The recently released final part of The Hobbit film trilogy is set to spark another season of "set-jetting" for British tourists keen to holiday in areas where movies are shot.
Following the success of the Lords of the Rings films, The Hobbit movies have proved a boom to tourism in New Zealand where all the films were made.
For the period July 2013 to June 2014, a total of 13% of all international holiday visitors to New Zealand said The Hobbit films were a factor in their choice of destination. WORDS: PA
Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said: "We have seen significant growth driven by beautiful backdrops and key aspects of New Zealand in the movies.
"While it is clear that improving economies and increased airline capacity are supporting tourism growth, the Hobbit factor has raised the profile of New Zealand."
The Hobbit is the latest in a series of blockbuster movies that have boosted tourism. Other films that led to increases in British and other international visitors have included Out of Africa and A Passage to India.
In the UK, tourism chiefs have used film and TV series' locations as a lure for international tourists, with the Harry Potter films to the fore in this respect.
New Zealand's beautiful islands
British tourists jet off in droves on The Hobbit trail
Subantarctic Stewart Island, 30 km south of the South Island, has a land area of nearly 2,000 sq km, 85 per cent of which is within the boundaries of Rakiura National Park. Highlights include nocturnal bird life - listen out for the calls of ruru, weka and kiwis by night and red-crowned parakeets, bush parrots and Stewart Island robins by day. A paradise for hikers, there are 245 km of walking tracks can all be accessed from the town of Oban. Participate in short walks through Fern Gully, Horseshoe Point or Moturau Moana and for the adventurous, a three day 'Great Walks' hike.
Just off the west coast of Stewart Island is Ulva Island, the home to Te Wharawhara Marine Reserve, where you'll find explore 56 species of marine fish including kina, sea cucumber, starfish, kelp species and brachiopods with diving trips and sea kayak safaris.
Hosting some of New Zealand’s most endangered birds including the kiwi, Kapiti is a 2,000 hectare nature reserve and its protected waters are home to an abundance of marine life. 50 km north of Wellington on the western coast, to get here you need to take a 15-minute ferry ride which from Paraparaumu Beach. Only 100 visitors are allowed to visit each day. Kapiti Island is the best place to spot a kiwi bird in its natural environment: these brids extinct on the mainland, but there are around 1,200 little spotted kiwis to see here. You will also see other endangered New Zealand birds such as Takahē, Kokako, Weka, Morepork, Blue Penguins and Royal Spoonbills. For those who want a little more adventure, kayaking, snorkelling and walking trails to the highest point, Rangatira Landing, are also available.
Originally settled by early migrations of Maori people and then purchased as a private residence by Sir George Grey, one of New Zealand’s first governors, Kawau Island is now a must-visit island offering unusual history, fishing, swimming and boating. An hour and a half from Auckland in the North Island, visitors can take ferries or water taxis from Sandspit Wharf near Warkworth. A major feature of the island is the historical stately, Mansion House, which stands alone in a secluded sunny bay with an extensive garden with exotic plants and animals from all over the world such as wallabies and peacocks. From the mansion, you can head to the walking tracks leading through the regenerating native forest to beaches, Maori pa sites and old copper mines.
Located just a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland, Waiheke Island is the Hamptons of the city with countless stunning wineries, a growing local food scene, stunning white sandy beaches, an eclectic arts scene, galleries and studios and a growing crop of uber cool boutique properties. Those with a passion for wine can enjoy the island’swineries that produce unique, high quality wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and the recent move into Chardonnay grape varieties. At Mudbrick Vineyard, hand-picked fruit is nurtured from vine to bottle and the wines are carefully selected from classic French varieties. Stonyridge Vineyard is nestled in a valley of olive trees, colourful vines and the aromas of the south of France and offers wine tastin gs and café dining. Te Whau Vineyard is described as one of the most achingly beautiful and dramatic places a vineyard has ever taken root and grows five star Chardonnay and Cabernet Savignon/Merlot, the best of Waiheke wine.
