Luxury Hotels


Luxury Bloc in Prague was, as always a wow – one of its unique delights is meals and recovery spells in the former-monastery’s gorgeous and peaceful garden of MANDARIN ORIENTAL PRAGUE, above.

This year’s Luxury Bloc, 5-8 September, saw 60 out-of-region suppliers meeting 60 Central European travel buyers. What was interesting was that two suppliers Bvlgari (four hotels) and Maldives-based Joali (two resorts) rented hotel bedrooms that open to the larger inner garden and both removed hotel furnishings to theme their space accordingly: other big-name sellers included Trump and Virgin.

What were all the buyers looking for? Organiser Gabriela Markova says Indian Ocean was top of everyone’s shopping lists. Buyers were also searching for well-being, spirituality and private jets.

Two years ago, New York-based luxury commentator Daniel Levine was a speaker – virtually. This year he was a real speaker.  He identifies as the three top trends in luxury, be it for travel or lifestyle generally, are human touch and personalisation, wellness and time.

When asked how far ahead he looks, he says that while other futurist might predict 100 years ahead he looks only five years hence.  He already knows, for instance, that whereas in the past a hotel was a desirable fancier place than home but increasingly home is more and more fancy, so what are hotels going to do?  Levine runs the Avant-Guide Institute, which claims to have thousands of KOLs or Influencers identifying trends (he call his troops ‘transformers’) and every Autumn the Institute holds a trend thinktank.

There wasn’t a lot of time to think off-piste during Luxury Bloc. There were two days of 20-minute meetings, computer-arranged, one-to-one products and buyers. Extracurricularly there was ample networking. One evening was a Vltava dinner cruise. Next Luxury Bloc is 4-7 September 2023, and before that Gabriela Markova launches Imperial, 27-30 March 2023, to introduce foreign buyers to new destinations in Central Europe. This new show will be at ANDAZ PRAGUE, whose GM is Doris Hecht.

Daniel Levine also organises events.  Each autumn, the AGI Executive Trends Summit sounds like another effective and fun weekend of exploiting powerful trends and taking real steps to boost your bottom line.

Benefit from the power of thousands of well connected individuals who are passionate about innovative products and experiences and who enjoy sharing their discoveries with others.

Let’s go back to Mandarin Oriental:

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Luxury Hotels


Fashion comes into play for those staying in The Glamis Suite at Rocco Forte’s THE BALMORAL in Edinburgh. Suite guests are entertained in their room by Louise Marshall, above.  Louise is sometimes called ‘Scotland’s National Piper’ but Girlahead thinks Scotland’s hairdressers and stylists would be appalled by that (her father was official piper at Gretna Green for 44 years).

Girlahead does love the Glamis Suite, however, which comes with a £5,000 Shinola DTT turntable and dozens of vinyls. It’s 44 stairs up from the lobby, so you get a wee bit of exercise before sipping on the VIP welcome, Baile Mhoreil – bally-vo-reel – gin, herb-infused, and the label signed by GM Richard Cooke. After such a cocktail, why bother to go out to dine? The hotel’s Brasserie is great. Don’t miss its superfood salads and its enormous big chips (fries).  Also, under no circumstances pass on breakfast. The buffet has three different already-sliced whole smoked salmon, plain, with treacle and with Hendrick’s (Editor, you have mentioned two GINS in this, the homeland of whisky).

For the perfect whisky tasting, head to the Johnnie Walker House, ten minutes’ west along Princes Street. For other really good ideas, head concierge David Musk has dozens of suggestions, including Blair Street Underground Vaults in the Old Town, six minutes from the hotel.

Sometimes you do not have to leave a hotel to find superior experiences.  At Belmond’s COPACABANA PALACE, for instance, trend-setter in the community are flocking to the hotel’s newly-restored integral three-tier theare, which holds 332. Currenly playing through 23rd October 2022 is 3 Mulheres Altas, Edward Albee’s celebrated depiction of three women at different stages of life: youth, maturity, and old age. It stars Suely Franco, Deborah Evelyn and Nathalia Dill.

In The Netherlands, THE CONSERVATORIUM, Set Collection, also integrates with the community. Amsterdamers live its stylish shopping arcade, and local members cam=n bring their own personal trainers into the superb Workshop gym.  Work with othes should be a universal industry resolce.

Let’s listen, now, to Charles Forte, grandson of his mentor and son of Sir Rocco Forte:

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Luxury Hotels


Claudia Kozma Kaplan was one of our favourite people in the whole wide world when she headed communications for Leading Hotels of the World. Then she left, went to Kate Spade and stopped communicating.  Goodness only knows where she went. And, thank goodness, she has returned to this lovely planet, to work with, and promote, Yann Nury.  She’s with him, above. He is launching a Culinary Camp with a focus on open-flame cooking and, be sure, with CKK by his side everyone of relevant importance will hear about it.

Those who frequent the Windy City deserve to hear about VIRGIN HOTELS CHICAGO, on North Wabash.  There’s a ground floor indoor-out Miss Ricky’s Diner, with lots of Virgin-red in the decor  (OK, the ‘out’ is not much use when that breeze is howling) and, on the 15th floor, Cerise has superb views over The Loop and Millennium Park.  Yes, there is a terrace but it is being covered over enough, says GM Josh Schaeffer, that you can be out there year-round (though hold on to your Martini). Girlahead actually dined-Diner, flat iron steak with chimichurri and thick fries, and caramelized Brussels, and Decoy 2017 Pinot Noir. Interestingly exactly the same menu – food, that is – is offered at breakfast, with the addition of vanilla bean voghurt parfait.  Boy was that good, especially with lightly-toasted artisanal sourdough and Bonne Maman strawberry. The butter let it down. Why DO Americans insist on using mini tubs of ‘whipped’ something rather than sachets, or paper wraps, of such satisfactory names as Beurre d’Isigny or Netherend Farm?

But, as the name behind MARY GOSTELOW’S BREAKFAST CLUB – see – the weak point of the whipped butter was eradicated ten times over by Virgin Hotels Chicago’s coffee policy. It came in big mugs, the favour was fab and it cost only $4. You can add shots of various liqueurs, including Baileys Irish Cream, for $6. What a wow.

Another wow opens this coming Thursday, 6th October, at THE PENINSULA HONG KONG. Felix, the Philippe Starck-designed avant garde restaurant atop the hotel’s 28-floor tower, hosts, for two monhs, a spectacular. Its Nights at Studio 54 spectacular is Scottish writer-director Richard Crawford’s modern take on the original club, founded by former Syracuse room-mates Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager that that club, on what had been CBS’  Theatre 54 soundstage in Manhattan. From 1977-1980, attracted every name in the celeb book.

This time around, the celebs are actors, part of Crawford’s The Secret Theatre – he’s Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Studio Lab in Williamsburg NY and he’s made a serious name for introducing immersive theatre both in Hong Kong and Singapore.

At The Peninsula’s ‘Studio 54’ perhaps start with an Old Figgy, Ezra Brooks 99 Bourbon with Fig Leaf Sake. Contine to memory-lane dining. Boston lobster Caesar, Beef steak with Delmonico gratin, Tiramisu with hazelnut-flavoured Frangelico, espresso icecream and chocolate sparkles. Intermittently, Secret Theatre performs.

It’s worth buying VIP tickets. As well as The Peninsula’s own-label Champagne on arrival and freeflow during dinner, there are invitations to ‘Freddy Mercury’s birthday party’ in an adjacent secret room.

Now listen to this week’s podcast:

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