Montage Los Cabos, which opened in June, is the most anticipated luxury hotel opening of 2018. So say some of the most knowledgeable professionals in the travel industry, whose votes bestowed upon this Mexican gem one of the Awards of Excellence that were handed out during the recent ULTRA Summit hosted by Luxury Travel Advisor, Travel Agent’s sister publication, in Palm Beach, FL.
Luxury Travel Advisor surveyed its Advisory Board — comprising the prestigious group of those who have appeared in the magazine’s cover stories over the years — to see what hotels excited them for 2018. Montage came out on top in a field of nine superb properties that span the globe from Mexico and the Caribbean to Europe and the Middle East to Asia and the South Pacific.
Wellness, renovated historic hotels and the beach were common threads for many of the hotels. Here is a look at these exceptional high-end hotels, all of which have made or are making their debut in 2018.
Montage Los Cabos Tops the Luxe List
Montage Los Cabos opened in June in The Twin Dolphin community in Santa Maria Bay (in Los Cabos’ Golden Corridor). There are 122 earth-toned rooms, suites and casas — all of which are at least 895 square feet and provide at least partial ocean views. The top digs are the Ocean View Casa with Pool options. Casa Twin Dolphin, Casa Santa Maria and Casa Cardón are fully enclosed with sprawling courtyards, an infinity-edge pool and even a garage. Each casa has three to five bedrooms, indoor / outdoor living areas and an open kitchen space.
Guests can take advantage of a 40,000-square-foot, full-service Spa Montage, a fitness center, multiple dining venues (with a focus on the region’s seafood), two pools, a children’s program and more. Travelers looking to stay in shape during their trip will be pleased to hear Montage Los Cabos maintains the brand-wide partnership with celebrity nutritionist Kelly LeVeque, who offers guests seasonal menu options.
Active guests have walk-in access to the waters of Santa Maria Bay, as well as some of the region’s top diving and snorkeling spots. There are tennis courts on site and an 18-hole Fred Couples Signature golf course is on the way, as well, with a debut set for fall 2018.
Runners-up: The Great Eight
These runners-up are hardly also-rans. All of them were finalists for the aforementioned Awards of Excellence. They are presented here in alphabetical order.
Capella Ubud, Bali: Nestled between Ubud’s rainforest, rice paddy fields and the sacred Wos River, the Capella Ubud opened at the end of June. Inspired by the early European settlers from the 1800s, architect Bill Bensley conceptualized this tented camp retreat as a tribute to their spirit of adventure.
Sensitivity to Ubud’s densely forested terrain was, and is, a top priority, and all products are sourced locally. Good to know: No trees were cut during construction. The property has 22 ultra-luxury tents (each with its own individual plunge pool), a two-bedroom lodge, an Auriga spa wellness retreat, The Capella Library, a tented gymnasium and dining options such as a robatayaki grill and garden specialty dining.
Ubud Capella is a tented camp inspired by Bali’s early colonial heritage and nestled within densely forested terrain.// Photo: Krishna Adithya - Bensley Collection
Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens: Opening soon (“mid 2018” is the official word), Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens is set to be the brand’s first property in Greece. Occupying a 75-acre estate on a pine-covered private peninsula, the resort will have two private beaches on what’s often referred to as the “Athens Riviera”—16 miles south of the bustling capital (about 30 minutes to the city center by car).
When the estate emerges from the 100 million-euro refurbishment, the seaside resort will have a room count of 303, including 61 bungalows, a posh, 10-treatment room spa and fitness center, eight dining options, three pools (two outdoor and one indoor), a beachside promenade and more.
Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens is set to be the brand’s first property in Greece. It will have 303 accommodation options, including 61 bungalows.
Raffles Europejski Warsaw: Originally opened in 1857, this historic hotel, which was almost completely destroyed during WWII, reopened this spring after undergoing a restoration project. Raffles Europejski Warsaw (which, in its current form, was rebuilt in stages in the 1950s) has 106 guestrooms and suites, a restaurant with an outdoor terrace showcasing Poland’s cuisine and a patisserie, tempting guests and locals with chocolates, cakes, ice creams and other sweet delicacies. There is also a bar, a cigar lounge and a spa.
The restoration team worked closely with the local conservation body to ensure the hotel’s heritage and character were preserved throughout the renovation. Raffles Europejski Warsaw is located in the capital’s historic district next to the Presidential Palace.
Raffles Europejski Warsaw, which originally opened in 1857 before being destroyed in WWII, has reopened with 106 guestrooms and suites.
Rosewood Baha Mar: Making its long-awaited debut in Nassau, The Bahamas, last month, Rosewood Baha Mar has 237 accommodations. All rooms and suites have balconies and the four beachfront residential-style villas each come with a private pool. The resort also has two swimming pools, cabanas and a spa for all guests.
Part of the Baha Mar complex, Rosewood — like the other hotels therein — has access to shared amenities such as the Caribbean’s largest casino, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, ESPA flagship 30,000-square-foot spa, and more than 40 restaurants, bars and lounges.
Rosewood Luang Prabang: April 2018 saw the debut of this boutique resort property in the tropical forests just north of central Laos. Rosewood Luang Prabang has 23 spacious accommodations, comprising four deluxe rooms, four specialty suites, three riverside villas, six pool villas and six luxury tents. Each of the resort’s guest housings is bordered by riverbank. Each of the 800-square-foot tented villas has its own private dining area and wrap-around deck.