New Zealand’s only active marine volcano, White Island is a giant, barren moonscape streaked with iron oxide reds and vivid sulphur whites and yellows, 48 km off the shores of Whakatane in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. For those who want to arrive in style, take a flight with White Island Flights (www.whiteislandflights.co.nz). For the truly adventurous, a 90-minute boat cruise arrives g 50 kilometres offshore to the island and then you take an unforgettable two-hour walking tour past steaming cracks in the ground, bubbling pools and roaring gas fumaroles. The cliffs rise vertically to over 300 metres high and the crater lake, a huge expanse of steaming water, is a must- see.
Known for its beauty and history, the Bay of Islands is paradise for those who love beaches and water activities. A three-hour drive or 35-minute flight north of Auckland, the Bay of Islands consists of 144 islands including Cape Brett, the Purerua Peninsula, Moturua Island and towns such as Opua, Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri. Whether it’s sand dune surfing in Cape Reinga, a cruise to the famous “Hole in the Rock”, a day at the beach in Paihia or a boat ridearound Tapeka Point to spot wild dolphins, whales and marlin, the Bay of Islands has something for everyone.
For the more adventurous, head to Urupukapuka Island and spend the day exploring the wonderful walks (this is perfect for those in need of hard-core walking tracks). You can even set up camp here at one of the secluded campsites. Take The Hole in the Rock cruise to get here and play with the dolphins in Oke Bay on the way.
Arapawa is a small island in the Marlborough Sounds with a smattering of places to stay. Perfect for anyone in need of really getting away from it all, the island's terrain is great for mountain biking and hiking, fishing, horse riding and sailing and even whale watching.
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For those Britons preferring somewhere closer than New Zealand for a trip, Spain, the Portuguese Algarve, the Canary Islands, Malta and Egypt are among the most-popular winter-sun destinations, according to lowcostholidays.
Affordable winter sun holidays
British tourists jet off in droves on The Hobbit trail
For a warm winter break in Europe, head for Malta where temperatures rarely fall below 15C and you can enjoy the city of Valletta and the Maltese islands in a relaxed setting you won't find in the summer months. Explore the cobbled streets and sun dappled squares of Valletta, go hiking in the countryside and explore the beautiful coves and beaches without the crowds. easyJet Holidays offers a seven-night holiday at the three-star Blue Sea St George's Park & La Vallette Resort in the town of St Julian's, just north of Valletta, for £289 per person, based on a 4 February 2016 departure from Gatwick.
Ideal for a short city break or week-long holiday, Morocco's Red City is the place to go for an exotic winter shopping trip in winter. Just under four hours from the UK, Marrakech has plenty of sunshine, temps of up to 18C and an exciting culture to explore. lowcostholidays.com offers seven nights in Marrakech from £155 per person, based on a 20 January 2016 departure from Stansted and a B&B stay at four-star Blue Sea Marrakech Ryads Parc and Spa in La Palmeraie.
Bali is a top long-haul winter sun destination for a bargain, where 10 holiday items including an evening meal, sun cream, a bottle of water and glass of wine can cost just £40. The spectacular Indonesian island boasts kilometres of powder soft sand, swathes of lush rice paddies and an engaging native culture. Travelsupermarket compares holidays to Bali and has found a seven-night holiday to Bali with ebookers staying at the four-star Umalas Residence on a room-only basis from £556 per person, based on 22 February 2016 departure from London Gatwick.
The Caribbean is a classic winter sun destination offering sunshine, a laid-back island vibe and some of the best beaches in the world. While it's a go-to place for luxury travellers and may not be the first destination you think of for a cheap getaway there are plenty of affordable options. A cruise, for example, allows you to take in not one, but a number of islands and covers your travel, accommodation and food costs so you only have to spend on souvenirs! P&O Cruises offers a 14-night Caribbean fly-cruise visiting nine islands (Barbados, Aruba, Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios, Amber Cove, Tortola, St Maarten St Lucia and Dominica) from £1,329 per person in February, including flights from various UK airports, full board accommodation, entertainment and round the clock kids' clubs.
For a family-friendly getaway in the sun, look no further than Portugal's Algarve, where you can enjoy cultural festivals, sandy beaches and winter sunshine. The 16C winter temperatures make the Algarve ideal for outdoor activities, such as hiking, golfing and kayaking. Don't miss a day at the beach as winter is the best time to see the coastline's natural beauty without the crowds. On the Beach offers a seven-night holiday at the three-star Club Dos Arcos Apartments, including flights from Stansted on 17 January 2016 and B&B accommodation from £114 per person.
