Lucy Jackson of new boutique travel specialist Lightfoot Travel on the latest luxury travel trends.
Where are sophisticated travellers heading to on holiday this year?
It appears that travellers are becoming more experiential in their holiday choices. It is more about the destination and what it has to offer rather than the property. Bhutan is an example of a popular destination this year. You can quite literally walk around the foothills of the Himalayas and get an insight into local village life. People travelling want to feel like they are getting away to somewhere different for a while.
Which new hotels are you looking forward to opening this year?
I am excited about a resort in Cambodia called Song Saa which is just off the coast on a private island. At the moment there aren’t any boutique options around the coast so this one is an extra special treat. Every traveller wants to go to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh in order to soak up the history within easy tourist infrastructure and see as much as they can in the most convenient way possible. However, to be able to have a central cultural focus combined with the beach element is also unique. This is why Song Saa is so appealing. It is always good to try something a bit different.
Are travellers prioritising design and architecture when booking a hotel?
It really depends on what their requirements are. Some clients need a level of comfort and reliability and require gadgets like iPod docks in their rooms to give them a sense of familiarity. Upper House in Hong Kong, for example, provide iPads that guests can use while they are there and iPods in every room! Technology seems to be high in demand in hotels these days and both style and design is important for the sophisticated traveller.
Do travellers prefer cutting edge design, or history and tradition when booking a place to stay?
Our clients are so well educated that they often want to have that cultural element. However, sometimes you need to escape and be on a beach or in a really edgy hotel. People want to say ‘you have got to stay here’ but also be the first one that got there because the design is so cool. In Asia, it seems people want to soak up the culture that’s immediately around them. Aman works because you’ve got the cool comfort of your room, but also the added bonus of getting an insider look into the traditions of the culture-rich areas where Aman Resorts always seems to be located.
Are people likely to look for environmentally conscious resorts?
I don’t think people look for it, but if they know it’s there it’s a bonus. It’s the reeducation of travel. We have travelled for so long without any accountability of what we are doing and now people are becoming more aware. I visited an incredible hotel in Sri Lanka called the Ulugalla Resort which generates its own electricity through solar power while managing to give 50% back to the national grid. It was exciting and encouraging to see a combination of the old and the new. If clients start demanding environmental consciousness, it will start being integrated into hotels more and more. Six Senses do this very well and their environmental consciousness is apparent in all of their resorts. Soneva Kiri in Thailand is an example of this. It is made out of all renewable materials and the design is very impressive. It also employs mainly local people, providing an income for the community. The area is really beautiful and has amazing mangroves, so the eco elements are relatively necessary in order to give the guests an authentic natural feel to their surroundings.
Which new builds and attractions do you think will tempt new tourists?
I think the Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives. It’s super chic and the best of what the Maldives has to offer right now, which says a lot considering its competition. My colleague recently went there and was blown away. It has taken the high level of quality so often seen in the Maldives resorts and surpassed that standard. The design and location is impeccable. Pulau Joyo, which is close to Bintan Island, is also becoming a popular spot and its locality being so close to Singapore has major appeal.
Are hotels and villas keeping up with the demand for high-end travel?
Yes, there’s a new property opening every week. It’s hard for us to keep up with the product! Even though this is the case, we try to only sell properties that we have been to. We can’t get everywhere so we have to stay up to date and be honest with our clients. We will never promote something we don’t know at all.
Which destination or hotel currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
Having just had our launch party with Wild Bush Luxury who are our partners in Australia, I would have to say Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef. It is an incredible safari camp in Western Australia’s Cape Range National Park where you can experience sensational activities like diving with whale sharks and kayaking around the reef. Guests stay in one of the luxury tents by the water which are amazingly designed, but also fairly rustic.
And finally, which resort or hotel stands out for you as your most memorable stay?
From a design point of view, I would say the Fasano in Rio de Janeiro, by Philippe Starck. It is very cool and contemporary with lots of natural materials. There is a rooftop pool looking over Ipanema Beach which is where the local cariocas (people) play volleyball and just hang out. You get a bit of everything, and through its design features, it brings an element of old style Rio into the hotel even though it’s modern. Another one of my most memorable stays is a place called Azura in Mozambique on Benguerra Island. You can fly in by helicopter or take a boat. They have amazing activities like diving with dugongs. They sort of look like fish dinosaurs which is amazing to see! You can also set up a sand bank picnic for the day. What’s great is that it’s like getting a beach in the middle of nowhere and yet you could walk around the island and see a local football match going on. It brings lots of elements together.