FIND THE X-FACTOR
More than a place to stay, hotels want to be part of a memorable holiday
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.
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.
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 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.”
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.
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.