Hotels + Resorts
The heady scent of roses and exotic fruit tea is intoxicating as I enter the hotel suite. “We are so happy to have you,” says a smiling Indian gentleman in a perfectly pressed suit. His words are impossible not to believe.
Treating guests like royalty is a lofty goal that many hotels—too many—give much lip service to. Most properties, as we know, rarely live up to the promise. At New York City’s iconic Pierre hotel, which also happens to be the U.S. flagship for India-based Taj Hotels, a new butler service takes the challenge quite literally. Its “Royal Attachés” have tended to real-life kings and queens, as well as a who’s who of heads of state.
On a visit to the Pierre, I had the opportunity to taste, if only for a couple hours, the life of a Maharaja. Offered to Grand Suite guests, this level of Indian-style hospitality is the first of its kind in the U.S. For travelers who’ve experienced stilted, uncomfortably formal butler services near and far, the Taj Royal Attachés are a refreshing change. The overall service is, of course, as considered and detailed oriented as one might expect. But what’s unique—and what caught me off-guard—was the genuine warmth of the staff.
Palm trees, hammocks, sand: this is as stripped-down as a vacation experience gets, and one you’d swear couldn’t exist among the shell shops and tiki-festooned marinas of the Florida Keys. Yet here is the Moorings ($$$), a former coconut plantation with 18 tidy cottages, the vision of a peripatetic Frenchman who bought the 18-acre parcel in 1988 after spotting it from his windsurfer board. Despite the occasional frolicking model (the beach has seen its fair share of fashion shoots over the years), the resort still feels private. At sunset, amble across the road for rum cocktails and conch fritters at Morada Bay Beach Café, or do what the regulars do—bring back some stone-crab claws from the market to devour on your porch with a cold beer.
Photo by Blasius Erlinger
At this month’s 2012 PhoCusWright Conference, the travel tech industry’s much-anticipated annual event, many in attendance agreed that the Travel Innovation Summit, held on Day One, was, always, a highlight. (Read our conference dispatches here and here.)
It comes as no surprise that some of the most exciting, buzz-worthy attendees and presenters were the wunderkinds behind travel start-ups and high-profile online products. At the conference, they breakfasted together behind closed doors, networked, and schmoozed investors. Travel + Leisure sat down with select Millennial entrepreneurs—or maybe a better moniker is disruptors?—shaping the next generation of Travel.
Call it another miracle of technology: You don't have to be a bathrobe-clad buzzkill anymore, who squints out from your hotel-room door in the wee hours to give a dirty look to some partier loudly staggering down the hall. There's now a machine to do that for you.
Thanks, that is, to Premier Inn. The UK-based budget hotel chain guarantees guests that they'll get a good night's sleep—and gives them a refund if they don't.
Ask German soccer star turned furniture entrepreneur Bobby Dekeyser how he spends his time at Dedon Island—his new nine-villa resort on Siargao Island, in the southeastern Philippines—and he’ll wax on about surfing Cloud 9 beach, fishing for lapulapu, and paddleboarding to the offshore pagoda. Even if your agenda is more relaxed—say, picnic dinners in the mangrove forest or endless spa treatments—it’s all included. Which means your entire stay feels as carefree as a nap in one of the property’s whimsical “nests,” handwoven pods that hang from coconut trees. $$$$$
Photo by Paul Barbera / Courtesy of Dedon Island
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Happy holiday travels!
Can we take a moment? Because lately our arrangement has been feeling a bit stale. Positively outdated, even. When we asked you to suggest a great local spot for dinner, we didn’t mean your hotel’s “signature fine-dining outlet” or the white-linen relic you’ve probably been recommending for a decade. We meant where you would go for a casual night out. Do you still read the local papers? Maybe start skimming the blogs, too. We even know a concierge who started his own blog!
The point is, we’re here to actually get to know your town, and you’re our advance scout. We shouldn’t have to tell you about that great new gallery downtown or the cool cocktail joint that just opened. It’s okay to have a folder of harmless standbys. But trust us: we can handle something offbeat and authentic, like that great Indonesian spot your colleague in Amsterdam sent us to.
Indeed, many of your brethren go above and beyond, like the London concierge who selected a gift at Harrod’s for our friend’s wedding, or the guy in Tokyo who mapped out a complicated train journey for us. So please, don’t just feed us the same rote script. Wouldn’t a little creativity make your job more interesting?
The T+L Editors
Photo © iStockphoto
The 84-year-old grande dame just unveiled the next-generation rooms of its modern tower, part of a $58 million, 15-month renovation. (The original building will reopen in April 2013.) T+L got an advance look at the 21st-century makeover, complete with cutting-edge technology hatched in the hotel’s own R&D lab and a sleek new design that maximizes space and functionality. $$$$
• Guests can make free international calls on the wireless phones with VoIP (voice over Internet protocol).
• Ten multi-language touch-screen panels placed around the room control the lights, curtains, thermostat, television, and Internet radio (all 3,000 stations).
With a record 50.5 million visitors to New York last year, it’s no surprise that the hotel scene is heating up.
A flurry of Manhattan hotels new and old are trying to one-up each other—at a pace even a local like myself finds dizzying. In midtown, the stodgy Roger Williams is now the Roger New York ($$). Expect tufted blue-velvet sofas and—that signifier of hip hotels everywhere—a consulting mixologist.
• A $65 million update has converted the stalwart Helmsley into the Westin New York Grand Central ($$). Look for a restaurant and bar by buzz-maker Rande Gerber.
• France-based boutique hotelier Grace Leo is the driving force behind the renovation of the Millennium UN Plaza Hotel, now One UN New York ($$).
Ilaria Venturini Fendi may be a scion of the Roman fashion dynasty known for its leather handbags and furs. But for her, luxury is I Casali del Pino, the organic farm she owns 30 minutes from Rome, where she’s opening an agriturismo this fall. The cozy inn’s 19 rustic-chic rooms are furnished with wrought-iron beds, salvaged tiles, and under-floor geothermal heating. The eco ethic is nothing new for Fendi: her accessories company, Carmina Campus—which is also run from the farm—creates totes out of “upcycled” materials (venetian blinds; mosquito nets). There’s a restaurant serving dishes such as lemon-ricotta ravioli with pine-nut pesto. And the pecorino cheese on the menu? That’s courtesy of Fendi’s own flock of Sardinian sheep. 39-06/3089-5688.
Photo by Monika Hofler