Boutique hotel and trip trends for 2014
Boutique hotel experts Mr & Mrs Smith have announced their predictions for 10 of the top accommodation and travel trends to watch for this year.
1. Local Life
Hotels are helping guests get to know the locals or at least get to grips with the local scene. Budapest boutique hotel Brody House champions the city's artistic energy, holding exhibitions, readings and other cultural events for guests.
Rooms are named after the local artists whose works decorate walls, staff abound with hot tips on what to do in the area and the hotel even has its own record label, Brody House Sounds.
Stay at Claska in Tokyo and you'll see the city's best-dressed canines (and owners) pop by for a pooch-pampering treatment at the doggy beauty salon downstairs. Claska also has a gallery, boutique and lively bar, as well as a series of arty events held on the hotel's rooftop terrace.
Beyond boutique bedrooms, there's a string of services promising instant immersion with the locals - Eat With, for example, which hooks up hungry visitors with hosts happy to cook dinner for guests in their own homes.
2. Sleep Swamis
The best hotels have been offering guests access to personal chefs, personal trainers and health and well-being gurus for years. Now some hotels are going the extra mile to ensure that guests even have a fabulous time while they're asleep.
Anantara Kihavah Villas in the Maldives has a slumber guru responsible for making sure that guests get a restful night. The slumber guru's bag of tricks includes soothing milk baths, relaxing massages and a pillow menu.
Alila Villas also takes sleep very seriously. Both Alila Villas Uluwatu and Alila Villas Soori have a pillow menu, a selection of essential oils and scented candles up their (pyjama) sleeve.
3. Seriously Social
Like it? Tweet it. Seen it? Instagram it. The social-media savvy are here to stay and hotels are getting wise to marketing via mobile - so much so, in fact, that some have even been built specifically with social in mind.
Take 1888 Hotel in Sydney, whose design was mapped out to maximise its Instagram-ability, and some of the Melia group hotels, where specialist concierges respond to guest requests via Twitter.
We think hotels are going to get even more switched on to social in 2014 and beyond...
4. Family Affair
Travelling with children in tow doesn't have to mean compromising on style and service. Mr & Mrs Smith's new site, Smith & Family, puts family travel first. Hotels are picking up on the trend, too.
A great example is Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain in China (set to open in 2014), which has village-style accommodation that works well for families, an excellent kids club and a panda research centre just 10 minutes away where you can interact with panda bears and their cubs.
Etihad is even introducing a Flying Nannies service on long-haul flights, with their nannies (specially trained cabin crew members) accredited by Norland, Britain's leading childcare training college.
On the other hand, Scoot, Singapore Airlines and AirAsia X now offer child-free zones on some flights.
5. Playing Tarzan
Hoteliers have become increasingly creative when it comes to where guests rest their heads. One trend we particularly love is the rise of treehouse hotels.
Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses in New Zealand has been giving us a natural high for a while but wannabe Tarzans and Janes can now also cuddle up in the canopies at grand country manor Chewton Glen, Hampshire, as well as at Japamala Resort and Bunga Raya in Malaysia.
6. Beyond The Bedroom
Rather than simply provide a space to bed down for the night, hotels are offering even more bang for your buck. They are increasingly places where guests and locals alike want to while away the hours, not simply head straight to their rooms.
The Ace Hotel Bar at the Ace Hotel New York (winner of the Hottest Hotel Bar at the inaugural Smith Awards in November 2013) and The Zetter Townhouse in London are a scene unto themselves.
And while a great bar can put a hotel on the map, lobbies and libraries are jostling for recognition too. Swing by the photo booth in the lobby at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, for example. Take it from us, an impersonal arrival is a thing of the past.
7. Distracting Destinations
With the World Cup kicking off in June, 2014 is set to be all about Brazil. Beyond Rio, we love the melting pot of Bahia for its forested interior and stylish seaside resorts, and Ponta dos Ganchos in Santa Catarina for beachcombing and jungle roaming.
We predict the southern states of America are on the up, so watch out for Austin's cool and contemporary Hotel San Jose and the understated but sophisticated Zero George Street in Charleston.
We're excited about Japan too, so look east to our cool kid on the block, Claska in Tokyo, or Beniya Mukayu in Kanazawa. Don't neglect Sri Lanka - we love Paradise Road Tintagel Colombo and Casa Colombo in the capital.
8. Hot Hotels
The minimalist masterpiece that is Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland, Canada, is set to make waves on the hotel scene. It won Best Newcomer at the Smith Hotel Awards 2013 due to its soul-stirring location and incredible interiors.
This year, keep your eyes peeled for the opening of Grace Marrakech in Morocco, the Pig near Bath in Britain and Alila hotels in India (Alila Fort Bishangarh in Jaipur) and Oman (Alila Jabal Akhdar). We'll be dispatching Smith reviewers there soon, so watch this space...
9. Delayed Reaction
Delays to a journey are always a nuisance but travellers can now choose from a range of services designed to take the sting out of lengthy waits. In the Netherlands, VertragingsApp is an iOS app that offers readers short stories based on the length of their delay.
In Australia, Qantas Airways has created a range of books carefully selected to correspond with flying times.
Based on research that shows the average reader can finish around one page a minute, "Stories For Every Journey" is a collection of novels and non-fiction titles that are the perfect length to be enjoyed between take-off and landing (allowing breaks for meals, naps and bouts of leg-wiggling, of course).
10. Room Service: Shaken And Stirred
In 2013, the New York Hilton Midtown stopped offering breakfast in bed for the residents of its 1,980 rooms. We predict a fresh approach to in-room snacking from other hotels, too.
Public Chicago leaves a breakfast bag at your door and The Upper House has gone high tech - guests can order from an iPod touch. Watch this space for even more innovation in bedroom banqueting.