Custom is key
It’s now possible to travel on a whim. It’s not merely about where you go, but what you do and what looks good on Instagram. Even those who don’t need validation on social media are driven by the same thing – a unique holiday experience.
Hotel concierges and valets work overtime to customise stays from adding personal touches to organising tickets to your favourite shows. Wine and whisky enthusiasts are no longer content to sign up for guided tours of distilleries, I got to blend my own wine at a winery in California. Cookery classes and a trip to a busy local market to shop for fresh ingredients along with the hotel’s chef is a part of the itinerary at many five star hotels, especially in places like Thailand. Walking tours and neighbourhood-centric tours are on the rise and cater to all kinds of groups. The Jack the Ripper tour in London or Chicago’s Mafia tour were among the most engaging tours I’ve been on recently.
It’s bleisure now
Remember when your dad went on business trips and did his shopping at the airport duty free? The world has changed since then. Now it’s not just James Bond who gets to mix business with pleasure, more and more corporate travellers are finding the bleisure formula that allows them to make discoveries when they travel on business.
Travel website Skift’s recent survey clearly points to a rise in this trend. 60% of global respondents said they had undertaken a bleisure trip, adding two vacation days to a work trip. Some steal time after or even before hours. I ran into quite a few business travellers as early as 6am at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market who had queued up for an authentic sushi breakfast. It was the same story during a graffiti tour in Brooklyn NYC where the business travellers almost outnumbered the holidaymakers in my group. Indian hotels have created multiple experiential programmes from art walks to visits to local markets to allow business travellers to truly discover a new city.
Getting on a healthier path and going on holiday are not mutually exclusive. Those precious few days or weeks are a chance to recharge and maybe get a helping hand to attain those long-held goals to finally get fit, address a niggling health concern or simply de-stress. Handing yourself over to be tended to by a range of experts can be an absolute pleasure.
Wellness resorts sprouting all over address this need, offering anything from early morning yoga sessions, tasty yet cleansing / detox meals (rather than predictable ‘brown’ veggie fare) and healthy cooking workshops that can help eat ‘right’ even when back home.
A wellness vacation doesn’t have to be austere. Many such resorts are located in scenic locations, be it in lush forests or with mountain views. Private infinity pools, gymnasiums, couple spas, saunas, steam facilities and butler’s pantry are quite the norm at many such luxury properties.
At these tranquil wellness retreats, travellers are encouraged to connect with local cultures through art and gardening as well as reconnect with themselves. It’s holidaying at a gentler pace.
Five-star hotels took pride in providing standardised luxury. Now, with the accent on ‘authentic’ experience, even luxury residents want what’s truly local. The result? Hotels tapping into this need and making tailor-made in-room surprises and dining options.
In Amritsar in-room surprises and dining options might embody the spirit of this city of the Golden Temple. Guests could get to visit markets like Chooda Bazaar and Katra Jaimal Singh, buy hand-embroidered juttis, or sample chhole-puri and lassi at the humble Kanha Sweets instead of its own chefs’ creations! Luxury hotels from Uttarakhand to Rajasthan nowadays arrange visits to local villagers during daily get-togethers called Kachdi on its own lawns! You could get to sample local cuisine right into the homes of the hill folk! In Rajasthan, you might get to meet the head of the Bishnois and smoke a peace pipe with the locals.
Food is the way
Food now sits at the heart of the travel agenda. Blame it on TV chefs who made food glamourous, or just an evolution of the traveller, food itineraries are quite the thing now. Goa, where Portuguese-style food was always popular is now seeing Konkani fare ascending. Even five star hotels in Lucknow now offer quick trips to the city’s famous street food vendors. The Southern states are now going one up, focussing on the regional variations of, say, how a Dosa varies from places in Karnataka to those in Tamil Nadu.
Internationally, while Italian and French food were always top notch attractions, a trend that requires longtime planning and yet is a huge hit involves visiting famous (read: Michelin-starred) restaurants. Longtime planning since a reservation may not come up unless you book months in advance. No prizes for guessing Copenhagen’s Noma tops this list.
Virat and Anushka wrappd up 2017 with a stunningly beautiful wedding at Borgo Finocchieto, Tuscany. Cost? Close to a crore a week, only for the resort. All that media coverage was enough to show us that one can recreate a traditional Indian wedding, mehendi et al, just about anywhere in the world!
If it’s a sea, sands and sunset wedding you’re craving, in the Indian Ocean’s North Male Atoll only guests and staff of a certain uber luxe resort are allowed on the island. Terrazzo baths and your own private butler clock in at approximately 02.5 lakh per night for a couple. The legendary sunset package comes with a master of ceremonies who guides you through an orchid filled ceremony at a cost of 02.85 lakh per couple. David Beckham and Chef Gordon Ramsey spend Christmas holidays here. Amitabh Bachchan brought in his big birthday last year on these very beaches.
Different strokes for different folks so you could have a ‘spa’rty birthday at the Thermal Spa Baths of Budapest; or you and your besties can make it a night to remember, including VIP entry, two cabins, hostess, champagne, etc; or jump into a hot bath with the DJ belting it out and bring in that birthday with a bang.
Inputs by RUKMA SALUJA, SHALINI MINOCHA-BERI, ASHWIN RAJAGOPALAN & NIVEDITA JAYARAM PAWAR
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