht of Queen El­iz­a­beth II, the Royal Yacht Britannia.

The 23 room-float­ing ho­tel will wel­come guests from Easter.

TRANS­FOR­MA­TIVE TRAVEL

A re­lax­ing hol­i­day is fine for some, but oth­ers want to come back feel­ing like new im­proved ver­sions of them­selves.

At Fair­mont Chateau Lake Louise in Canada’s Banff Na­tional Park, the more com­mon yoga and med­i­ta­tion ses­sions have been joined by new well­ness of­fer­ings in­clud­ing Spirit Medicine re­treats com­bin­ing tra­di­tional and holis­tic medicine, and Zen in the Art of Writ­ing work­shops, where med­i­ta­tion and mind­ful­ness are used in con­tem­pla­tive writ­ing.

Spas also con­tinue to look for new ways to pamper us.

In Lon­don, The San­der­son’s Mind­ful Touch by Natura Bissé fa­cial in­volves wear­ing a vir­tual re­al­ity mask in a “Bub­ble Pure Air” tent, while the spa at The Mon­drian is tak­ing things in a more so­cial di­rec­tion, invit­ing groups of friends to put on mud packs and catch up over healthy food bowls and sugar-free Prosec­cos to a glam rock sound­track in the spa lounge.

GREEN LIGHT

Green is queen ac­cord­ing to Ho­tels.com spokesman David Spaso­vic, who says or­ganic de­sign and lush luxe con­tinue to take the ho­tel world by storm.

“We’re talk­ing sus­tain­ably driven de­sign where nat­u­ral light­ing and green walls are the true stars,” he says.

Im­proved air qual­ity and lower en­ergy costs are among the ben­e­fits, and re­search shows that guests are likely to spend up to 36 per cent more time in a ho­tel re­cep­tion area with nat­u­ral el­e­ments.

“1 Ho­tel on Cen­tral Park, New York, is a prime ex­am­ple.” Spaso­vic says. “In­cor­po­rat­ing green­ery to the fa­cade of the ho­tel as well as the re­cep­tion and through­out rooms brings the nat­u­ral beauty and calm­ing en­ergy of Cen­tral Park in­side.”

VIP EX­PE­RI­ENCES

While an up­grade and bot­tle of Cham­pagne is still a thrill for most, some ho­tels are rais­ing the bar when it comes to spoil­ing their loyal cus­tomers.

Mar­riott Rewards is in­tro­duc­ing “mas­ter classes” where re­demp­tions in­clude cook­ing lessons with Miche­lin-starred chefs Eric Ripert and Paco Perez, golf lessons with Ir­ish pro golfer Padraig Har­ring­ton, and un­der­wa­ter con­ser­va­tion lessons with Jean-Michel Cousteau.

At Wal­dorf As­to­ria ho­tels, guests have been given the chance to drive a Lam­borgh­ini, with an in­struc­tor rid­ing shot­gun that is, while those stay­ing in se­lect suites at the Berke­ley Ho­tel in Lon­don have a trunk de­liv­ered to their room full of vin­tage de­signer items in­clud­ing Chanel purses and Her­mes silk scarfs that they can bor­row free of charge dur­ing their stay.

CHECK YOU OUT

Check­ing in and out con­tin­ues to evolve in ho­tels, and while ro­bot re­cep­tion­ists are still rel­a­tively rare, more trav­ellers are us­ing their mo­bile phones to both check in and let them­selves into their rooms thanks to key­less en­try.

Some ho­tel apps also al­low guests to or­der ex­tra tow­els or pil­lows and change the light­ing in their room, and some Aloft ho­tels even have an Emoji Room Ser­vice where guests can turn texts of emo­jis from the in room menu into a knock at the door with their or­der.

Mean­while, when Trave-Lodge Syd­ney Air­port opened in Septem­ber it in­tro­duced Aus­tralia’s first “silent check-out” where guests can sim­ply point at a sign to in­di­cate if they want to check out, stay an­other night, or need cof­fee, af­ter be­ing wo­ken by an ol­fac­tory alarm clock that uses the smell of ba­con or cof­fee to rouse peo­ple from their slum­bers.

PIC­TURES: ERIC LAIGNEL/1 HO­TELS, SBE/MORGANS HO­TEL GROUP, THE BERKE­LEY, SUP­PLIED

Cen­tral Park green is queen at 1 Ho­tel, New York (main); in Lon­don have fun spa so­cial­is­ing at The Mon­drian and play dress-ups at the Berke­ley Ho­tel. The Mur­ray fea­tures lux­ury de­sign; and (op­po­site page) W Ho­tel Bris­bane.

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