We rode on horseback across 6,600 acres at the Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana. We slept in a former monastery set within historic caves at Argos in Cappadocia. We inhaled views of Germany’s Upper Rhine Valley at Heidelberg Suites.
And we did it to find — for the fifth year running — the absolute best new hotels to open around the world this year.
Our goal wasn’t to unearth the most luxurious properties or the hippest hangouts. Instead, it was to discover how the best new hotels — from the Amangiri resort in Utah to the PuLi Hotel & Spa in Shanghai — are reshaping their destinations. And each of this year’s 45 handpicked It List hotels delivers an authentic sense of place.
Thanks to prerecession plans, hundreds of hotels opened their doors in 2010. But no matter how splashy the opening, not every hotel makes a true impact in the eyes of a travel expert.
The properties that stand apart connect us to their destinations, says Shane Mitchell, T+L’s special correspondent and hotel expert. “A hotel that offers a sensual experience and introduces guests to a place is exciting now,” she says. “At Philippe Starck’s Palazzina Grassi in Italy, guests can ride on a vintage mahogany Celli water taxi through Venice’s back canals into the lagoon at sunset.”
Now that travel is finally recovering — according to Smith Travel Research, hotel occupancy is already up 9.1 percent over last year — hoteliers are looking for unique ways to stand apart.
At the new Crosby Street Hotel, in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, all 86 rooms have moved away from the now-ubiquitous minimalism in exchange for color, texture, and original artworks. To further differentiate itself from the competition, the property, which was created by London-based Firmdale Hotels, also offers weekly film nights in its 100-seat movie theater for $25 per person, including cocktails and a bar plate.
Travelers will also find great value at some of the new hotels. If you’re heading to London, Dean Street Townhouse offers rooms from $244 a night — a great deal for stylish accommodations in a Neo-Georgian building in the city’s West End. For affordable options closer to home, Grupo Habita’s newest property in Mexico, Hotel Boca Chica in Acapulco, has oceanfront rooms for only $95 a night.
Not surprisingly, the hotel expansion in Asia continues unabated. In Hong Kong, the Upper House (from Swire Hotels, the group behind Opposite House in Beijing) is a 117-room property that’s gaining buzz for its notable contemporary design. For a truly regional — and rustic — experience, Amanfayun, in Hangzhou, takes travelers to an ancient tea-growing village, where designer Jaya Ibrahim transformed traditional courtyard dwellings into 42 memorable villa suites. “We never try to clone a property but instead create it to respond to each unique surrounding,” says Adrian Zecha, founder of Amanresorts.
Whether it’s the sandy oasis of Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara in Abu Dhabi or a stylish rooftop lounge overlooking Barcelona’s Passeig de Gràcia at Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, you’re bound to find that perfect escape among our favorite hotels in 2010.
Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation