The biggest innovators in travel and hotels 2021

Every year I try to take a step back and take stock of the things I have seen on the road. I have managed to maintain a fairly aggressive travel pace this year, checking out many different products, fitting new airline tires and freeing myself from a lot of my alliance chains, as I documented in my recent column “Dawn of the Unattached Traveler. The following is a list of places, products and people that are raising the bar in hospitality in the face of a tough year. As more and more people return to the road, consider these products to reward your personal money and business expenses, they are the best of the bunch.

Best International Premiere: Air France

Granted, I haven’t flown on some of my favorite products, namely JAL’s First Class in recent years. But I recently flew the Air France La Première product. And everything lived up to its cult reputation, even in the face of COVID. The cabin is beautifully designed and looks more like a nautical vessel than an airplane. There are only four seats on their 777 product, and they don’t allow easy upgrades or the Mileage Brigade to easily reserve it. The result is a true luxury product that is exceptionally private and lives up to the best of French cuisine and hospitality. I found the onboard staff to be cordial and the car transfer to the salon was top notch, elevated and seamless. The product clearly stands out at the head of the pack for a traveler who wants privacy, highly personalized service and discretion. On the more opulent side, I thought Emirates First was still insanely good, but I felt Air France’s smaller cabin had pushed it in terms of a hyper premium product this year.

Best Company: Qatar Airways

I’ve highlighted them already and feel like a broken record. But it’s hard not to like Qatar’s Q-suites product, and I have a feeling their approach: a small private cabin will portend the future of business class as many carriers are eliminating or reducing their First offerings. Qatar has precise service and in fact they don’t skimp: there are handsome cutlery, flight attendants who are exceptionally well trained in everything from service to the nuances of food and drink offerings, and run a ship. greenhouse.

Best American Product Transcon: New Mint Studio by JetBlue

If you ride the transcon, you know how quickly products age and flake. LAX’s Jet Blue offering to JFK is remarkable. The seats in the Mint studio are right at the front of the plane and, due to their layout, have a ton of space as well as plenty of storage. It feels like we’re on a very long-haul flight. In addition to seating, in-flight entertainment, dining, and amenities are fresh, modern, and well-thought-out. This is another example of a product worth trying to break free from your loyalty chains.

Best airport under the radar

While its neighbors Qatar and the United Arab Emirates soak up many accolades with their national carriers, Oman Air has quietly built something special. Their on-board service is quite friendly, and Muscat International Airport is very, very good. Their first-class and business-class check-in area rivals the privacy of Qatar’s Hamad, and there’s a nice airport hotel inside (where I’m ending this column), and everything is going well. One to watch.

Best room: Nayara Tent Camp

I’m a fan of Luxury Frontiers, the design and development company, and their work at Costa Rican Resort Nayara won my Room of the Year. They channel some of the best African-style tents, making you feel much closer to the surroundings, and nestle them atop the dense Costa Rican jungle on stilts. There is a private swimming pool (fed by natural hot springs) and the whole setting of the experience is super suited to what you’re there for: nature and the hiss of the jungle. The 29 air-conditioned tents measure approximately 1,500 square feet and blend in perfectly with the surroundings. There are also indoor and outdoor showers, as a bonus.

Most Charming Shop: Ingleside Inn

Palm Springs has no shortage of great hotels, but I have found the staff and timelessness of Ingleside Inn to really stand out. It is a set of 30 rooms and suites in buildings with whitewashed terracotta roofs. The pool area is intimate and the staff are longtime Palm Springs residents and take pride in their work. Bonus points for the on-site restaurant: the classic Melvyn’s which is a time capsule from another era of decorum and hedonism, filled with a fully restored 1895 carved oak and mahogany bar.

