Luxury and experiential travel is one of the fastest growing sections of the travel industry. Today’s travellers want the opportunity to experience accommodation that was once reserved for the rich. They are braver than ever and are prepared to travel well off the beaten track. They are looking for something unique and individual.
As new destinations emerge, traditional tourist hotspots and resorts have to rethink their approach in order to stay relevant. Many are doing so by upgrading their rooms and facilities, and offering new experiences to their guests.
I have just returned from Luxperience, an annual get-together in Australia for all those associated with the high-end travel industry. It exposed all the newest and best operators to the travel industry buyers and showed where this growing part of the industry is heading.
I have selected five products which show the level of luxury and diversity that is now available to world travellers. Four are accommodation while the fifth is accommodation on the move.
Khaolak Laguna Resort
This property is in the coastal area of Khaolak, southern Thailand. It features two spectacular swimming pools, two bars and a restaurant. All the luxurious rooms have a private balcony with ocean or garden views. Enjoy massage treatments at Chiva Spa or work out at the well-equipped fitness centre. Guests can also make use of the sauna and hot tub for a relaxing afternoon. There is a children’s playground for younger guests.
The Oriental Restaurant offers Thai and international cuisine and can prepare a private beachfront meal upon request. There are a number of healthy activity daily programs alternatives from Yoga, Tachi and Muay Thai, all with professional instructors, to biking through the nature and the local community. Take a Thai cooking class at Khaolak Laguna where you learn the popular Thai dishes and bring home the genuine recipes.
The resort is perfect for relaxing but there are also activities you might like to try. For those nature lovers, Khaolak Safari the Eco-adventure tour takes you into Khaolak National Park area, to do elephant trekking and bamboo rafting. For sea lovers, the full day snorkeling trip with lunch is great. It is only 45 minutes by speed boat to Similan Islands National Park.
Daintree Eco Lodge
Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa is located in the middle of the Daintree National Park Rainforest in Australia’s North Queensland. This luxurious hotel has an award-winning spa and the restaurant overlooks the freshwater lagoon. Each of the 15 secluded, raised villas has a fully screened balcony with stunning views of the rainforest surroundings. Guests typically spend their days exploring the wider area, with leisurely afternoons reserved for relaxing on their balcony, or indulging in the Wellness Spa.
You can wander through the world’s oldest rainforest, 40 million years older than the Amazon! Guests can learn about Aboriginal culture at the Aboriginal Art Gallery or take a tour with an indigenous guide who will explain the uses of the plants that the Kuku Yalanji people have been using as medicines, foods and in daily life for 30,000 years.
The Wellness Spa offers a range of treatments from massages to facials which give a mind, body and soul experience. All products used in the spa are natural native flora, earth and sea minerals. Follow a treatment with a meal in the tranquil and relaxing rainforest setting of the Julaymba Restaurant & Bar where you can sample the very best of contemporary Australian cuisine. You are likely to take away a lasting sense of wellbeing.
Recapture the romance and atmosphere of a bygone era as you step aboard the reconditioned wood-panelled coaches and enjoy fine cuisine in five-star luxury. Rovos Rail is a private railway company operating out of Pretoria, South Africa. It runs its train-hotel to a regular schedule on various routes from South Africa to Namibia and Tanzania. One train, The Pride of Africa, is hailed as the most luxurious train in the world. It really is a beautiful anachronism: a refurbished Edwardian-style train designed to take guests back in time as it meanders through some of Southern Africa’s least-seen but most spectacular countryside.
The trains consist of restored Rhodesia Railways coaches with two lounges, two restaurant cars, and private sleeping compartments, each with ensuite facilities. Meals are served in the charming Victorian atmosphere of the dining cars and are complemented by a selection of fine South African wines. The non-smoking lounge cars have deep sofas and wingback chairs in which guests are often seen nodding off for an afternoon snooze.
For Rovos Rail passengers, a highlight of their journey is a visit to the private station in Capital Park, Pretoria. The once bustling hub of steam locomotion in the old Transvaal is now the headquarters for Rovos Rail. The gracious colonial-style railway station serves as the departure or arrival point for all train journeys. There is a small railway museum in addition to its other comprehensive facilities.
Located atop the Uchisar Valley, Turkey, Ariana Sustainable Luxury Lodge offers you a completely unique perspective of Cappadocia; a land that witnessed the rise of the first civilizations in world history. Cappadocia lies in the heart of Ancient Anatolia, one of the cradles of human civilization. Here, the earliest cities in world history appeared, about 5000 BC.
This member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, is a contemporary hotel immersed in an ancient landscape. It has a restaurant, a fitness centre, and sun terraces that offer breathtaking views for a relaxing yoga session or an alfresco massage. The property was recently listed in the Condè Nast Traveler Hot List.
There are striking artworks, old mosaics, and vaulted ceilings dotted with trendy lights, leather sofas beside the über-cool wood burner in the lobby, and fresh, seasonal menus in The Plum Restaurant, accompanied by spectacular views. Each of the 11 rooms features air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, iPod dock, fireplace, safe box, a minibar, coffee machine, private bathroom and a seating area.
V-Villas Hua Hin
About two hours’ drive from Bangkok, V Villas Hua Hin MGallery by Sofitel enjoys a convenient location on the beach, close to golf courses and the lively town of Hua Hin, and offers 23 luxurious private villas. Tropical décor created by palm wood furnishings provides the ideal setting for rest and relaxation.
Providing guests with plenty of privacy, each villa comes with amenities such as spacious private pools and living rooms with hi-tech home theatre sound system. Exquisite and tranquil, this is a sophisticated retreat designed for discerning guests in search of romance, revival, and recreation.
There is 24-hour butler service, and the picturesque Villazzo Restaurant and Bar, the resort’s chic poolside venue, serves exquisite cuisine alfresco or in air conditioned comfort. The Poolside Bar nestles on the edge of the beach with a beautiful sea view, and offers an extensive range of snacks and an a la carte menu.