Water and Art Are the New Luxuries, Says Small Luxury Hotels CEO

by Cheryl Rosen
Water and Art Are the New Luxuries, Says Small Luxury Hotels CEO

“Water is not only wellness or a spa; people are looking for restorative water,” like at the new Elite Spring Villas in Quanzhou, China. Photos: SLH

A great luxury experience involves many senses — and so, the latest trends in luxury hospitality involve the feel and the smell of water, and the beauty of art on the walls, says Jean-Francois Ferret, CEO of Small Luxury Hotels (SLH). 

“We see water as a destination,” Ferret told Travel Market Report at an SLH event at the High Line Hotel in New York earlier this month. “Water is not only wellness or a spa; people are looking for restorative water. Water is life. When we look at properties, we try to see what they have in terms of hot springs; that’s part of the excitement.”

The search for warm water brought him to the iconic Castle Hot Springs, built around a rare spring in the middle of the Arizona desert; and to the new Elite Spring Villas in Quanzhou, China, where guests can choose from seven hot springs, each infused with a different tea. The feel of the water and the scent of the tea create a moment you will never forget, he said.

Art is also a big draw for the luxury guest. “Hotels want to showcase art and often are built around art,” Ferret said. The Merchant House Hotel in Bahrain, for example, is built around pillars and walls covered with art; the Art Paradisio Hotel in Incheon, South Korea, and the Hotel Gajoen in Tokyo, also are infused with the local art.

Small Luxury Hotels of the World SLH
Hotel Gajoen in Tokyo is infused with art.

Focus on North America, as a destination and a source
With 540 hotels in 80 countries now in the Small Luxury Hotels family, Ferret is planning a slow and steady growth to 600 properties over the next three years. The North American market is a priority, as both a destination and a source market.

A dedicated team is searching out new properties on the West Coast, around Los Angeles and San Diego, and also in the western states like Montana and Colorado that offer “those great wilderness experiences.”

He’s also bringing on two properties in Egypt — a new and beautiful destination for SLH.

Meanwhile, a team of 10 is working to build connections with the travel agent channel. More than half of SLH guests are Americans — and 60% come through professional travel advisors.

Focus on Miami playing to the arts
Talk of art brought Travel Market Report to The Betsy, where Chairman Jonathan Plutzik made an argument for the growth of Miami Beach as the ultimate art and culture destination, and the role The Betsy plays in that growth.

At The Betsy, “art is what we do,” Plutzik said. The hotel’s Writers Residency Program has brought 800 writers to the property over the years, and nightly music and poetry readings entertain global visitors to Miami, “the cultural capital of the southeast and one of the most sophisticated places in the world, even though its branding is all about sun and fun.”

The Betsy’s Art Deco wing, added two years ago, along with the walls in the library and many other spaces, display museum-quality works; there is a library in every room; and even in the culinary arts, the chef recently won the coveted Best Burger Award at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

The Betsy has just hung 20 never-before-released images of Muhammad Ali, who trained in Miami Beach. Also, just in time for National Poetry Month, the Poetry Festival has taken up permanent residence here; and so have 300 students from around the world for the Classical Music Festival, who will perform “pop-up opera” in the lobby in June and July.

Small Luxury Hotels of the World SLH Luxury Hotel
The walls in the Banquet Room display museum-quality works.

Opening on June 14, meanwhile, the Celino South Beach is “inspired by the ‘40s Floridita style,” with a Cuban vibe reminiscent of Desi Arnaz with a contemporary twist, said Domingo Velasco, director of sales & marketing at The Celino South Beach. Originally opened as the Park Central in 1937, the Celino boasts three Art Deco buildings plus a new-build wing that spans Ocean Drive from 6th to 7th Streets.

In other news, The Nobu Ibiza has introduced seven new rooftop junior suites with large private rooftop terraces. And the Hotel Splendide Royal in Rome, built in the 16th century, in July will open a new wing with 21 suites decorated in “a more modern style” with an eye to the Millennial market.


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