There’s more to life than thread count and butler service. At least that’s what luxury travellers these days are telling themselves.
This year’s Virtuoso Luxe Report included finding out the top reasons why affluent travellers travel, and the second top reason is to seek authentic experiences. (First reason is “to explore new destinations”, which is pretty much a given reason that transcends to all kinds of travellers)
Because luxury travel doesn’t just mean 5-star accommodation and first/business class flights, most in the hospitality industry know that luxury travellers are busy (they do work hard and vacation hard), and therefore have filled this need by becoming a ‘one stop shop’ for travellers.
A number of luxury hotel brands now offer their guests authentic experiences exclusive to their hotel. This does not mean the usual method of engaging a third party agent, but rather, the hotel brand creating their own unique stay experiences.
Here are 6 types of activities and unique stay experiences that some brands and resorts all over the world offer their guests.
Experience: Driving around Lake Como in a Giuletta Spider
Where: Four Seasons Milan
Guests at the Four Seasons Milan can relive how it was to travel around Lake Como during the 1960’s by heading there riding the hotel’s resident Giuletta Spider, a rear-wheel drive car produced from 1954-1965.
Part of this experience includes lunch at one of the excellent restaurants near the lake. This experience offers the scenery of Lake Como, the fun and novelty of riding a Giuletta Spider, and also a glimpse into the history of the Italian automobile industry.
Takeaway: Make use of your hotel locations’ iconic sceneries made famous either by classic movies, literature, or the glitz of knowing that a Hollywood A-lister had purchased property around the lake.
Experience: Relive how the Bedouins of long ago survived the harsh desert life, along with other desert activities
Where: Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara
Qasr Al Sarab is located in the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world, Rub’Al Khali. Aside from providing a luxury oasis in the middle of the desert, Qasr Al Sarab also offers a unique stay experience to guests such as camel trekking, an introduction to the ancient traditional sport of falconry and hunting with salukis which has been practised for thousands of years in the UAE, along with a Bedouin barbeque under the stars experience.
They also offer individual cooking classes for those interested in creating a traditional Emirati meal. After you create your Emirati meal (taught by the hotel chef), you will then be served your food for either lunch or dinner.
Takeaway: A hotel’s isolated location can definitely be a plus as it gives guests a more exclusive experience. Incorporating a nation’s history into the activities will not only double the purpose of the activities, but will also make them more memorable.
Experience: Embracing the great outdoors and living the ranch life in Montana
Where: The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana, USA
As far as luxury ranches go, The Ranch at Rock Creek takes the biggest slice of the cake, being the world’s only Forbes Travel Guides’ only five-star ranch, and the only National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World in the United States.
Whatever time of the year you visit the ranch , which is located in Phillipsburg, Montana, there is always a plethora of activities in store for guests of all ages.
If you visit in winter, there’s snowmobiling, skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, sleigh rides and snowcat tours.
For the rest of the year, there’s an elaborate high ropes course, geocaching, hiking, rodeo, archery, horseback riding, and fly fishing among many, many others.
They have such numerous and varied activities that they have to be classified into 3 kinds: Signature Experiences, which includes horseback riding and high ropes course among others, Trail Adventures, which includes geocaching, and hiking, and Traditions, including activities like stagecoach rides, rodeo and wildlife viewing.
Takeaway: When your hotel/ resort is in a location that goes through 4 seasons, it’s good to have different kinds of activities for every season covered.
Experience: Feeling the ultimate high (quite literally) of being in the Himalayas, a place that inspired the idea of what paradise is.
Where: Shangri-la Hotel Lhasa
Sometimes, a gold mine of a location will be the biggest unique experience factor of a hotel. The origins of the Shangri-la brand name of hotels came from James Hilton’s 1933 novel, “Lost Horizon”, set in a mythical Himalayan place, a permanently happy land, called a “Shangri-la”.
So staying at a Shangri-la Hotel located at THE “Shangri-la” is in itself already a legendary experience.
However, there are little things that the hotel has added to further enrich this experience. First, they supply a copy of the “Lost Horizon” novel to all guest rooms.
And catering to the hotel being located 3,650 metres above sea level, there is an Oxygen Lounge at the hotel for guests to use. After all, both the views and the high altitude of the hotel are bound to take your breath away.
Take Away: A great commitment to a hotel’s branding and name can lead to rewarding unique guest experiences.
Experience: Being one with nature in an exclusive luxury African safari getaway
Where: The Royal Malewane, Hoedspruit, South Africa
This luxury African safari lodge, which hosts a maximum of 20 guests, is situated on a private reserve within the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa.
First of all, there’s the usual 2 daily game drives or a day at the spa choice for guests to do (I love how considerate they are in thinking for both kinds of travellers). Now in addition to that, there is still a plethora of activities one can experience in a much more private setting than your usual day trip.
There’s the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre where guests can learn and watch animals being nursed back to health.
And also visiting the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, where one can see the species of animals that we may never ever see alive again by the year ends. There’s also hot air balloon flights and golf for those interested.
Takeaway: Unique experiences can also be a way to raise awareness and education about the wildlife of South Africa
Experience: To revel in the beauty and nature of Tasmania, Australia
Where: Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania, Australia
Tasmania as a tiny island that produces world-famous oysters.
Saffire Freycinet, a member of the Luxury Lodges of Australia, offers its guests many complimentary unique experiences. One of it’s most famous ones is Oyster Shucking, with your fresh oysters being served to you aftewards if you wish.
If that does not tickle your fancy, there are other outdoor things to do such as archery, Pelican bay canoeing, and Wineglass Bay Lookout walk, among many others.
The hotel also provides individually tailored programs to each guest to ensure they have the right balance between culinary and adventure/ outdoor experience.
Takeaway: Many people will travel for food, and foodies these days would want to know where their food came from so
Experience: To have an eco-friendly focused range of activities while staying within luxurious grounds.
Where: Lapa Rios, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Named as one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, Lapa Rios Eco Lodge is situated in a 1000-acre private reserve in the Osa Peninsula, and is home to 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity.
Committing to it’s name of being an eco-friendly lodge, Lapa Rios does Not offer air-conditioning (ceiling fans are attached), no Wi-Fi, phones, tv or hair dryer.
What it does include though, are an assortment of activities for one to become aware of our world’s status and efforts in ecological conservation.
Activities offered are: A walking medicine tour that takes place in the main rainforest and explains traditional medicinal uses of plants and seeds; a starfish walk where one goes on a crash-course of marine biology as you explore the shores of Golfo Dulce , one of only four tropical fjords in the world.
There’s also tons of animal awareness tours (species unique only to Costa Rica / South America), as long as physical activities such as zip-lining and dolphin boat tours.
Takeaway: Unique experiences need not just benefit the travellers, but our environment as well.
There’s a new wave of travellers whom I can describe as Luxurious Adventurers: those who mix luxury with a bit of adventure – either through food, culture, or activities.
The hotels and resorts catering to these kinds of travellers are growing and expanding for their properties to become that ‘one-stop’ shop for luxury travellers.
We’d love to know what has your most memorable experience in a hotel has been. Do share!