Hot beds for the new year

Style and substance? After a very difficult year, hotels around the world are raising their game for 2010, says Sophie Lam
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The Independent Travel

The hospitality industry has suffered during the recession. In 2009, hotels at the top end of the scale slashed their rates in a scramble to keep doors open and beds filled; ownerships changed; new projects stalled and opening dates were deferred – then deferred again. Independent auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers has forecast that the decline will slow down, but while room rates may start to level out, they are expected to remain comparatively low. Coupled with a healthy crop of new hotels around the globe this year, things look set to favour the traveller again in 2010.

Homeward bound

On home soil, we'll see W, Starwood's ever-expanding contemporary brand, opening its second European hotel in London (wlondon. co.uk). A joint project with Westminster Council, W is attempting to re-vitalise the garish hub of Leicester Square when it opens on the site of the former Swiss Centre this summer.

Still in the capital, a new part of town is opening up to the luxury hotel market: Battersea. The Rafayel on the Left Bank (hotelrafayel.com) is dubbing this riverside spot in South West London the new "Left Bank" when it opens early this year. Meanwhile, the Portuguese Pestana chain (pestana.com) is opening a hotel in what it is calling "South Chelsea" in March; in fact, its property is also firmly in Battersea, opposite Battersea Park. And Von Essen Hotels (vonessenhotels.co.uk) will break with its country house tradition and open a new glass and steel property called Verta next to the Battersea Heliport by the summer. Opening in March – but this time in the East End – is Town Hall, offering typically hip rooms and apartments in the former Bethnal Green Town Hall (townhallhotel.com).

Another landmark London redevelopment is the on the site of the former GLC building at Westminster Bridge. Once voted one of Britain's ugliest buildings, soon only its enormous circular silhouette will be recognisable. The new Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, with over 1,000 rooms and six restaurants, is due for a "soft" opening here on 4 February. A spa is set to follow in spring (parkplaza. com). Also in central London, The Dorchester Collection is opening a new sibling across the road from its flagship Mayfair hotel in the autumn. 45 Park Lane is on the site of the former Playboy Club and will complement the art deco grande dame with a boutique-style offering (45parklane.com).

The Dorchester Collection is also going rural with the launch of Coworth Park in Ascot in the summer: a 70-room country house hotel with an equestrian centre (coworthpark.com). Barely an hour's drive away in Surrey, and on the site of another heritage racing circuit, the Brooklands Hotel is slated to open on 1 March with an art deco-inspired interior (brooklandshotelsurrey.com). And in Scotland, Citizen M is bringing the successful style-on-a-budget brand from Amsterdam to Glasgow early this year (citizenm.com).

Continental drift

Heading further afield, Istanbul is this year's European Capital of Culture and is also the chosen location for one of the first collaborative projects from Marriott hotels and Ian Schrager, the man who gave the world Studio 54 and who coined the phrase "boutique hotel". Edition hotels are sure to give Starwood's W line a run for its money, with the Istanbul branch opening in the summer (editionhotels. com). Another trend-setter, Soho House, is celebrating its 15th birthday by branching out across onto the Continent with Soho House Berlin next month. Located in central Mitte, it will feature a rooftop pool, 40 style-driven hotel rooms, a bar and Cecconi's restaurant (sohohouse.com).

In Stockholm, the Elite Hotel Marina Tower (elite.se) is set in a disused 19th-century red brick salt mill that directly overlooks Lake Malaren in Nacka, an area of the city not well-versed in big, stylish hotels.

Three other big-hitters for the summer are likely to be The Oitavos – a contemporary glass structured resort in Cascais, Portugal (theoitavos.com); the Costa Navarino complex of luxury hotels and golf courses in the southwest Peloponnese (costanavarino.com); and Amanresorts' redevelopment of the fortified fishing village of Sveti Stefan in Montenegro, which will undoubtedly cause quite a stir when it finally materialises in this up-and-coming destination (amanresorts.com).

Far flung

Hot on the heels of Gordon Campbell Gray's Le Gray hotel, Four Seasons is muscling in on Beirut's resurgence as a destination for the in-crowd. Its new property offers luxurious rooms with views of the Mediterranean (fourseasons.com). In the United Arab Emirates, two delayed projects should materialise within the next couple of months: Banyan Tree's Al Wadi desert resort in Ras Al Khaimah (banyantree. com) and Armani's first hotel in the world's tallest building, the Burj Dubai (armanihotels.com).

