Small Luxury Hotels of The World: Luxury Travel Trends For 2020

Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) has released its annual Luxury Travel Trends Report, looking ahead at what it predicts to shape the luxury boutique experience in the coming year. From bio-architecture and conscience-free cuisine to dispersed hotels and ultimate relaxation methods, the report took into consideration “the creative, inspiring and novel elements” of the 520-plus independent hotels in SLH’s portfolio.

Travelers are looking to embrace pared-back extravagance by interacting with local cultures, respecting nature and participating in something that feels bigger than themselves. The full report outlines six specific overarching themes; they are:

Conscious Luxury

Examples of bio-architecture, conservation projects, widespread plastic-free initiatives and hotels striving for carbon neutrality are the highlight of the report. In 2020, SLH will be launching a Sustainability Manifesto, laying out commitments for the company as a business, as well as guidance for its member hotels. Some existing examples of sustainability include Aleenta Resort and Spa Hua Hin in Thailand, which champions carbon-free cooking; Harbour Village Beach Club in Bonaire, allowing guests who dive to learn how to hang and maintain corals and become PADI certified in coral restoration; Lefay Resorts in Lake Garda and the Dolomites, which have been offsetting CO2 emissions since 2013 and Akaryn Hotel Group, which will become a single-use plastic-free hotel group in 2020.

Dispersed Hotels

Dispersed hotels offer a new way to experience a hotel and a destination by spreading the areas out across buildings in a town or village. Enso Ango Fuya II in Kyoto is touted as Japan's first-ever dispersed hotel; each of the five buildings, dotted around one street, has its own particular style, features and functionality. San Canzian Village & Hotel in Buje, Croatia, opened in June 2019 and has been created on the ruins of an ancient medieval village providing an authentic experience of the lesser-known Istrian countryside, while Le Refuge de la Traye in Meribel, France, opened in December with eco-luxury chalets creating a “hotel hamlet.” Domaine des Etangs may appear to be a typical chateau, but with rooms scattered around the entire estate in separate farmhouse buildings, guests can create their own bespoke experience.

Upskilling Escapes

These are real, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, granting travelers VIP access to specialists in an effort to learn new skills or to become experts themselves. Guests at Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay can learn about the island's Neptune grass with a National Geographic presenter. Olympic skier Andrew Weibrecht is available as an exclusive ski guide to hotel guests down the slopes of Whiteface Mountain at Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa in the 1980 Winter Olympic resort of Lake Placid, New York. Recently opened in November 2019, The 121 Hotel in Nashville curates private songwriter sessions for guests to listen to songwriters talk about hit songs they penned for legendary country singers.

Wellness from Ahh to Zzz

Indigenous spa practices and rituals—such as hay baths, volcanic mud and Ayurvedic therapies—are on the rise, while the importance of sleep and innovative solutions to achieve optimum rest continue to be key for overall health and wellbeing. Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa in California is the first hotel to introduce a sleep fitness program, leveraging innovative technology; Le Grand Bellevue in Gstaad, Switzerland, will host an overnight “Bamford B Silent Sleep Retreat,” combining guided wellness techniques with targeted treatments, while Mind Therapy at Rockliffe Hall, U.K., provides the ultimate power nap using foundational Spa.Wave therapy.

The Root Back to Real Food

For foodies, plant-based restaurants in surprising places and the ongoing benefits of “going herbal” are rising in popularity. In addition, white charcoal, or binchotan, is being incorporated into food and drink across menus worldwide to absorb impurities and release vital minerals. The Prince Akatoki London and Mykonos Riviera Hotel & Spa both utilize Chikutan Sticks made from sustainably derived white charcoal for cocktails at their bars to purify and elevate the taste. Hotel de la Ville in Monza, Italy, includes white charcoal in a variety of fusion dishes in the Derby Grill restaurant to aid digestion.

Destinations to Watch

In 2020, SLH properties will be opening their doors in new-to-brand destinations. Gangtey Lodge in Bhutan, one of the only carbon-negative countries in the world, should lure active travelers, while cultural enthusiasts can appreciate its traditions. Nepal is gearing up to celebrate “Visit Nepal” in 2020 and, in December, the Lost Horizon Resort & Spa Begnas is scheduled to open near Pokhara. Azerbaijan is a combination of European, Asian and Middle Eastern influences that make it a fascinating place to explore from Dinamo Hotel Baku. Despite the country's small size, Montenegro is full of hidden treasures and a new destination for SLH in 2020 with Villa Geba joining the brand.

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