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Travel at the high end is healthier than ever right now and 2014 should be a year of delights for those that have (lost of) money to spend.
The forthcoming year will see hitherto inaccessible corners of the world being explored and once-disparaged destinations made desirable.
While the Chancellor, George Osborne, preaches austerity, his brother, Theo Osborne, sells holidays to the one per cent. As far as he – or at least clients of his company Parnassus Luxury Travel (motto: “We are what you deserve”) – is concerned, the good times are back and will only get better in 2014.
For New Year, it’s off to the Alps, where the hot-ticket hotels are the newest: the Chedi in Andermatt, the W in Verbier and L’Apogée in Courchevel. “If you build a hotel in Courchevel, then people will come,” he notes, even though a night at L’Apogée in February starts at €1,350 (about £825), even before you’ve thought flights and ski passes. “The middle classes are being priced out of skiing in France and Switzerland,” he adds, just a little regretfully.
For 2014, he’s anticipating demand for Bodrum (where Mandarin Oriental will soon join Aman), Brazil (for the World Cup and beyond), Uganda and Congo (for gorillas) and, yet more adventurously, Mongolia: “That’s the next frontier!”
Certainly “experiential” and “immersive” seem likely to remain travel-industry buzzwords, hence the horizon-broadening efforts being made to offer destinations that bring with them real bragging rights. Steppes Travel, for example, will be offering Papua New Guinea for the first time, an opportunity to immerse yourself, says its local expert Alex Mudd, in “Cannibalism and cargo cults, skull caves and spirit houses, wigmen and Asaro mudmen. For those with a taste for the exotic it really doesn’t get much better.”
As more western brands open across China, more far-flung parts of the country will become more appealing. Banyan Tree, which since last May has opened hotels in Tianjin, Chongqing and Tengchong and has another three, in Guilin, Anhui and Shaanxi, scheduled for 2014 (not to mention a further 12 the following year), has partnered with Abercrombie & Kent to create “a unique travel experience” entitled Discover China: A Journey Beyond the Expected, embracing, for instance, Chongqing (for the hot springs), Lijiang (for the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain) and the largest Tibetan monastery in Yunnan province.
Exploring familiar destinations by means of swankier modes of transport is another burgeoning trend. Witness the Bangkok-based Africa specialist Elewana’s new SkySafari, which enables you to encompass Kilimanjaro’s sister mountain Mount Meru, Tarangire (and its tree houses), the Ngorongoro Crater and the 5,700 square-mile Serengeti National Park in just eight days by putting an executive-class Grand Cessna Caravan at your disposal.
Closer to home, Greece’s reputation as a destination where one no longer has to stay on a yacht to enjoy real luxury continues to grow. (So taken by the island of Ithaca was Madonna last summer than she’s buying into the forthcoming Odyssey resort on Meganisi in the Ionian Islands.) That British Airways is launching direct flights to Mykonos and Santorini, home of the heavenly Perivolas hotels, will also transform the Cyclades as an alluring short-break destination for those unwilling to rough it on low-costs or ferries.
Perhaps, then, the overriding trend of 2014 will be a re-evaluation of what was hitherto dismissed as mainstream. Parents of aspiring Disney princesses, for instance, may be glad to know that from next summer they’ll be able to stay at a Four Seasons when they visit Walt Disney World at Orlando. In an unexpected departure, the exemplary Canadian brand more usually associated with cities and beach resorts is opening a 444-key Spanish-revival-style hotel within the theme park, complete with spa, adults-only swimming pool and Tom Fazio-designed golf course. For as Marcel Proust put it, “The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” For many, Disney World will never have looked so alluring.