Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time with people in the travel world, first at the Pure Life Experiences show in Marrakesh and then at ILTM, the International Luxury Travel Market, in Cannes. In fact, I’m on the flight home from France as I write this letter. One thing is clear: no one seems to be retreating in defeat after a year and a half of managing through a global economic crisis. On the contrary, there are a myriad of exciting initiatives in the works—destinations opening up or becoming more accessible for exploration, urban projects being developed, and new ships being launched.
Herewith, a quick overview of some insights I brought home with me:
It’s all about experience, and perhaps most markedly these days at the very high end of the market. Companies like Nomads of the Seas, whose Chilean founder, Andrés Ergas, took part in a panel I moderated at ILTM, provide full-fledged adventure trips—in this case, fly-fishing, heli-skiing, and other options off a 28-passenger ship cruising the Patagonian fjords—as well as intensive pampering (food by celebrated chefs; massage and thalassotherapy).
Little things can make a huge difference. Another panel member, Sonu Shivdasani of Bangkok-based Six Senses Resorts & Spas, known for its sustainable resort properties, among them Six Senses Hideaway, mostly in Southeast Asia, and Soneva in the Maldives, pointed out that the most memorable experiences may be as simple as tasting a rocket salad just picked from the property’s kitchen garden or enjoying an alfresco massage on the beach.
Good design is about environments that work. Glenn Pushelberg, of New York– and Toronto-based Yabu Pushelberg, whose luxury clients include Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Tiffany, and Bergdorf Goodman, called for a more humanistic approach to interiors: “It should be thought through, i.e., ‘Is there a place for my newspaper, espresso coffee in my room, easy-to-use amenities?’ One should feel the natural beauty of the space, not just see the adornment.”
Authenticity is key. The Augustine, set in a 13th-century monastery in Prague, could only be a product of that historic city, where classic Czech style is being reinvented in an intriguingly modern way.
Simplicity is a great escape. My favorite meal of the trip took place in Turin, at Tre Gallini, a small and modestly appointed restaurant whose kitchen is overseen by a gifted chef, Loredana Florio. After starting off with an entirely delicious bagna cauda, I succumbed to another local specialty—bollito misto (not my usual chicken or fish)—and let me tell you, it was divine, especially with local Barbera wine. Somehow all the stresses of previous work and travel just melted away.
And as for romantic places, the subject of this month’s cover story, there should be lots more ahead. Adventure, comfort, authenticity, and simplicity—what better building blocks can there be for real and abiding romance?
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