January 14, 2006
By: Guest Writer
Originally published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 21 December 2005 By George Romanyk Even as I write this, the guttural growl of a Harley Davidson (not to mention a roaring chorus of other Harleys, BMWs and Japanese superbikes) is still echoing in my ears. You see, I've just returned from a five-day road trip to the Golden Triangle, along with an assortment of biker friends who also happen to be company presidents, CEOs and entrepreneurs. Now, before you start wondering what this has to do with a column on branding (or start snickering "born to be mild''), I'd like to share some insights I garnered during the course of this challenging and exhilarating journey. While our group was on the road during the days, we certainly weren't averse to roughing it. We got our motors running, we headed out on the highway, and when the highway occasionally deteriorated into a rutted, muddy track, we were well up for it. Ah, but at the end of each day, the discomforts of the road were eased by the unique boutique resorts on the Mekong our assistants had booked us into, as well as some first class meals, and the imported wines and cheeses and some truly tasty Cuban cigars we had smuggled along in our saddlebags. My point (besides making you green with envy) is that our little jaunt was a good example of a major change sweeping the world right now in how luxury is perceived and experienced. For many of the "baby boomers'' and the swelling ranks of "Generation X'' (people born between 1964 and 1976 or thereabouts), the era of ostentatious luxury is over, and instead they are demanding authenticity and adventure. We still want our luxuries, but we want them contemporary, with a hip twist; luxury that "keeps it real'', as it were. Particularly in the luxury hotel and travel sector are these demands being felt. At the recent International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes, the age of ostentatious travel was proclaimed to be over, with new research unveiled showing today's wealthy travellers needed "authenticity, exclusivity and attention to detail'' to keep them happy. "Personalised'' and "private'' were also big buzzwords. In a survey of 248 travel suppliers from around the world who service the needs of the affluent, 84% agreed their clients sought a more subtle form of luxury than in the past. The survey, by the Future Foundation, concluded: "No longer content to visit the classic haunts of the rich and famous, today's luxury traveller would prefer to be a trailblazer, albeit in great comfort, and visit new and less discovered destinations.'' According to ILTM's founder, Serge Dive: "The tastes of the rich don't stay still. Our research shows that the luxury traveller of today doesn't just want to be pampered-- they want a total escape from their highly pressured lives and they want to come back from their holiday having experienced something new.'' Another trend is that as more people get rich younger, they take less formal but shorter trips, with technology allowing them to blur the line between business and leisure travel. Also, little things often count for much: 65% of those surveyed said the toiletries on offer in a hotel were important, with recognised luxury brands meriting maximum brownie points. After our trip, I can heartily agree with that last point: eight windblown hours in the saddle of your steel steed, and you really appreciate little treats like a scented hot towel, some luxurious shampoo and shower gel, and a unique hotel experience. These findings also echo research our own firm has conducted during the course of a major re-branding project with one of our major hotel clients. Our research results concur that well-heeled travellers prefer service that gives them space to be themselves and to feel totally relaxed (while still meeting their every need of course) rather than the more intrusive and obsequious style of service offered by many five-star hotels in the past. A recent article in Newsweek notes: "Travel used to be divided into two basic categories: luxury and no-frills. The former consisted of flying first class, dining at three star restaurants and staying in decadent comfort; the latter involved backpacking and camping out in some of the world's most beautifully remote spots. Now, tourists can have their wine and see the wildlife too; communing with nature and living the good life are no longer mutually exclusive.'' Newsweek defines this as "rustic luxury'': a group of wealthy "new nomads'' toting Mount Everest-ready backpacks by luxury luggage-makers like Tumi, who want to visit the most rugged deserts, jungles, mountains and forests, and go rock-climbing and wreck-diving, but want their designer coffee and Egyptian cotton sheets when the day's adventuring is done. There is also the element of one-upmanship among this growing demographic. As one new nomad tells Newsweek: "It's a status game. Staying at the Four Seasons seems kind of bourgeois, since any doctor from the Midwest will know about it.'' To me, getting wild without losing the luxury is like a marriage made in heaven. There's nothing like zipping through rugged jungle tracks on your hog, getting down and dirty, when you know that some prime rib, a nice glass of Bordeaux and a fat stogie have your name on them. George Romanyk is chief executive officer of Creative Inhouse, a local branding consultancy and ad agency.
