Travel Editor STEPHEN SCOURFIELD turns his mind towards the finer things in life
luxe WHAT IS LUXURY?
Our mind’s eye so easily conjures up over-water thatched villas set against the turquoise water of the Maldives.
Our imaginations can summon the greenery of Mauritius, or infinity pools and massage tables in Thailand.
The fundamental of luxury accommodation is simply that it’s better than being at home, a highly experienced hotelier in a London boutique property explains to me.
“Great comfort, especially as provided by expensive and beautiful things,” adds a dictionary definition. “To live in luxury, a luxury cruise, a luxury hotel.”
I suspect the word “luxury” (way back) simply took over from the word “quality”.
But luxury travel today, and in the future will need to be more than gin and tonics on a veranda with a view.
It will need to leave us shaken and stirred. It will need a twist.
luxe LUXURY IN TRANSITION
The whole concept of luxury is perceived by some to be changing, broadening and evolving.
Skift, an international media company founded in 2012 that provides research and marketing services to the global travel industry, concluded in its Trends Report: The Luxury Evolution:
“Luxury is in the midst of a metamorphosis. While luxury once meant the most expensive or most well-known product or experience, today it’s become a way of being or moving throughout the world.
“Luxury is a means of travel rather than a destination. Previously evident only by the physical representation of wealth, it is now sought after for its mental and spiritual expression.
“The concept of luxury is changing exponentially today because our societal and cultural norms and expectations are changing more quickly than in the past.”
To produce the report, Skift in partnership with Marriott International, interviewed more than 12,000 affluent consumers in the United States, United Kingdom, China, United Arab Emirates and other parts of the world.
Two thirds or more of luxury consumers in the US, UAE and UK agreed with the statement that “luxury goods and services are about differentiating myself from others”.
And the report concluded: “No longer is luxury travel just about coveted brands or chic destinations. Those things still matter, but there’s a now new layer to the luxury experience, one in which the attainment of the most creative, adventurous or peaceful idealised version of ourselves is the ultimate goal.
“The shift is from an external to internalisation of luxury and the journey the consumer sets out on to achieve his or her ideal state.”
luxe AMENITIES & MORE
Every luxury room seems to have a coffee machine. L’Occitane is de rigueur. Butlers come and go. Champagne chills in a silver-shiny bucket.
But at St Regis, properties still maintain the tradition of opening that champagne with a sabre. Champagne sabring (removing the cork with the swipe of a sword) dates back to the days of Napoleon.
In this wellness travel era, an aromatherapy menu has also been introduced to some suites, and the spa at Las Alcobas Napa Valley, 100km north of San Francisco in California, has an apothecary-style aromatherapy blending bar.
Pillow menus are, well, so last decade — look out now for in-room plant menus, from which guests can choose which plants they’d like in their room. At The Halcyon hotel in Denver, Colorado, each comes with instructions on how to care for it.
Still in that part of the world, the W Los Angeles West Beverly Hills, has a cocktail bar in its elevators on Saturday evenings, and the world’s first craft beer hotel, The DogHouse, is inside a brewery in Columbus, Ohio. Guess what’s in the mini bar.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel is famous for welcoming guests with a warm chocolate chip cookie, but at the DoubleTree Curtis Denver, in Colorado, there’s also a video game suite. It has a Donkey Kong arcade game and Mario-inspired wall decorations.
That’s enough of all the tech! If you just want to sit back and enjoy some music, head to The Edgewater Hotel in Seattle. Not only is it a beautiful waterfront property, but it has acoustic and electric guitars for guests, along with sheet music from artists who’ve stayed there, including the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Van Halen, Pearl Jam and KISS. I’ve seen a picture from a press conference with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in the Edgewater’s Room 272.
Every evening in the stunning Grand Hotel Tremezzo, next to Lake Como in Italy, a handwritten love letter is delivered to guests. Each was written by a hotel guest in the 1970s. They were found behind the wallpaper of a secret wardrobe, and kept secret for years, before the owners decided to share them. They give an historic look into the hotel’s past. Turn-down service may never be as intimate again.
luxe BUSINESS CLASS
It starts at the front door, with private car pick-up.
And once on board, quality airlines make much of the food and drinks they offer in business class, and rightly so.
For example, Singapore Airlines is rightly proud of its “international culinary panel”, which includes Australian Matt Moran, Carlo Cracco (Italy), Georges Blanc (France), Sanjeev Kapoor (India), Yoshihiro Murata (Japan) and Suzanne Goin (US).
In business class, travellers can choose from a “Book the Cook” menu. In business class from Perth, that might be slow braised Moroccan lamb shank, dukkah-encrusted pan seared Tasmanian salmon, classic lobster thermidor or deep fried Szechuan style tofu.
In business class on Qatar Airways, one entree is the Arabic mezze plate. An on-demand a la carte menu then lets diners eat anytime they like. As a spokesperson tells me, this is “the new age of airline dining”.
Emirates has a lounge for business class flyers on its A380s, and meals are served on Royal Doulton fine bone china, with cutlery exclusively made for Emirates by Robert Welch.
Complimentary champagne in Business Class helps to elevate the flight.
This is an edited version of the original, full-length story, which you can read here.
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