Boutique hotels report surge in interest

In spite of the global economic uncertainty, well-heeled travellers are apparently still keen to splash out on vacations if they know they are going to receive the very highest quality service and remarkable properties to stay in.

Hotel companies specializing in exclusive getaways have been adding to their global portfolios in recent months, with the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group adding 47 properties since the start of the year and witnessing strong growth in demand.

"As a brand, we have seen positive growth in the first half of the year, with reservations up 16 percent and revenue up 12 percent," Brandon Chan, director of sales for the Asia-Pacific region, told Relaxnews.   
The organisation, which groups together some of the most exclusive and luxurious independent hotels in the world, has also surpassed another milestone this year with the addition of its 500th property, meaning it "now offers more choice and diversity than ever before," Chan said.

Similarly, the Leading Hotels of the World Group has added to its stable of properties in recent months with the inclusion of The Observatory Hotel in Sydney and The Greenwich Hotel in New York, while the Relais & Chateaux has added 31 new members to its annual guide, such as the Inkaterra La Casona, in the Peruvian city of Cusco, and The Serai, in India's Jaisalmer.

"This Year of the Tiger, in the Chinese calendar, has been a very exciting one for SLH and fingers crossed it will remain the same for many years to come," he said, adding that member hotels range from palatial 17th century mansions in the rolling hills of Europe to city-centre sanctuaries, idyllic resorts and even remote private islands.

"SLH offers a wide range of experiences that are so much more than just a bed to sleep in," he said. "Whatever it may be that you fancy on a getaway, then it is possible. And our latest additions are no exception."

Hoshinoya Kyoto joined the organisation in December of last year and is a collection of traditional, wooden-framed buildings on the Hozu-Gawa River in Kyoto that can only be reached by boat. With just 25 spacious rooms that have been carefully restored, plus a charming Japanese garden, the hotel offers an "Authentic Japanese experience with modern comforts," said Kyoko Tanzawa, head of public relations for the hotel.

The Kyoto property joins the company's Karuizawa hotel in the organisation, while other recent additions in Japan include the Hotel Il Palazzo, in Fukuoka, and the Noborioji Hotel in the ancient capital of Nara.

The Siam City Hotel will go straight into the SLH's list of exclusive properties when it opens its doors in Bangkok in June of next year. Located in the old aristocratic quarter of the city, it is surrounded by palaces and leafy boulevards, according to marketing director Melanie Giles-Clapp, and has three acres of grounds fronting the river. The Siam City will be the first property in Bangkok to have pool villas and properties will range from 80 square metres to 160 square metres. The hotel will also operate a cooking school and a spa with five treatment rooms.

The Saint James is the only chateau hotel in Paris and redecoration work on the landmark property has recently been completed, along with the addition of a spa, while Les Jardins de la Villa opened in Paris in January and has quickly won a firm following with international travellers thanks to its artful combination of Parisian style with luxury amenities.

Another French property with plans for the future is the Chateau de Fere, owned by Richard Bliah, who has recently planted several hundred cherry trees in the grounds of the castle and intends to serve champagne beneath the blossoms next spring, while the Belle Epoque palace that is the Grand Hotel Majestic, in Piedmont, has also recently undergone a major refurbishment and remains the only hotel with frontage on Lake Maggiore.  

Hoshinoya Kyoto and Karuizawa, Japan  

Siam City Hotel, Bangkok  

Grand Hotel Majestic, Italy  

Les Jardins de la Villa, Paris  

Saint James, Paris  

Chateau de Fere, Fere-en-Tardenois, France  

Lanson Place, Hong Kong  

Pimalai Resort & Spa, Krabi, Thailand  

Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa, Bohol, Philippines