Best Health Concept: Four Seasons Partnership with Next Health in Wailea, Maui

I have the impression that a lot of spa and wellness concepts have the same themes. Not so here. Four Seasons has launched its first partnership with Los Angeles-based healthcare provider Next Health to offer IV treatments to help with jet lag, as well as a way for customers to come in and get baselines and biomarkers. studied to improve their health. They also offer anti-aging NAD delivered by IV and other things like the amino acid glutathione. While some might be a bit averse to needles, these treatments shake up travel cobwebs, rehydrate, and boost immunity. It’s at the forefront of health and wellness, and I would watch initiatives like this develop over time as more high-end travelers become obsessed with anti-aging.

Best reopening: Singita Sabora Tented Camp

Singita recently did a complete renovation of their tent camp in Tanzania, Sabora. The result was a surprisingly good facelift that shows a hyper-modern and future face of Africa. While I loved the classic safari style furniture in the old camp, Cécile & Boyd’s new design shows a progressive and modern approach to African furniture, design and serves as an incredible statement of intent. I also appreciated the brand’s service innovations, including a ‘guest deli’ that allows guests staying in tented camps to assemble gourmet picnic baskets to be enjoyed around the property. But the highlight is sitting in a hyper-modern tent on the Serengeti floor, where you hear the sounds of the bush and the eerie roar if you’re lucky.

Best openings

A few opportunities marked me this year. Loved the perfect redesign of the Fairmont Century Plaza, which serves as their flagship in the United States. Liz Lambert’s Hotel St Vincent in New Orleans set the bar for design up and managed to open up to a fantastic community reception despite a pandemic. They’ve also built a great business by avoiding OTAs and focusing on the right connections and word of mouth. I am also intrigued by the new brand from Aman founder Adrian Zecha, Azumi, with his first property in Setoda, Japan. Zecha has always had a sixth sense for places, and this one is amazing.

Better artistic integration

The bar for luxury hospitality continues to rise. This is why I was pleasantly surprised by the inspiration of the Patina Maldives partnership with James Turrell. The brand commissioned an original work by Turrell on the property and told me, “The presence of an artist like Turrell… narrative.” Mr. Turrell told me that it was the place itself that attracted attention: “The peculiarity of creating a Skyspace in the Maldives is that if there has ever been a Skyspace at sea, the Maldives are perfectly those of the Indian Ocean, he said.” I considers water as a spirit and light as that spirit which unites vision with closed eyes (vision in the dream state) with the light which is in the physical world. It is something that is only done here in the Maldives and that’s why I titled the piece Amarta. Amarta is the immortal elixir, which I feel to be light. Superb and tasteful. This is the new standard for art integrations into the world. hotel.

Brand to watch: Pendry

I followed Pendry closely as he rolled out new properties in Los Angeles and New York. The brand is in the boutique realm but operates with a level of luxury that most stores cannot achieve. It’s clear that they take decades of learning from the Montage parent brand and apply an art-centric urban sensibility that feels natural and inspired. Too many new or derivative brands feel like they were developed in the lab. Pendry has a soul, and they’ve done an exceptional job hiring staff and building a clientele. The New York property had the best lighting of any new property I’ve seen this year, and I really liked the location of Hudson Yards and the variety of interesting F&B within a two minute walk.

The liveliest minds

A few people in the hospitality industry stood out this year: Irina Jancenko, from Air France La Première, who was one of the finest and most amazing flight attendants on all the flights I have taken. Elsewhere, Neville Rodrigues, director of pool and beach operations at Mandarin Oriental Dubai, takes absurd pride in his work, taking the time to know the names of the guests, their preferences, all with an infectious warmth and polish. Julien Surget d’Aman, who runs a perfect property with some of the world’s most demanding clients: Amangiri. I also loved my conversation with Olivia Richli from Heckfield Place in the UK in one of our Skift Luxury conversations. She has a timeless and elegant take on luxury which I have found to be impressive and super relevant. Thomas Carreras of Four Seasons, Luis Cobo of Park Hyatt, and Ashraf Amaani of Mandarin continue to impress with their dedication to making things better and more interesting. Well done.

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