Randy Lynch, CEO of Chicago-based luxury travel consultancy Kipling & Clark, spends two months every year traveling throughout Asia. While Frette sheets and well-stocked minibars are key perks, he says what really makes a property stand out is its service.
And he's found the best is in India.
"The intrinsic sense of service in India is so sincere, so intimate, that it really can't compare to anywhere else in the world," says Lynch, who spends $80,000 to $100,000 each year on traveling with his wife and daughter, researching properties.
Lynch, who advises about 300 high-net worth individuals, considers the Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra, just down the road from the Taj Mahal, a sweet spot in last year's expedition. Not only did he enjoy the spa, which offers hot stone massage, honey citrus body wraps and a milk and rose bath sprinkled with petals, but he also appreciated the attention the staff paid to his daughter, who was just 6 at the time.
The Taj Lake Palace is another property that caters to children. Here, Lynch's daughter was treated to a mini-spa treatment with aromatherapy oils.
"When I went into the spa room to check on her," he says, "she was sleeping! It was the ultimate nap time."
Travel on the rise
Lynch and his clients may enjoy the spoils of Indian luxury, but they are a small group. Out of the 4 million people who visited India in 2006, only 20 percent came for leisure purposes, according to the India Ministry of Tourism.
Luxury hoteliers are hopeful that those numbers will increase, particularly as a generation of affluent adults begins to retire and travel more. Raymond Bickson, CEO and managing director of Taj Hotels and Resorts, says the company has 10,000 rooms in development. That will bring the number of rooms available in India to 100,000 (still 10,000 less than in New York City alone).
"With the graying baby boomers, there's a 'been there, done that' attitude," says Bickson. "They've been to Europe and Phuket. This generation wants to have new experiences."
Bickson is hoping those experiences will take place at one of his many resorts, like the Taj Exotica in Goa.
If you stay at one of the two villas in this 140-room resort, you'll enjoy a private plunge pool, dining room, master bedroom, fully stocked kitchen, private garden and outdoor massage room covered in tropical foliage.
Too lazy to cook? Your personal butler will arrange a private chef and organize room service.
Those looking for a bit of adventure might skip the Taj and head to the Aman-i-Khás on the edge of Ranthambhore National Park, the former maharajah's hunting ground. This boutique resort consists of 10 air-conditioned tents, each with a 6-meter canopy and cotton partitions separating the bathroom, bedroom, sitting and dining areas, and all furnished in minimalist style.
Guests take nature walks through the low hills, and the more adventurous embark on twice-daily guided safaris to spot everything from tigers and leopards to sloth bears. The camp is fully protected, and professional safari guides are on hand at all times.
For an alternative to spa or safari, the Leela resort in Cavelossim, Goa, houses a 24-hour casino, fully equipped with slot machines, roulette and derby games.
It also has four restaurants, two bars, a disco and a 12-hole, par 3 golf course, bringing a little bit of the Vegas strip to the Indian continent.