For a touch of the exotic and temperatures of up to 25C during the day, head for Red Sea destination Eilat in Israel, where you can swim with dolphins, go on a Jeep tour in the mountains and relax at the beach. Monarch offers a seven-night holiday to Eilat from £448 per person, including a stay at the three-star Astral Palma in a junior suite on a B&B basis and return flights from Luton on 21 January 2016.
Looking for an affordable week in the sun somewhere off the beaten path? The Cape Verde islands are located 500km off the coast of West Africa and share African and Portuguese influences. They're not as touristy as the Canary Islands and have gorgeous beaches in Sal and Boa Vista. Cape Verde is also a paradise for surfers, hikers and divers. Sunshine.co.uk offers a seven-night holiday at the Pontao Hotel for £450 per person, including flights from Gatwick departing 13 January 2016 and half-board accommodation.
Think Canaries, think bring on the Full English? Think again. Lanzarote, an island of brooding volcanoes, has managed to contain its tourist development, allowing its natural beauty to break through. Black volcanic fields, deep green cacti, whitewashed cottages: it’s a landscape to gladden the cool designer’s eye. December may be the beginning of the rainy season but don't let that put you off! The island experiences less than 20 days of rain in an entire year. Stick to the south for warm sunny days on the beach. lowcostholidays.com offers seven nights at three-star Blue Sea Costa Teguise Gardens on a B&B for £223 per person based on 11 Jan 2016 departure.
With average temperatures of 32C across the winter months and soft sandy beaches, Goa is the ideal destination for escaping the cold and discovering a new culture. Visit the exhilarating local markets stacked with spices and silks, relax on the vast sandy beaches lapped by the Arabian Sea and explore the unique local cuisine. Head to Central Goa for water sports and diving, North Goa for the lively atmosphere and nightclubs and South Goa for spotless white sand, baroque churches and bazaars. Monarch offers a 14-night holiday at Palmarinha Resort in North Goa for £615 per person, departing Gatwick on 28 February 2016.
Want winter sun without the long-haul flight? Cyprus is an excellent choice for warm temperatures (20C), sightseeing and gorgeous beaches. Nature lovers will be in their element throughout the winter months when the landscapes are lush and green. You can visit the Troodos National Forest Park, enjoy a camping holiday and go strawberry picking. Limassol boasts quiet beaches, fascinating historical attractions and museums, while Paphos is known for its ancient ruins, unspoilt beauty and bustling centre. easyJet Holidays offers seven nights at the luxurious Amphora Hotel & Suites in Paphos for £239 per person, based on a 2 February 2016 departure from Gatwick.
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Kirker Holidays has seen a rise in European twin-centre trips, such as a combination of Florence and Rome, due to good rail connections.
Another UK tour operator, Sunvil Traveller is predicting that this year's lifting of pension restrictions will lead to more over-55s taking long-haul trips.
According to DialAFlight, river cruises, particularly on the Mekong in south east Asia and on the Amazon, will see growth this year.
15 cruise deals for 2015
British tourists jet off in droves on The Hobbit trail
Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, sister ship to Quantum of the Seas, is set to be just as all-singing and all-dancing, featuring bumper cars, Jamie’s Italian (as in Oliver) and more, as well as a strong emphasis on all things musical. Cruise deal: An eight-night cruise on Anthem of the Seas, departing 22 April 2015, starts at £899pp. royalcaribbean.co.uk.
River cruising is one of the hottest travel trends right now. Because they’re smaller, river ships can take you right into the heart of the action; plus there are frequent stops. Perhaps the most intriguing destination for 2015 is Burma, with its glittering temples and ancient traditions. Now’s the time to go, before the big high-rise hotels move in. Cruise deal: Uniworld's 17-day Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia & The Mekong costs from £4,099pp, including all meals, alcohol and return flights. titantravel.co.uk.
