Despite the testing times of the global pandemic, 2021 has been a triumphant year for the luxury hotel industry – evidence of how defiant the sector remains. Though we estimate that 45 per cent of anticipated arrivals were understandably delayed or deferred, numerous new hotels did emerge. We are pleased to announce the 15 global arrivals that Luxury Travel Intelligence (LTI) rates most highly – and for the two that have impressed us least.
Paris is the big winner: having had just one entry (JK Place) in the past two years’ lists, it hosts three of the top four for 2021.
Also trending are boutique-sized residences, smaller-scale brands and individual, intensely passionate owners. Prioritising guest engagement above all, the relaxed luxury model has truly taken off this year, while today’s high-end hotel simply must possess an abundance of unique character and local flavour.
In reverse order, here is the BEST OF 2021:
15. V Villas, Phuket
With views across Ao Yon Bay at almost every turn, Accor’s swanky new MGallery addition features a jungle-canopy spa, creative European and Thai-seafood cuisine and a lounger-lined rooftop bar. It’s the 19 glassy, private-pool villas which most impress, though – flowing easily between straight-lined indoor and outdoor spaces, these prove ultra-relaxing, and have butlers on speed dial.
14. Six Senses Shaharut, Israel
The untrodden Negev Desert is not an obvious place to open a luxury hotel, which makes it particularly memorable. Set between rocks and dunes, this indulgent wellness retreat combines typical Six Senses amenities – such as high-calibre visiting spa practitioners and a yoga studio – with an outdoor cinema and beguiling local touches: rich Israeli food, cacti-lined living quarters, and even a camel farm.
13. Kalesma, Mykonos
Tastefully modelling itself on a typical, whitewashed Greek village that tumbles down to the sea, Kalesma’s exemplary design also extends to lattice work referencing local dovecotes and the same marble used to build Athens’ Parthenon. Traditional, honey-filled Mykonian loukoumade cakes add to the Greek-island authenticity, while a private, heated pool in every wood-beamed villa ensures a totally relaxing getaway. Check new hotels on Mykonos.
12. One&Only Portonovi, Montenegro
One&Only’s opulent arrival in Europe is a truly spectacular debut. Set beachside by a new marina-resort on glittering Kotor Bay, its perks range from barrel-aged cocktails and food by Giorgio Locatelli to a Chenot Espace spa – as well as the marbly, modern-Venetian entrance lobby. Good luck finding a more aromatic infinity pool, too, than the lavender-infused one here.
11. Raffles Udaipur, India
Raffles’ first Indian outpost (a second, due in Jaipur, now appears to be on the back burner) is typically exquisite. It occupies a 21-acre private island on Udai Sagar Lake, and comes framed by ornamental gardens. This helps to create a wonderfully restful air, along with every suite having its own pool, an impressive spa, flexible all-day dining and dreamy temple views.
10. Villa Nai 3.3, Croatia
On the unsung, wisp-thin island of Dugi Otok, this adults-only retreat is commendably conscious. Its eight bright rooms have been carefully carved into hillsides to minimise disrupting the surrounding olive-oil estate’s landscape. Guests can join the harvest or watch extraordinary sunsets from Veli Rat’s lighthouse; balancing out these rustic offerings are a gourmet restaurant and bar, a spa and two pools.
9. Patina, Maldives
The inaugural Patina resort, a more progressive offshoot of Singapore’s trusty Capella Hotels & Resorts, brings an atypical Maldives experience. For while guests can beachcomb, swim a crystalline lagoon or relax in overwater villas, they can also visit a Marine Village to shop and visit galleries with other guests of the resort. Vegan fine-dining and a dolphin-spotting superyacht enhance this bold new addition to the archipelago.
8. Borgo Santandrea, Italy
Overseen by two Italian families, this boutique hotel epitomises everything that makes the Amalfi Coast so romantic. Chic interiors give way to sea views from all 47 cliffside rooms, and three lofty restaurants champion regional ingredients.
7. The Woodward, Geneva
This Geneva address sees the Oetker Collection seamlessly blend its rural properties’ ultra-luxe facilities with the intimacy of a small, classy city hotel. The brand’s reputation for creating true masterpieces is evident here in all the details from the majestic Mont Blanc views over Lake Geneva to Joël Robuchon fine-dining, and a 1,200m2 Guerlain Spa.
6. Kisawa Sanctuary, Mozambique
Despite royal princess Nina Flohr being behind this 750-acre sanctuary on beach-lined Benguerra Island, the real headline is its devotion to sustainability: exceptional bungalows, Mini Mokes for freeform exploring and a coral reef. There’s also a zero-waste restaurant, the use of local workforce alongside 3D sand-printing technology, inclusive Mozambican design and a sister marine research facility.
5. Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid
Here is proof that a big brand, when taking its time, can boldly inject creativity into a landmark property while retaining its character. Infused with a roaring Twenties air – especially in the leafy Palm Court and gilded showpiece restaurant Deessa – Mandarin Oriental’s fun reprise of Madrid’s Ritz accentuates the building’s heritage via Quique Dacosta’s contemporary cooking and Jorge Vázquez uniforms for the staff.
4. Cheval Blanc, Paris
LVMH Hospitality also likes to take its time creating: this new Parisian maison is its fifth hotel in 16 years. Occupying the iconic Samaritaine building, this first urban Cheval Blanc matches its four fabulous forebears. The centrally-located maison simultaneously feels resort-like – four restaurants; Paris’s longest pool – and urbane, with a Dior Spa offering 30-minute ‘happiness shots’ for the time-poor.
3. Beaverbrook Town House, London
One of Britain’s best country house hotels has come to West London. A huge investment from Beaverbrook’s passionate owners (including chocolate-family heir Joel Cadbury) has led to numerous 21st century comforts across 14 rooms, plus Japanese fine-dining and – sourced from classic London suppliers – many playful fabrics, fittings and furnishings. The hotel’s best trick, however, is to already feel like it has been here forever.
2. Airelles Chateau de Versaille, Le Grand Contrôle, Paris
Airelles could easily have been remiss with this former treasurer’s mansion outside Paris, such is its astonishing position in the Château de Versailles’ grounds and its out-of-hours palace access. But all 14 airy bedrooms delight, their limited number creating an intimate feel, while the period furniture, spa and candlelit Alain Ducasse restaurant enchant.
… and the World’s BEST NEW LUXURY HOTEL FOR 2021 is:
1. The Bulgari, Paris
Though it has the same designers – Italian studio Citterio Viel – as the jewellery brand’s other hotels, this Parisian pad offers extra intimacy. Ceilings are low, colours muted and lighting seductive. We also love the travel-trunk mini-bars and huge bedrooms. The location, with lemon trees and lawns overlooked by the Eiffel Tower, is spectacular.
Plus TWO OF THE WORST:
Jumeirah Carlton Tower, London
While this is not a new property, after a two-year £100m extensive refurbishment we certainly expected great things. However, everything looks as bland and corporate as before, while F&B offerings remain functional. The owners need only cross Cadogan Square to Beaverbrook Town House (see above) for evidence of how exciting a 21st-century luxury hotel can be.
Bishop’s Lodge, Santa Fe
Unfortunately for Auberge Resorts, a collection that LTI has always rated highly, this New Mexico addition represents a rare and surprising slip. With service lacking, food way off the usual standards and even construction ongoing, it seems certain that the property has opened prematurely. With this being Auberge, though, we’re confident all issues are quickly being addressed.