In the Indian Ocean, the Constance Ephelia Resort will debut in February on the fringes of the turquoise shores of Mahé island, with suites, villas and requisite spa all overlooking Port Launay National Park (epheliaresort.com). Closer to the African continent is Coral Lodge in Mozambique's Indian Ocean La Varanada nature reserve, which had to delay its December opening as a result of a lack of electricity lines. Its 10 villas feature elegant design and should be hooked up and ready to go imminently (corallodge1541. com). In Tanzania, the Mbali Mbali Lodge will open in the Serengeti in February (mbalimbali.com), and in Namibia, the Okahirongo Elephant Lodge is soon to unveil a luxurious River Camp (okahirongolodge.com).

Cool and contemporary lodgings have been notably lacking in the Egyptian capital until now, but that's set to change – the Kempinski Nile Hotel will bring chic style to Cairo on 1 March, with design by Pierre-Yves Rochon (kempinski.com). The most regal digs in North Africa are likely to be at the Hotel Royal Mansour in Marrakech: 53 sumptuous riads owned by the King of Morocco (royalmansour.com).

India sees some grand and unexpected openings in 2010, starting with Taj Hotels' Falaknuma Palace (see pages 14-16) in a 19th-century palace in Hyderabad (tajhotels.com). Taj has also just signed a deal to expand its contemporary Vivanta brand into Kashmir with a hilltop hotel overlooking Srinagar later in the year. In Jaipur, the Devi Ratn resort will feature 60 luxurious suites and three villas with views of the Aravalli Hills (deviresorts.com).

If you can't wait for Aman Sveti Stefan, then look to China, where Amanfayun opens this month in a rural valley near Hangzhou (amanresorts.com).

Other expanding groups include the Fullerton, which is breaking with tradition (its original hotel is in a colonial Singapore post office) and unveiling the glass Fullerton Bay Hotel this summer as part of Singapore's Marina Bay development (thefullerton heritage.com).

In Australia, two of the most luxurious openings are Saffire in Freycinet, Tasmania, with space for just 40 guests and suites starting at A$1,000 (£550) per night (saffire-freycinet. com.au) scheduled for spring; and the architecturally impressive Wolgan Valley Retreat in New South Wales' Blue Mountains World Heritage area (emirateshotelsresorts.com).

Go west

Things are looking busy in the Americas and the Caribbean. First up, New York: Hyatt's "lifestyle" brand Andaz, which launched triumphantly in London two years ago, will impart its "personal style" mantra to Wall Street this month, with a second branch scheduled for Fifth Avenue in the spring (andaz.com). And the much-delayed Chatwal hotel, masterminded by Sant Chatwal - father of New York hotelier Vikram - and Thierry Despont, is said to be "coming soon" (thechatwalny.com). Meanwhile, Manhattan favourite Thompson hotels will be going north of the border to Toronto by the spring (thompsonhotels.com). Back in the US, the audacious City Center luxury development in Las Vegas – dubbed "the Capital of the New World" – will near completion when the Foster+Partners-designed The Harmon joins Vdara and Mandarin Oriental, the other glitzy non-gaming hotels in the complex (theharmon.com).

New hotels for the Caribbean include another W, this time on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. It will be the group's first beach "retreat", with candy colours and breezy design; opening is expected this spring (wvieques.com). More indulgence is being offered by chocolatier Hotel Chocolat, which is opening a boutique hotel on its cocoa plantation in the heart of the St Lucia rainforest (hotelchocolat.co.uk) in March, while Mandarin Oriental will have its first Caribbean resort in the Turks and Caicos by the summer (mandarioriental.com). Yet more extravagant is Richard Branson's new addition to his ultra-luxurious Necker Island retreat: Necker Belle is a new catamaran available for charter in the Caribbean from February. Rates start at an impressive US$88,000 (£58,670) per week.

No longer the preserve of backpackers on the "Gringo Trail", Central America is a tourist destination in the ascendant. For proof, look no further than the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City (trumpoceanclub.com), the boutique Jicaro Island Ecolodge (jicarolodge.com) in Lake Nicaragua and the luxury wellness beach retreat, Anamaya in Costa Rica (anamayaresort.com).

Finally, anyone fortunate enough to be on Easter Island for the solar eclipse this summer should look out for the new Hanga Roa Ecovillage, opening in April with architecture inspired by the island's ceremonial villages (hangaroa.cl).

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