Throughout the property, Lao tradition and French colonial style are found in the design and architecture, including the use of indigenous materials, locally inspired artwork and local artifacts and antiques.
At the Great House, the menu changes daily based on what produce is available from local farmers and markets. For something lighter, guests can opt for the riverside Elephant Bridge Bar, which offers healthy snacks and cocktails with a tropical spin. Local herbs and produce are also used in the treatments offered at the spa. Here, therapists are trained in Laotian healing techniques, while native village healer, Mr. Xong, specializes in Hmong Experience therapies using foraged ingredients.
Six Senses Bhutan: One of the most talked-about hotel projects of 2018 is the Six Senses lodges, slated to open in Bhutan in August. Luxury adventurers can embark on a circuit around the Himalayan Kingdom, visiting the five lodges in Bhutan’s western and central valleys, each designed around a specific theme. (Three lodges will be opening this summer with two more to follow by the end of 2018.) Note: It’s possible to just visit one of the lodges or Six Senses can create a customized itinerary. The lodges will range in size and facilities, but all will have a focus on spa, wellness, healthy eating, comfort in sleep and self-discovery.
What can your clients expect? Six Senses Thimpu lodge will be perched on a hill overlooking Thimphu Valley and the 170-foot-high Buddha. Punakha Valley, the warmest of the Six Senses destinations in Bhutan, will have a rustic rural vibe. Gangtey is a settlement in a glacial valley known for its population of endangered black-necked cranes. Bumthang is the farthest location to the east, and the lodge is referred to as “a forest within a forest.” The lodge in Paro Valley is near the famous “Tiger’s Nest” monastery.
Punakha Lodge in the Punakha Valley is the warmest of the Six Senses destinations in Bhutan.
Six Senses Fiji: The Six Senses brand’s first foray into the South Pacific debuted in April on Malolo Island. Six Senses Fiji is surrounded by white, sandy beaches, tropical forests and crystal-clear turquoise lagoons. The resort is privy to a private beach (2,100 feet long). The water sports team can arrange a number of excursions, including snorkeling and surf jaunts to nearby reef breaks.
Reflecting the brand’s commitment to sustainability, Six Senses Fiji will be 100 percent solar powered using Tesla batteries. There will be 24 one- and two-bedroom pool villas complete with private decks and outdoor showers. In addition, there will be 10 private residences (an additional 50 will be constructed during phase two of the development). F&B outlets will include two restaurants, a café, an outdoor pizzeria and grill plus two bars.
There’s also a top-notch Wellness Village with a Six Senses spa and gym. Highlights include a sprawling wet area with hot and cold whirlpools, the “alchemy bar” and a yoga pavilion perched in the treetops. The resort also provides a weekly activity guide with cultural and wellness experiences.
The Setai Tel Aviv: The Setai luxury hotel brand opened its second hotel in Israel, and the first along the Mediterranean, this past January. The Setai Tel Aviv, which joined The Leading Hotels of the World, is in the historic Old Jaffa area of the city, steps from Clock Square and the city’s coastline, at the historic site known as “Kishle,” which was originally constructed by the Turkish Empire to be a prison on the site of a historic Crusader fortress.
During the restoration, much of the building’s ancient roots were kept intact. Original wooden ceilings, wooden doors, ironwork and windows of Kishle were preserved. Two floors and a new wing designed to reflect the style of the historical structures were added. The Setai has 110 rooms and 10 suites. The top option is the Presidential Suite, with a master bedroom, a guestroom, a kitchen with a dining area and a balcony. Deluxe, Premium Plus, Executive and Premium rooms have balconies with views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Luxury Travel Demand Continues to Increase
The luxury travel market is well past the worry of the recession and is increasing at a much faster rate than any year since 2007—that’s according to the 2018 Advisor Survey, conducted by Travel Agent’s sister publication, Luxury Travel Advisor. The results were announced last month at its ULTRA Summit. Here are some key takeaways.
Spending is back to pre-2007 levels and so is the mentality. People are booking more and more suite-level accommodations everywhere and they are surprised when their first choices are not available. The recession is firmly in the rear-view mirror among many clients. Even when they first began booking luxury accommodations following 2008, some might have been “embarrassed” to discuss their travel; now, however, bragging on social media and to family and friends is almost commonplace; it’s creating competition among consumers, which is good news for advisors, who can help them book the most exclusive trips.
As for the advisors in attendance:
- 39 percent replied that their business grew by 10 percent over 2017
- 19 percent said it was up by 25 percent or higher.
- 35 percent of advisors expect their business to grow by more than 25 percent in the next five years.
Among challenges that advisors are facing include too much—or, interestingly enough, too little product. The former is an issue in that clients are often overwhelmed by the number of options, while the latter causes issues for travelers looking to explore secondary or off-the-beaten-path destinations. The availability of top accommodations, increasing demand and (again, interesting), attracting new clients are also top concerns.
To end with a few positives:
- Average trip spend saw a tie between $10,000 to $25,000 and $25,000 to $50,000 as the most common prices, with each receiving 39 percent of the vote.
- Just over half (52 percent) of advisors reported that spending in 2018 is up 10 to 20 percent over 2017.
- While 68 percent of advisors said the average age of their clients is 51-75 years old, 29 percent reported that the average age is 31 to 50, meaning they’re attracting a younger clientele who they can continue to manage for several decades more.