Four Haute Hotel Happenings in 2015

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Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal.
Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal.

The luxury hotel market is shifting and these days the game changer is what defines luxury. Is it a Michelin-starred restaurant? A far-flung destination? A private palace stay? Long gone are the days where swanky suites are the sole equivalent of a luxury experience.

We caught up with some of the major players in the luxury segment at the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) in December in Cannes—could the location get any more glamorous?—to hear what’s in store for the year to come.

banyan tree
Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts are defined as a “sanctuary for the senses,” appealing to the romantic side of travel in a slightly more off-the-beaten path locale.

The all-villa principal brand started 30 years ago on the coast off Phuket in Thailand, and since then two new brands have been added to the family. The first is Angsana Hotels & Resorts, which appeals to family and millennial travelers. The second, Cassia, will open its first hotel this year, offering a design-savvy extended stay option. A fourth brand will be announced later this year, so keep an ear out for more details.

In addition, one of this year’s highlights—agents, take note—is the opening of the all-pool villa resort Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay, Morocco, located along the country’s northwestern coast, less than an hour from the blue village of Chefchaouen.

 Belmond Eagle Island Lodge.
Belmond Eagle Island Lodge.

Don’t worry if you haven’t been acquainted yet with the Belmond brand. Chances are, you probably know the collection under a different name—Orient-Express Hotels Ltd.

“2014 has been a busy year for Belmond,” says Ralph Aruzza, Belmond’s chief sales and marketing officer. “As well as launching a new brand name, we have recently announced exciting ventures, property refurbishments, new train journeys and stand-alone experiences throughout our collection.”

Derived from the Latin terms for “beautiful” and “world,” Belmond aims to show guests just that through its collection of hotels, trains, cruises and tours. The key theme here is experiences, and the new products really highlight this factor. Take the water-based safari lodge Belmond Eagle Island Lodge in Botswana, for example. Reopening this summer after a 6-month refurbishment, the lodge, which features 11 tents and a private suite, is the only one of its kind in the Okavango Delta.

A romantic beach dinner at Madinat Jumeirah.
A romantic beach dinner at Madinat Jumeirah.

Dubai-based Jumeirah—known for iconic properties like the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab Jumeirah—has 22 hotels spread throughout 11 countries, with 17 more on the way in destinations from St. Petersburg, Russia to Macau. This year, however, the brand is focusing on improvements to a property close to home—the 10-year-old Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. After refurbishing one of its two boutique hotels, the 292-room Mina A’Salam, last year, the property will complete renovations on the Dar Al Masyaf summerhouses in September and open a new 433-room hotel in 2016. Jumeirah has also chosen to launch the first hotel in its second brand, VENU, in Dubai.

six senses
Six Senses has quite a few projects in the works, from its first hotel in Europe to its first ski resort—all part of a plan to double the number of hotels over the next three years, setting up shop on three more continents and two islands. While the 32-room Six Senses Mont Blanc isn’t set to open until 2017, the 57-room Six Senses Douro Valley will open this spring in Portugal. Set in a 19th century manor house located above the vine-covered valley and river, the hotel will feature elements from the region’s rich food and wine history at the onsite farm-to-table Portuguese restaurant, as well as a 24,000-sq.-ft. Six Senses Spa.