Staff catering to your every whim, gourmet dinners, white fluffy robes to watch the sunset from your balcony: a cruise gives you a taste of the high life at a fraction of the cost of luxury hotels, and more and more cruise lines are offering extra flourishes to entice you. Cruise deal: Book a Celebrity Cruises holiday between 1 August and 30 September 2014 on selected worldwide sailings and receive a free upgrade to a room with a private balcony and flights from just £49, including transfers. Guests sailing out of Southampton will also receive a complimentary classic drinks package worth up to $1,400, free car parking at the port or a complimentary private chauffeur driven journey to the ship when booking a suite. celebritycruises.co.uk.
If you’ve been longing to visit Cuba then 2015 is definitely the year to go: big changes are afoot and it won't be long before it's completely commercialised. Thomson’s Cuban Fusion itinerary includes two full days in Havana, as well as Caribbean ports of call including Montego Bay. Cruise deal: A seven-night Cuban Fusion cruise, departing January 2015 from Montego Bay, starts at £1080pp, including return flights and transfers thomson.co.uk.
There's no doubt that one of the best ways to look for the aurora borealis is from a cruise ship. Go in January, February or March, when the air is crisp and the nights are clear, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a spectacular light show. Cruise deal: A return journey from Tromsø to Kirkenese and back in January 2015 costs from £575pp (based on two sharing, full board. Flights extra). Visit hurtigruten.co.uk.
Savvy cruise lines have cottoned on to the fact that we don’t just want to eat lots of food when we’re on a cruise – we want to learn how to cook it too. On Oceania Cruises’ Marina, there’s a dedicated culinary school, the Bon Appétit Culinary Center. Cruise deal: A 10-night cruise on Marina, sailing in October 2015, starts from £1949pp. A single session class in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center is $69 per person (around £45). Visit oceaniacruises.com.
Royal Princess, named by the Duchess of Cambridge last summer, and recently seen on ITV’s The Cruise Ship, makes a return to the UK in 2015. Probably one of the most glamorous ships afloat, it includes a fabulous spa and adults-only area, The Sanctuary. Cruise deal: A 12-night British Isles cruise on Royal Princess, departing 21 May 2015, starts at £1,482pp. Visit princess.com.
Will P&O’s Britannia rule the waves next year? We’ll have to wait until May to find out, but this state-of-the-art ship is the biggest ever built for the British market. It features the first British cookery school at sea, run by celeb chef James Martin, as well as cuisine created by Marco Pierre White. Cruise deal: Two-night taster cruises round-trip from Southampton to Guernsey on board Britannia .From £315pp. Visit pocruises.com.
A cruise on the mighty US river from New Orleans to Memphis is one of the iconic journeys and there's no better way to experience it than on a luxurious paddle steamer. American Queen is an authentic reproduction of a traditional ship. Cruise deal: A nine-day New Orleans-Memphis holiday (seven night cruise on American Queen with one night pre-cruise hotel stay) from £2,595pp including flights, transfers, excursions, and wine with dinner. Visit lightbluetravel.co.uk.
Cruise lines are rapidly catching on to the fact that we don’t necessarily want to share (or pay full whack for a stateroom made for two). Norwegian’s Breakaway and Getaway are just two of the newer ships that cater for single cruisers with The Studios, which offer smart accommodation, including a hang-out for mingling. Cruise deal: A nine-night Eastern Caribbean fly-cruise on Norwegian Getaway starts at £1642 in April 2015, based on one person staying in The Studios. Visit ncl.co.uk.
Fancy exploring Scandinavia with Captain Mickey and co? Disney Cruise Lines returns to the UK in 2015, with Disney Magic sailing from Dover to Barcelona. Cruise deal: A seven-night cruise from Dover to Barcelona sailing in August 2015 starts at £2507.16pp. Visit disneycruise.disney.go.com.
Adventure cruising – going off the beaten track, embracing your inner Ben Fogle and getting up close (but not too close) to orcas and polar bears is for many thrill-seekers the ultimate challenge. And this is the year to do it! Cruise deal: An 11-night Classic Antarctica cruise from Chimu Adventures starts from £2,970pp. Visit chimuadventures.com.
