From the local-on-arrival revolution to concierge apps and spa pampering for guys, global bookers Mr & Mrs Smith predict 10 of the top boutique hotel and travel trends for 2013.
1: Hyper-local experiences: rediscovering inner-city ‘villages’
Last year we noticed the rise of international experience seekers, from Bali to Thailand, using boutique hotel bases to tap into regional culture, activities and community programmes. Travellers want to live like a local, and they’re rediscovering inner-city ‘villages’ in cities from Berlin (Mitte) to New York (Brooklyn) and London (East End).
The success of homes-for-hire website Airbnb, and sites such as Plus One Berlin, Nectar & Pulse and Valet, which pair visitors up with inspiring locals, ‘soul mates’ or travel experts, are proof that we’re increasingly looking for hosts in the know, insider tips and authentic neighbourhood immersion. Smart hotels deliver the same.
Extending the trend, forward-looking hotels are hosting local boutiques in-house: in New York the Library Lounge at The NoMad Hotel stocks rare tomes custom-curated by Juniper Books. Singapore’s New Majestic Hotel offers selected local souvenirs and BooksActually – part-museum, part-store and part-installation located in the lobby. Budapest’s BrodyHouse draws in a creative local crowd with art events and readings.
2: Effortless living
We’ve spotted a trend for easy living, with havens such as newly launched Ovolo Hotel Melbourne ensuring minibar contents, WiFi, breakfast-to-go and other essentials (such as Apple TV) are automatically included in rates. It’s a simple fix, but one we expect to become the norm, as time-poor travellers seek out stress-free stays. Also in Melbourne, The Cullen has pioneered a radical approach to checking out – offering guests the chance to stay another night for free if no one else is checking in. ‘‘The world’s latest check-out’’ is a sign of game-changing things to come.
3: Heritage-modern havens
Rolling into 2013, the hottest design trend for boutique hotels is the heritage-modern hybrid, mingling original architecture and striking new spaces.
Sigh-inducing examples include interiors whizz Bill Bensley’s recent projects such as Angkor-inspired Shinta Mani in Siem Reap, art deco-influenced The Siam on Bangkok’s riverside and Phuket’s tin mine-channeling Indigo Pearl.
Jacques Garcia’s The NoMad Hotel in New York teams a beaux-arts heritage building with fashionable journey-themed touches. Minimal, contemporary Hotel Vestibul Palace in Split, Croatia, was converted from three Roman palaces. Hand-crafted furniture, antiques and vintage accessories – from retro suitcases and posters to old-fashioned gramophones – add old spice to the mix, taking us back to the future.
4: Fashion-forward food
Canny hotels have sussed that gourmet getaways attract a style-savvy crowd (with guests’ Twitter pics of dishes doubling as PR). Graphic bento box breakfasts are all the rage, as sampled at Austin’s Hotel San Jose; and South Australia’s The Australasian Circa 1858.
We also can’t get enough of barista-brewed coffee and global tea; Costa Rican eco-inn Finca Rosa Blanca offers sustainable coffee plantation tours, coffee classes and coffee body-scrubs.
Shanghai’s The Puli Hotel & Spa harnesses the restorative power of tea for wraps, scrubs and beauty packages.
Sri Lanka’s colonial Ceylon Tea Trails boasts tea-infused cuisine, tastings and visits to the local tea factory with a resident tea planter.
Vintage cocktails are making a comeback (thanks Hotel Muse, Bangkok), but the most surprising food trend? The reinvention of the once-dreaded hotel buffet, care of QT Port Douglas and QT Gold Coast. Bazaar, their interactive produce markets team help-yourself local meats, cheese, seafood and organic salads with cooked-to-order dishes whipped up live at food stations and delivered to your table.
5: Suits you, Sir: spa and sporty treats for men
Hotel spas are increasingly catering to guy grooming, with treatments tailored around male tastes and time.
At the new QT Sydney, gents can enjoy no-nonsense pampering – classic wet shaves and facials – at the old-school barber’s. At The Balé in Bali, there’s a 90-minute coffee ritual for men.
Also appealing to the boys, the tattooist at Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa makes a change from the usual mani/pedi spa offerings, with cutting-edge Polynesian skin art the ultimate holiday souvenir.
