Part of my role as The Telegraph’s luxury travel editor involves assessing amuse-bouche and staying in penthouse suites, but there are more mundane aspects to the job. One is absorbing reports commissioned by operators and hotel groups keen to gain insights into the needs of luxury travellers.
The latest to hit my inbox is about the habits of younger, increasingly wealthy consumers in Asia. The report uses the phrase “bluxury travel” – a clunky portmanteau of business and luxury – and says these clients want holidays that are “aspirational, enviable – and, above all, Instagrammable”. It adds that young travellers share “opinions through the internet, particularly on social media sites”. How revelatory!
It seems that some businesses are missing insights that you and I might assume are blindingly obvious. In that spirit, I’d like to share with them three easy ways in which to give all their trips and tours a luxurious spin – and I won’t charge them a penny.
PUT SERVICE FIRST
Some travellers may want their holidays to be Instagram-worthy, but only when other basic requirements are met. Excellent service is one of them. Without it, the initial allure of every other positive will evaporate.
That was my experience at The Edition hotel in New York and Six Senses Zil Pasyon in the Seychelles, where beautiful design couldn’t compensate for poor management and apathetic staff.
Conversely, the service at The Reverie Saigon was so exceptional that I developed an affection even for its garish colour scheme and gaudy furnishings (including a 16ft rococo-baroque sofa covered in purple ostrich leather).
BE MORE SUSTAINABLE
We’re all aware of the blight of single-use plastics, so I’m delighted that Marriott International is to remove disposable straws from more than 6,500 properties. That this could result in a saving of more than one billion straws per year is a shocking indictment of the extreme levels of waste in the travel industry.
Companies need to do more, quickly. Serving New Zealand lamb and Japanese beef in a Maldivian resort now smacks of irresponsibility rather than luxury; the plastic bottles of imported Fiji Water in my suite were a very bad look when I stayed at an upscale hotel in London. A more positive impression was made at North Island in the Seychelles, where environmental initiatives have eradicated invasive species so that endemic flora and fauna can again flourish. Eco-minded tour operator Steppes Travel, meanwhile, offers opportunities for families to aid rhino conservation in Africa - hopefully inspiring a new generation of wildlife advocates.
LOOK TO YOUR LOCALITY
When I visited the Faroe Islands last August, tour operator Black Tomato had the foresight to suggest I sample heimablidni, or home hospitality, as well as dinner at Michelin-starred restaurant Koks.
Simple, traditional and innately Faroese, that convivial home-cooked meal in an islander’s cosy seafront cottage was among my most enjoyable culinary experiences of the year.
That hotels should provide guests with an authentic sense of place seems so fundamental that it shouldn’t need repeating. Yet, from Rio to Tokyo, brands commission the same prolific designer to replicate his anodyne aesthetic and offer their guests a lazy slew of stereotypical experiences.
This makes the exceptions all the more impressive. When I think back to my stay at Udaipur’s Taj Lake Palace, I recall the bejewelled dancers performing traditional Rajasthani folk songs in a shaded courtyard as the setting sun flushed the marble peach and pink. At Ireland’s Ashford Castle, a lobby walkabout by shaggy-haired and doe-eyed Irish wolfhounds Cronan and Garvan made guests melt with joy each morning. Those moments worked because they were authentically connected to their locality and, in those moments, there was nowhere I’d rather be.