Forget everything negative you’ve heard about cruise ship entertainment, because the stakes have been well and truly raised. Not only can you see Broadway musicals including Saturday Night Fever and Legally Blonde, but you can also go to gigs by some of the world’s best known performers (Carnival Cruise Lines boasted performances by Jennifer Hudson and Olivia Newton-John in 2014). Cruise deal: Carnival cruises offers 7-day Caribbean cruises from £339pp, excluding flights. Visit carnival.co.uk.
A brand new ocean cruise line is something to get excited about. Viking are known for their river cruises, but the first of their three ocean ships starts sailing from Norway in May 2015, promising their signature Scandinavian chic, an infinity pool and some enticing itineraries. Cruise deal: Cruises start from £1,749pp, including flights, private veranda stateroom, all meals, complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks, guided shore excursions in each port of call and free Wifi. Visit vikingoceancruises.co.uk.
2015 sees the centenary of Gallipoli, and the sinking of the passenger ship RMS Lusitania; there will be lots of commemorative events, but Cunard’s Lusitania Remembered voyage on board the elegant Queen Victoria promises to be a particularly fitting tribute. Cruise deal: The Lusitania Remembered cruise from 3-15 May 2015 starts at £879pp. For more info see cunard.co.uk
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Travel agent Expedia said South East Asia had seen the biggest increase in demand for holidays last year and said that trend was set to continue.
It picked out South and Central America, the Mediterranean and Northern Europe as particularly popular spots for this year as well.
Online cruise guide Cruise Critic is predicting the Mediterranean will continue to be the top choice for UK cruisers.
But it adds that some of the cruise destinations to watch in 2015 include Norway, Australia and the Elbe River, as well as a resurgence of the Caribbean.
Best new flight routes launching in 2015
British tourists jet off in droves on The Hobbit trail
British Airways will start direct flights to the historic Polish city from Heathrow in summer 2015. From 1 May, the service will operate four times a week on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays and Sundays, with hand baggage only flights costing from £37 one-way and return checked-in luggage flights from £104 return. Krakow is famous for its historic city centre, which was the first in the world to be recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage centre, because of its beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. As well as being a centre of Polish culture for tourists, many also make the journey to the nearby former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz to pay their respects.
WOW air will offer low-cost flights to historic American city Boston from Gatwick on 27 March 2015, with prices starting as little as £99 each way. The flights (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday) will make a short stop in Iceland's capital Reykjavik before continuing to Boston. As the largest city in New England, Boston is home to famous universities, one of America's most iconic baseball teams and the Freedom Trail.
easyJet will start three new flight routes to Porto from Manchester, Bristol and Luton Airports in summer 2015. The thrice weekly, year-round flights join London Gatwick in offering cheap flights to Portugal's second largest city, with fares starting from £30.99 each way. The ancient port city, built along the hills overlooking the Douro River, boasts a historic centre, meandering lanes and a diverse mix of architecture, as well as plenty of port-tasting opportunities.
Monarch adds Greek island Rhodes to its summer schedule for 2015. The flights will be from Gatwick and Manchester every Wednesday from May to September and fares start from £39.99 one-way. With stunning sunsets, traditional Greek food and 3,000 hours of sun a year, Rhodes is one of the most favourable summer destinations. Explore the ancient history of the island, see the stunning natural beauty and crystal waters, or just simply relax in the sun.
Canadian airline Air Transat is introducing its first ever UK to St John’s service in summer 2015 when the flights (from £448 return) from Gatwick to the pretty Newfoundland city commence. The twice-weekly service has one of the shortest routes across the Atlantic with a flying time of just over six hours and will operate from 18 June to 2 September. Flights depart from Gatwick every Tuesday and Thursday, and return from St John’s every Monday and Wednesday. Over 500 years old, St John’s is full of character with a bustling harbour and narrow, criss-crossing streets which take visitors on a historical journey. While exploring, stop at the many art galleries, heritage sites, museums and fine boutiques. Those feeling active can climb one of the steep hills which offer unrivalled views of the city.
easyJet will start flying from London Gatwick to the city of Stuttgart on 29 March 2015, with fares from £38.99 each way. Home to Mercedes Benz and Porsche, Stuttgart is leafy and boasts a village feel. It's best explored in the summer when you can enjoy the beer gardens of Schlossgarten Park and the mineral baths of Bad Canstatt.