By: Guest Writer
January 10, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Looks like the Four Seasons Georgetown, of recent Mobil five star acclaim, is on the market for a mere $170 million (that's just $800,000 a room, folks). After injecting $25 million in renovations, the owners want a few pennies return on their investment... Apparently, this is the biggest price tag ever for a D.C. hotel. Good luck, guys. Via MSNBC
Tah-dah. Here it is, though booking now for Valentine's Day may prove an impossible feat.
Forget the Burj al Arab. Istanbul's getting a make-over with the help of Dubai Holding's international subsidiary, Dubai International Properties. The pair of 150-meter high towers will be the tallest buildings in Istanbul-- a grand, ever-present symbol of foreign investment in Turkey. In renewed negotiations to become the first muslim state in the EU, Turkey has become a hot ticket for Arab investors. The $500m Dubai Towers will include a five-star hotel, luxury residences, office and retail space.
Just when I thought there was no more real estate available on the strip. Shangri-La announced plans today to manage a new 400 room hotel scheduled to open in 2010. To quote their regional Vice President:
We believe that Las Vegas offers great potential for us. It is a market that is evolving quite rapidly and radically [and] we are beginning to see brand name hotels coming to Las Vegas.Hmm. But just when will the boom go bust? Can Vegas really sustain this kind of growth? (Hell- where is the water coming from in the middle of the desert? Will LA really continue to put up with this pillaging of water rights? Let the battle begin.)
Bye, bye Fairmont Kansas City. Intercontinental's taking over the AAA four-diamond property. Consistently rated as KC's best hotel, the name-in-transition hotel is opening soon as the Intercontinental Kansas City at the Plaza. The team at IC hotels group has planned all sorts of marvelous upgrades to the property, including room renovations, which will take place throughout 2006 and 2007. It's got a kick-ass location in the Country Club Plaza area, just minutes away from the city's entertainment district with outdoor museum and oodles of boutiques and restaurants. Additionally, the hotel boasts a fantastic fitness center with spa treatment rooms, outdoor pool, fine dining at the Oak Room, and balconies on all 366 guestrooms.
Take that, Amanresorts. Fairmont Hotels and Resorts announced yesterday a new luxury hotel opening in 2009. The Fairmont Turks and Caicos will include 150 condos, along with 150 luxurious guestrooms. Also planned: a championship golf course, tennis courts, marina, and the signature Willow Stream Spa. Looks like the Turks and Caicos is fast becoming where it's at in the Caribbean.
Those in the know have booked rooms well in advance of the March 1st opening of Amanyara in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This is the newest of the Amanresorts, and the company's first luxury hotel in the Caribbean. Preliminary reports are more than enticing: 40 private villas and pavilions overlooking dreamy secluded beaches on a 2,025 hectare nature and wildlife reserve. Enjoy easy access to the reefs of the Northwest Point Marine Park just offshore for some of the best diving anywhere. Or soak up the sun on the pristine beach, grab a Hobie Cat for an afternoon sail, followed by a spa treatment in the privacy of your own villa. Excellent golf is available 30 minutes away at the Providenciales Golf Club, rated among the top ten in the Caribbean. It's just a short hop from Miami for spring break in Paradise...
Amanyara, Official Site
Amanyara, Five Star Alliance
Check out Luxury Travel Mag's 2005 Luxury Travel Awards. The top new hotels in the U.S include Le Mars in Sonoma, Hotel Vitale and the St.Regis in SF, the Inn at Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina, Wynn Las Vegas and the Hotel Victor and The Setai in Miami. Award-winning new Caribbean hotels include The Palms in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman. Top new destination in Asia is Chiang Mai, Thailand, with a slew of new luxury properties featured on this hot list.
On December 15th, a fire ravaged the historic Adirondacks landmark, destroying the main building. The Lake Placid Lodge has been an exclusive mountain retreat since 1882, prized for its rustic elegance and awesome views of the lake and mountains. The hotel is temporarily closed, but we're ecstatic that the owners are already getting in gear to rebuild.