As we close out 2016, it is worth highlighting the elements of inspiration from the travel and hospitality sphere.
Those who are putting in the effort, innovating, and making moving from point A to point B all the more pleasurable. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather the collected and examined experiences of your columnist.
Best in-flight service
Political and labor issues notwithstanding, several flights on Qatar Airways this year found the cabin crew attentive, poised, and delightfully multinational. The onboard service — ranging from your choice of hot or cold towel, a la carte dining aboard new A350 aircraft elevates the brand to my top slot. Doha continues to be a great option for transfers, as well.
Best airport lounge
Cathay Pacific continues to dominate on the lounge front, having launched a series of Ilse Crawford designed spaces that coincide with the elegant brand refresh. They have a warm, residential feel with soft couches, carpets, wood, and perfect lighting. Guests traveling through in First through Hong Kong should check out the Pier lounge to see it all come together, experience the custom-designed scent, and have a drink at the beautiful bar. There’s new installments at Haneda, Heathrow, and Bangkok. Now if we could only have one in New York, instead of having to use a ratty, threadbare BA lounge at JFK.
Best on-demand car
Uber may be eating the world, but recent privacy overreaches with their latest app combined with their Ayn Rand worshipping and entitled Silicon Valley business behavior has us looking for another option. Enter Juno, available now in New York, that pays drivers better and shows some promise.
Best clothing for the road
Outlier, a New York-based label makes beautiful, discrete clothing that is highly technical. Their OG pants are suited for long-haul travel, and their merino wool shirts and socks are perfect. If you can pick up one piece before the winter ends in the Northern hemisphere, make it the Alphacore Longsleeve. Worth checking out.
Best luggage for the road
Rimowa if it rolls, and GORUCK’s backpacks and duffels are made by a former Special Forces soldier in America and have a lifetime guarantee. Their SK line, when it pops up, is a more discrete version of the bags, sans molle webbing. For a more cost-effective option for a roller, Away makes a stylish and well priced bag, as well.
The Park Hyatt Tokyo continues to be the standard here, with a polished, discrete check-in and anticipatory service.
The Upper House in Hong Kong stands as my favorite urban hotel in the world. They remember what you like, anticipate what you need, call you by name and are always thinking two steps ahead. Absolutely polished and perfect for a city break, or the demands of a stressful business deal. Give them your business when you’re in Hong Kong.
Best old-school charm
The Dharmawangsa doesn’t appear on any big Google SEO’d lists of places to stay in Jakarta, but is a beautiful, word-of-mouth gem for those in the know. Enter through a secure gate among the lush greenery through an elegant lobby to find large, well appointed rooms, perfect staff, and a beautiful pool in South Jakarta.
It is a perfect, quietly elegant and beautiful antidote to the sterility of modern hotels. The hotel feels lived-in in the best way, and had the best attention to detail I have found this year, down to the personalized “In Residence” stationary and crisp butler service. I’m thanking my friend for this perfect recommendation to hole up and usher in 2017.
The doormen at the Langham London are from another era. Top-hatted and beautifully attired, they are quick with an umbrella or to give directions to the best coffee in the neighborhood. Vital front line diplomats who take their job seriously.
Best Bond-like Alpine lair
The Omnia Zermatt, complete with elevator from the town square, is a modern and perfect locale to plot in thin mountain air.
Best listening to make you smarter
Monocle’s “The Foreign Desk” hosted by friend Steve Bloomfield is a perfect antidote to screaming cable news. He dissects timely foreign affairs through well-picked guests who are given time to air their perspectives and there aren’t any shouting matches. A must-listen, alongside “The Entrepreneurs.”
Best hotel gym
The Mandarin London and the Mandarin Kuala Lumpur both have stunning, pitch perfect gyms, highlighting the brand’s focus on wellness. A recent, year-end visit to the KL location was bright, clean and well-appointed with attentive trainers and great class offerings.
Best curveball for a late-night checkin
A Paris business trip had me checking in after an exhausting day at a spot near the office: the L’Amour. It was a playful, unexpected, and sometimes risqué, antidote to the doldrums of typical business hotels. And my room had a collection of just about every spy novel from the late French author Gerard de Villiers. You don’t find that everywhere.
Most interesting hotel bar
The Hotel Raphael in Paris, if you’re in the mood to mingle on a rooftop with shady African dictators is a classic of international intrigue. Elsewhere, the newly re-opened Hemingway bar at the Ritz Paris is worth sticking your nose in and seeing if you can keep your credit card from incinerating. Ask for the head barman Colin Field. As we are on a Paris theme in this section, a late night at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme also had world-class cocktails.