Delta Air Lines is introducing a non-stop daily service from Heathrow to Philadelphia in April 2015, with flights costing from £620.16 return. Philadelphia is steeped in history and is the birthplace of America, home to the Liberty Bell, a resonant symbol of freedom around the world. The city, designed on an easy to explore, walkable grid system, boasts friendly neighbourhoods, cafes, restaurants and bars to relax in. With no sales tax on clothing and shoes, it is a bargain for shoppers and a great place to shop.
Next summer, easyjet will become the only UK airline to offer flights to Essaouira in Morocco, with two services a week from Luton. The flights will start on 1 May 2015 and cost as little as £40.99 one-way. The coastal city is famous for its Portuguese fortress and the old Medina. It is popular among surfers and tourists in search of a laidback atmosphere.
Following a 15 year hiatus, British Airways will be running a daily service from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur from 27 May 2015, with World Traveller economy fares starting at £708 return. The many cultures, unique blend of heritage, abundance of cuisines and arts have always put Malaysia on the map as a must-visit destination. From the buzzing city of Kuala Lumpur to the serene beaches of Langkawi and the vibrant forests of Malaysian Borneo, the country offers something for travellers of all ages and with all kinds of interests. In KL, you can enjoy the huge, air-conditioned shopping malls, wander around Chinatown and check out Little India.
Etihad Airways is bringing Abu Dhabi closer to Edinburgh with the launch of non-stop daily flights from the Scottish capital to the UAE's capital city on 8 June 2015. Flights will cost from £455 return and holidaymakers travelling to the city can enjoy year-round sunshine, pristine beaches, spectacular sand dunes and the cosmopolitan lifestyle, while discovering a different side to the UAE to Dubai.
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Best new hotels opening in 2015
British tourists jet off in droves on The Hobbit trail
Combining historic architecture and orientalism, Maison Souquet offers a Belle Époque experience of a time focused on peace and optimism. Set next to Montmartre in a neighbourhood formerly renowned for its pleasure houses, where nobility and socialites would party with bohemian Parisians during the Belle Époque era, the hotel features a grand staircase as the centre point for the ground floor’s large reception areas, including a great lounge, study and winter garden. Not to be missed, the underground pool and hammam boast a sky-painted ceiling. Famed French designer Jacques Garcia conjured up the opulence of 19th century France through antique woodwork and Cordova leather furnishings throughout the hotel and its 20 luxurious suites and rooms.
Six Senses is set to open its first resort in Europe in the beautiful Portuguese UNESCO World Heritage area of the Douro Valley. Six Senses Douro Valley is touched with the romance of 19th century architecture wedded to contemporary interiors. The resort covers 19 acres and features 71 Valley, Spa and River rooms and spacious suites and villas. The restaurants draw upon the abundant fresh produce of the region and from the resort’s own gardens, and the interactive Wine Academy presents leading vintages from the area where you are guided in the varieties and styles by leading Portuguese winemakers from the surrounding valley. An expansive Six Senses Spa has 10 treatments rooms and presents Six Senses specialty treatments, as well as a heated indoor pool with water jets, a heated outdoor pool and bar, and a gym with the latest exercise equipment.
Located in New York City's hottest neighbourhood, the Flatiron district, the New York EDITION is set to be one of the trendiest hotels to hit the Big Apple when it opens in May. Housed in the former Met Life Tower - once the tallest building in New York - and set directly across from the iconic Madison Square Park, the stylish hotel combines the historic landmark’s original Beaux-Arts architecture with rich interior details and a modern, edgy, original, and sophisticated sensibility. It will feature a Jason Atherton restaurant (his first in the USA), 273 rooms and several bars.
This exciting conversion of an old manor house into a luxury boutique hotel in the historic centre of Palma de Mallorca sits at number five Plaza de Sant Francesc and in the shadow of one of Palma’s oldest churches, the Basilica de Sant Francesc, restoring the old Can Alomar building. Sant Francesc Hotel Singular, part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is a chic urban bolthole which retains the beauty of the former building and blends graceful simplicity with a distinctly Spanish style. Among its 42 rooms, there is the 100m2 Tower Suite where you can soak up the Mallorcan sun on your own private terrace. The five-star facilities include a rooftop terrace with a pool, patio bar, a garden restaurant and gym.
