The luxury hotel industry has come a long way from simply being a place for visitors to base themselves in a city, complete with a stock-standard selection of guest rooms, F&B outlets and a fitness centre. Guests are demanding far more from their temporary homes away from home, and hotels are responding in kind by offering memorable add-ons that see them more as destinations within themselves – and in some cases, all-encompassing, one-stop travel agencies.
Housing a carefully curated art collection is nothing out of the ordinary for luxury hotels, particularly new ones on the scene. But by boasting changing roster of works from well-known names (such as the rotating Warhols and Hirsts at New York’s Gramercy Park Hotel) or a collection of exclusively commissioned pieces (as is the case in the Raffles Istanbul), hotels align themselves with a city’s cultural institutions, attracting both guests and day-time visitors to come and take self-guided tours of the collections.
Historic hotels are at an obvious advantage when it comes to offering different experiences. Whether it is a room formerly occupied by famous guests or whether the hotel itself is housed in an original site such as a castle or monastery, they add an educational and enticing element to a standard hotel stay. Istanbul’s Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah have dedicated some of their suites to former guests including Greta Garbo, Ernest Hemingway and Agatha Christie (who allegedly penned Murder on the Orient Express at the hotel), while its top suite – once the favoured room of Ataturk – has been converted to a museum dedicated to this founding father of modern Turkey. At Sofitel the Grand Amsterdam, which occupies the old city hall, tours of the grounds and old city chambers are lead by knowledgable staff every day, immersing guests in the fabulous stories of the past and connecting them closer to the place they are staying at.
With an increased focus on luxury wellness, hotel and resort brands are upping the ante on their spa offerings so that guests in need of fully immersive rest and relaxation expereinces can find everything they need. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island’s Spa Retreat is set on an individual island a short boat ride from the main resort, and offers a destination-within-a-destination experience. But travellers don’t have to venture too far remote for an immersive spa experience. The ESPA Life by Corinthia, at the Corinthia Hotel in the heart of bustling London, offers one of the biggest spas in Europe, a subterranean sanctuary of wellness with a menu of lunch-hour procedures and longer wellness journeys so guests have the option to stay for a multi-day complete detox experience.
St. Regis and Four Seasons are just two major luxe hotel brands branching out to offer guests tours, exclusive excursions and more – staying, of course, at the respective branded properties. St. Regis’ Aficionado program offers discerning travellers exclusive experiences, be it a comprehensive, after-hours tour of the Vatican to a fashionable shopping experience in New York, all the while retiring to luxury lodgings at nearby St. Regis Hotels. Four Seasons’ own private jet service offers luxury world tour itineraries, while their exclusive cruiser, Explorer, charters around the Maldives for one-of-a-kind marine adventures. Such add ons create a complete holiday experience that taps into travellers’ increased need for exclusivity and convenience.