Stays are getting more sporty, too: Ovolo Hotel Melbourne’s Terrace Suite is fitted out with a punchbag; Bangkok’s The Siam boasts the world’s first muay Thai kickboxing ring in a hotel; Motu Teta in French Polynesia offers outrigger-canoeing and spearfishing; the Hamptons’ The Surf Lodge caters for waveriders; and Hayman on the Great Barrier Reef tempts with heli-golf.
On the decor front, London’s Dorset Square Hotel bowls guests over with a cricket theme.
6: Meet the concierge app: iPads, mobiles and more
In these fast-moving digital times, it’s no surprise that the concierge has gone high-tech.
At trendsetting QT Sydney, guests download the QT Concierge app, compatible with iPhones and most mobiles, once they’ve booked a room. Cue hot tips on everything from in-house spa treatments to the best local spots to shop, drink, eat and play.
Similarly, The Islington Hotel in Hobart offers iPads in rooms with a tour guide app to the hotel and its covetable art collection. Hotel bookings (and browsing) on mobile phones and iPads are also huge as we plan our trips on the go. Conversely, web-enabled smart TVs mean we can snap up stays recommended on our favourite travel shows without even leaving the couch.
7: The high life
Hotels can’t get enough of the high life, and neither can we. High-rise socialising and sipping is on the up partly thanks to tight architectural footprints in prime urban locations.
New York newcomers head up the trend, with a view-blessed bar at skyscraping scenester The James New York and minimally mod rooftop pool and bar at Hotel Americano – perhaps inspired by The Standard High Line’s lofty example, lording it over the High Line elevated park.
Bangkok’s Hotel Muse offers Prohibition-inspired rooftop bar Speakeasy for sinking sundowners; Hansar Bangkok totes cantilevered beds in its Vertigo Suites plus a skyline-scoping pool.
Even low-rise Bali seduces with sexy rooftop spaces at Anantara Seminyak and L Hotel Seminyak.
On a foodie tip, London’s Rough Luxe hotel is home to some rooftop beehives, raided for breakfast honey.
8: Boutique family breaks
Increasingly, boutique and luxury hotels are catering to family stays, too, aware that their original chic-couple customers are growing up and may have children in tow.
We’re not talking grim kids’ clubs and swimming pools overrun by sprogs, though; the best family-friendly retreats, such as Fiji’s Vomo Island Resort, seamlessly integrate children, allowing families to spend quality downtime with the smalls without sacrificing service or style.
The launch of Mr & Mrs Smith’s new spin-off Smith & Family website in 2013 responds to this mushrooming market, curating the most innovative child-friendly getaways from city to coast and country.
9: China calling
In 2013, we anticipate a growing wave of affluent Chinese travellers heading out, backed by the booming domestic economy and drawn by European glamour, Australian nature and the coastal cool of Asian neighbours Vietnam, Thailand and the Maldives (with a little hot shopping on the side).
From congee-toting Asian breakfasts at hotels to Mandarin-speaking staff and Chinese signage, smart stays will be meeting the needs of this new generation of independent globetrotters.
10: Hot spots
Last year’s emerging hot spots are gaining momentum (think Sri Lanka, Luang Prabang and Tasmania), and this year we predict Burma will be the big mover, as this mysterious, long-isolated south-east Asian nation emerges blinking onto the world stage.
Also in Asia, Bangkok is back, baby, thanks to a fistful of fresh, design-led hotels, and coastal Vietnam goes luxe, too, in a bid to become the new Thailand.
Rio de Janeiro and Marseilles-Provence will benefit from upcoming sporting and cultural events; Dubai from new global airline partnerships (booming low-cost airlines in the Asia-Pacific, including Jetstar, Scoot, Tiger and Peach, will also fuel regional travel lust).
Less obvious European cities, such as Istanbul, will pique our curiosity. Over in the Americas, we’ll be wowed by southern States cuisine and Costa Rican nature. See Smith’s Top 10 Travel Hot Spots for details.
And one for laughs…
As a cheeky response to austere global times, expect to see more hotels bringing the fun, from quirky staff uniforms to unusual features such as pinball machines in bedrooms, screening rooms, DIY Martini kits, cigar bars, pet treats, glam guest bikes and scooters for hire.
More at mrandmrssmith.com.
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