Ideally located in the heart of the Riviera Maya along the white-sand beaches and clear waters of Akumal, this Mexican adults-only resort Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya offers 434 elegant suites, many with stunning ocean views and all with private balconies or terraces and full bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs and separate showers. You can indulge in limitless gourmet dining without reservations at the seven restaurants, and relax at the six chic bars and lounges. The resort boasts an expansive infinity pool with ocean views, as well as 11 smaller pools providing swim-out access from select suites.
The new InterContinental London – The O2 is set to become the most luxurious hotel in Greenwich when it opens in late 2015, with 453 bedrooms over 18 storeys. Located on the banks of London's River Thames, guests can enjoy breathtaking views of the water and neighbouring Canary Wharf. Facilities at the hotel include a luxury spa, a bar, two restaurants - comprising a fine dining and all-day dining experience - as well as an 18th floor Sky Bar boasting an uninterrupted, panoramic view across the water to Canary Wharf and beyond.
Set on its own private island in the Venetian lagoon, just 15 minutes by boat from St Mark's Square, JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa will combine the very best in contemporary hotel design with the heritage and elegance of its location on Isola delle Rose. The world-class urban resort features tranquil bedrooms and suites, some with private pools, and offers guests over 16 acres to explore. It is home to Venice's largest spa, as well as indoor, outdoor and rooftop swimming pools with fabulous views of the city. Guests can look forward to exceptional dining experiences in an array of restaurants and bars, and unparalleled levels of privacy and space with quirky touches including restored outbuildings scattered around the island.
Situated in Picasso’s first studio, where he painted the famous Ciencia y Caridad, The Serras is housed in a building dating from 1846 with an original Neo-Classical façade designed by Francesc Daniel Molina. Inside, Spanish designer Eva Martinez has created an elegant and fresh feel, with a look combining New York and modern Catalan styles. The five-star hotel has 30 rooms and suites, including the Picasso Suite, where the artist painted the view of Basilica de La Mercè, just around the corner from the hotel. The rooftop invites guests to relax with views over Barcelona's marina by taking a dip in the pool or having a drink at the bar. Dining is a Michelin-starred yet informal affair, with specialities such as sea bass sushi and Galician beef tataki from the grill.
New luxury hostel Safestay Holland Park will open in London's Holland Park this spring in one of the capital's most prestigious parks and housed within the East Wing of the original Jacobean building, Holland House. The hostel promises guests stylish, affordable and comfortable accommodation in a desirable location, with 380 beds, free breakfast and WiFi, as well as fabulous interiors for guests looking for a 'poshtel' in one of London's most sought after locations.
Autograph Collection debuts its first property in Switzerland, Kameha Grand Zurich, in March 2015. Set in the heart of Zurich, the unique hotel is a dazzling fusion of architecture and design, showcasing 11 individually-themed suites, including an extravagant Poker Face Suite fitted with roulette tables and Kameha poker cards, as well as a luxurious Serenity Suite which will boast yoga and wellness accessories to promote ultimate tranquillity. Along with beautiful bedrooms and suites, the hotel features a gourmet Italian restaurant, L’Unico, serving authentic homemade pastas, plus Japanese fine dining restaurant, Yu Nijyo. Puregold Bar is the place to enjoy evening cocktails and the Cigar Lounge allows guests to relax with a selection of Dominican and Cuban cigars. There is also the Arabian-themed Shisha Lounge and the Kameha Spa provides lavish treatments and therapies in a peaceful sanctuary setting.
A legendary New York landmark on the corner of 42nd and Broadway, The Knickerbocker will open its doors in early 2015 as a sophisticated urban hotel with an emphasis on fitness, fashion and food. A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, the hotel originally opened in 1906 by John Jacob Astor IV, exemplifying the high culture of the Gilded Age and serving as a nexus for society’s crème de la crème. The rumoured birthplace of the original martini and the first hotel to offer a true multidimensional lifestyle experience, it has witnessed and influenced over a century of New York history. When it opens in 2015, celebrity chef Charlie Palmer is set to oversee all its food and drink outlets. The 330-room hotel will feature JAKE’s, a ground level 'grab-and-go' café, and a signature restaurant and bar on the fourth floor known as Charlie Palmer @ The Knick. The vast rooftop bar and terrace, St. Cloud, will feature a signature Nat Sherman cigar bar to complement its unrivalled views of the New Year’s Eve Ball and Times Square.
