ANYONE who remembers Monty Python’s classic four Yorkshiremen sketch will know that perception of luxury is down to individual taste.
Four dour friends, drinking a bottle of fine wine, reminisce about life 30 years ago when a cup of cold black tea in a cracked cup was the ultimate treat.
While hoteliers stick the luxury tag on any hotel higher than a four star, the key for agents is knowing whether clients want the opulent Midas touch or understated elegance.
In-room boutiques, achingly cool pools, all-singing gadgets, fridges for cosmetics and chefs who whip up ‘brain foods’ are among the latest attention-grabbing innovations.
At the top end of the scale the so-called seven-star concept is about gold, glitz, gizmos, sublime service levels and architecture and design that make the properties stand out. Furnishings and fittings at Dubai’s all-suite Burj Al Arab are 22-carat gold leaf and sci-fi control pads pander to guests’ whims at the touch of a button.
In neighbouring Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace, room service has been replaced with the palace ceremony. Guests
have their own private restaurant with chefs arriving at the door bearing culinary masterpieces from around the world.
The Midas touch
The latest arrival on the super stellar scene is Al Husn at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa in Oman, where butler service goes hand in white glove with 21st century design.
More gadgetry can be found at the Mandarin Oriental New York, where rooms contain more than £25,000-worth of electronics that can store guests’ preferences for lighting, heating and wake-up calls, and which can be reactivated on return visits.
With marketplace trends pointing towards luxury travellers looking for extra space and privacy, many of the latest openings are villas, either at existing hotels or in stand-alone resorts. The byword for barefoot luxury is at Coco Palm Kuda Hithi, opening in the Maldives in November.
A small army of chefs, butlers, housekeepers and spa therapists will pamper guests staying in the eight residences, each equipped with its own library, home theatre, personal bar and coffee machine.
Earlier this month the Maia resort on Mahé, in the Seychelles, opened 30 luxury villas. All have uninterrupted sea views, dedicated butlers, an outdoor bath designed for two submerged in an infinity pool, iPod station and a refrigerator for cosmetics. Customised excursions to the outer islands can be made in a private boat or helicopter.
In October, the infinity suites are scheduled to open at Anse Chastanet on St Lucia. Set in elevated positions overlooking the sea and with their own concierge, the suites have pools of up to 84sq metres.
Easing the load
Established hotels are also upping the ante to keep ahead of the game. Sandy Lane in Barbados has introduced luggage-free travel, enabling guests’ bags to be shipped to the resort before their arrival. When the luggage arrives, butlers unpack and iron clothes.
Sandy Lane has also upgraded its in-room entertainment and electronic systems and a control panel regulates virtually everything.
For guests who travel light, make a last-minute booking or lose their luggage, the five-star Regent Berlin has introduced a mobile in-room boutique that’s available around the clock.
Two trunks on wheels, packed with the latest Hugo Boss men’s and women’s collections, are delivered to guests to try on. From shirts and suits to shoes and underwear, the prices are the same as Hugo Boss’s in-store tags, and if a guest’s new trousers are too long, the hotel’s seamstresses can take them up.
Destinations not noted for luxury accommodation are also getting in on the act. Once notorious as a party destination for the young, huge investments are being ploughed into hotels to create chic and stylish accommodation on the Greek island of Rhodes.
The latest to open is the Ixian Grand, a five-star, all-inclusive property that was formally the Elina Hotel.
Feed the brain
Finally, for clients who want to pamper their grey matter, The Grove in London has appointed a resident nutritionist who can create ‘brain food’ menus for maximum concentration in the run-up to big meetings, or high-energy foods when guests need to go the extra mile.
Elegant Resorts offers seven nights’ bed-and-breakfast accommodation in a deluxe room at the five-star Al Husn at the
Shangri-La Barr’s Al Jissah Resort and Spa in Oman from £1,380 per person twin-share. Rates include return flights with Emirates and private car transfers.
Seasons in Style offers seven nights’ bed-and-breakfast accommodation in a lagoon residence at the five-star Coco Palm Kuda Hithi in the Maldives from £5,345 per person twin-share, including return flights with Emirates and speedboat transfers.
Caribtours has seven nights’ bed-and-breakfast accommodation in a star infinity pool suite at the five-star Anse Chastanet in St Lucia from £3,127 per person twin-share, including return flights with Virgin Atlantic, lounge pass for London departures, private car transfers and a welcome cocktail.
ITC Classics offers seven nights’ bed-and-breakfast accommodation in an orchard room at the five-star Sandy Lane in Barbados from £2,495 per person twin-share, including return flights with British Airways, Bentley transfers and champagne on arrival.