I mentioned last week my visit to the first luxury Shangri-La property in North America while I was in Vancouver. Meanwhile, in contrast to these large-scale hotels it seems another type of accommodation—smaller boutique hotels—have been steadily gaining popularity around the globe.
Recently I had the chance to speak to Simon Westcott, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Mr & Mrs Smith (Asia Pacific), a boutique and luxury hotel travel company, about the topic. And Westcott, who also boasts a wealth of experience in the travel guide business (having been the global publisher of the Lonely Planet brand for much of the 2000s), spoke to me also about one of his group’s latest guidebooks, Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: Australia/ New Zealand, out late last year, which covers some of ‘the sexiest boutique and luxury hotels down under.’
Why focus on boutique, individual and small luxury hotels versus larger accommodations? Is there something special about them?
The truth is bigger, ‘brand’ hotels are just more impersonal and despite all the luxury trimmings, style and service—can be much more generic. We at Smith just love the smaller, more intimate scale of some of the smaller luxury hotels; the idiosyncrasies and imagination of boutique style; and the truly individual service that such a kind of hotel can provide.
I also believe that as people travel more and more, including within Asia, the ‘comfort’ or ‘trust’ that attaches to well-known, familiar chains is wearing thin; the trend is towards people taking more risk and putting more value on the uniqueness of the experience they are having in a hotel.
What can readers get in a Mr & Mrs Smith guide that they can’t in an all-inclusive travel book series like Fodor’s or Lonely Planet?
People should get both! I’m the ex-publisher at Lonely Planet, after all!
But what Mr & Mrs Smith tries to do is really dig into the details of what to expect, and how to get the best out of the hotel in question. Because we’re hotel nuts, and have spent hours in a given hotel on each research trip (versus a quick dash in and out—if you’re lucky in some of the other publications), our readers can be sure we know these places very well. We recommend best rooms, best tables at the restaurant, give very precise advice for honeymooners, or travellers with kids, etc.—all for a single hotel. Beats an eight-word review any day!
Is there anything in particular that stands out about Australian and New Zealand boutique and luxury hotels?
Well, taking the hotels featured in the book, for instance; they are specifically Antipodean hotels which generally have a great sense of place—they are in incredible locations, and often epitomize ‘wild bush luxury’—and put great emphasis on food and wine offerings; there’s so much amazing produce just on-hand. New Zealand also has a flourishing ‘lodge’ scene—even more intimate, yet expansive properties, often on large estates. Both Australian and Kiwi hotels offer sophisticated, but relaxed service.
More information on Mr & Mrs Smith, Boutique and Luxury Hotel Specialists, can be found on their website at www.mrandmrssmith.com. Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: Australia/ New Zealand, can be purchased through the website’s online shop.