Opening at 100 King Street in Manchester, 80 years after the building originally opened as a bank, Hotel Gotham's 60 rooms feature burnished metals teamed with dark polished woods and luxurious leather, with soft velvet and faux fur used liberally. Subtle nods are made to its banking past with money-bag style laundry bags and there are travel trunk-style cocktail cabinets and wardrobes. The main staircase, its balustrades, mouldings and terrazzo flooring have been restored, and leather satchel briefcase lights, bowler hat displays and bankers lamps all pay homage to the original function of the building. The bar and restaurant, Brass and Honey, promise to be mysterious and enticing, with menus and cocktails reflecting the art deco heritage.
This luxurious sanctuary nestled in enchanting woodland and located close to the village and beach of Kamala on the west coast of Phuket offers a tranquil setting that encourages guests to rebalance, rejuvenate and relax. Keemala, part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, makes use of natural features such as trees, streams and waterfalls to complement the surrounding landscape. Its 38 pool villas are split into four different styles, each one representing a different group of fictitious early Phuket settlers through their design and position, including clay cottages, tent villas, tree houses and bird's nest villas. While every villa comes with its own private pool and outdoor terrace, there is also a larger communal pool and a spa offering organic and traditional treatments, a gym, yoga pavilions, and meditation areas in keeping with Keemala's wellness ethos. Its restaurant will feature wholesome cuisine as well as fine dining and there are quaint spots around the resort for destination dining - ideal for private parties, romantic picnics and cooking classes.
The new Taj Dubai opens in the prestigious Downtown area in March 2015, surrounded by architectural landmarks such as the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and Business Bay. The hotel will have 296 guestrooms and suites, including two lavishly decorated themed suites on the top floors, The Tata Suite and The Maharaja Suite, which will have their own private dining and living areas with panoramic views over the Downtown area. With seven food and drink outlets, Taj Dubai will offer varied dining experiences ranging from Indian to Peruvian fare. Kids@Taj will provide customised activities and services for children, and the fitness centre and Jiva Spa will allow guests to enjoy treatments inspired by traditional Indian therapies.
Hidden away in true private Arabian luxury on its own exclusive island, Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara comprises a 96-room hotel, as well as 34 two and three-bedroom poolside villas. Additionally, there are 11 overwater-style villas built above water on stilts for those looking for a truly deluxe experience. Amenities at the resort include a nine-hole golf putting course, extensive water sports activities and a family entertainment centre featuring an 8 pin bowling alley and luxury cinema. The resort also features the Anantara Signature Spa, its first Wellness Centre in the Middle East, as well as its own marina with 30 berths and a dive centre with a practice pool, ideal for beginners.
An unforgettable LEGO adventure awaits families in Florida, when the five-storey, 152-room, fully themed LEGOLAND Hotel opens at the LEGOLAND Florida Resort. Families can choose from a swashbuckling Pirate Room, a regal Kingdom Room, or a rip-roaring Adventure Room with an exciting new room theme still to be announced. The hotel includes a pool where families can relax in the Florida sunshine, as well as thousands of LEGO models, interactive play areas where children’s imaginations can run wild and restaurants including a kid-size buffet. Guests will have exclusive early access to the theme park and will be treated to nightly entertainment at the hotel.
La Réserve Paris is situated on the Avenue Gabriel, between the Champs-Elysées and the Faubourg Saint-Honoré, and housed in the former residence of Pierre Cardin. This Parisian hotel, part of The Leading Hotels of the World, offers exceptional views of the Grand Palais, the Eiffel Tower, the Pantheon and the Obelisk on the Place de la Concorde, while boasting the atmosphere of a private club. It has just 14 rooms and 26 suites. Le Gabriel is the principal dining room, while guests can enjoy cocktails in Le Salon de Clos, Le Salon Marigny and La Bibliotheque. When it comes to relaxation, there is a spa, swimming pool and gym.