Travel,  Writing

The Rise of Laidback Luxury in South Asia

New understandings of luxury experiences are emerging in fine, calibrated hospitality-scape across the regional expanse of South Asia, South East Asia and Asia Pacific

Image courtesy The Leela

Laidback luxury means different things to different people. For some it means humming quietly midst laidback luxury in relatively unexplored destinations. For many, it means a rarity in their experience, in a soul stirring connect with the natural narrative, wherever they go. For others, it means a keen balance between an intimate discovery of their destination, and a beautiful measure of how transformative their experience has been. While tucking in caviar at 32000 ft above the sea, breakfasting with the manta rays at a personal embankment, or having personalised, monogrammed linen welcoming you in the hotel room may have delighted affluent travellers earlier, the past few years have nourished the growth of laidback luxury. South Asia is experiencing a parabolic growth in laidback luxury wooing the big spenders with uber-luxe wellness groves, dips into heritage, a high-powered knit of tech with intuitive services: all catering to the dynamics of premium tags in time, space, and silence for the elite traveller. The luxury hospitality industry is on its best honeymoon ever in the region.

PLUSH RUSH

The Asia-Pacific hotel market has generated USD 18.4 billion in revenue this year, according to Mordor Intelligence Report. With luxury holiday destinations winning favour with both outbound and inbound travellers in the region, there has been a decided upswing in the roll out of plush properties. The largest project opening in APAC region is Mui Dinh Eco-Resort in Vietnam, with W Hotel slated to expand to Macau in 2023, the Bulgari Hotel Tokyo opening by spring of this year and Four Seasons Hotel Suzhou by winter. Earlier this year, Thailand ushered in Andaz Pattaya Jomtien Beach, a charming coastal retreat, surrounded by floating markets, quaint fishing villages, and the picturesque Buddha mountain; Indonesia brought in Cap Karoso with its beautiful biological farm on the shores of the coral reef,  together with the oceanfront sanctuary at the prized Innit Lombok; Nepal plays home now to the luxe Shinta Mani Mustang- A Bensley Collection, cupped by monasteries, caves and the Tibetan plateau; and suave versions in Singapore EDITION and Tokyo EDITION Ginza, merit chic urban mentions.

Marriott International is targeting to open 12 luxury properties in Asia Pacific in 2023, from Singapore to emerging destinations in Jeju with JW Marriott, and Jiuzhaigou with Rissai Valley – a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in China. For Bart Buiring, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Asia Pacific, Marriott International Inc., laidback luxury finds its genesis in the basics of luxury. “Call it keen attention to detail, personalization and the ability to create meaningful memories,” he says, with the brand fusing elegant luxury with local heritage, playing the natural narrator of locations it embraces, across the region. “Every location provides a rich source of inspiration,” explains Bart. “At JW Marriott Jeju Resort & Spa, legendary designer Bill Bensley was inspired by the raw natural beauty and volcanic island landscape; local farming and fishing traditions in a harmonious landscape of nature and architecture: the Jeju Island farm comes complete with low lava stone walls. At Rissai Valley, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Jiuzhaigou, the majestic setting of the Tibetan plateau surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, and iridescent lakes makes the design pay homage to local Tibetan heritage using traditional building forms, locally sourced materials, angular shaped villas that mimic the surrounding peaks. Emerging tastes and aspirations of travellers are threaded together by authentic, personalized, thoughtful and uniquely meaningful experiences. We believe that luxury travel will be defined by its ability to foster human connection, holistic wellbeing and community building. These values inform how we choose locations and design our hotels and in the way we craft guests’ experiences.” It’s no wonder then, that The Ritz-Carlton, Fukuoka arrives with an overall design inspired by its cosmopolitan location and Fukuoka’s traditional silk and kimono weaving craft called, Hakata-ori. “We want to provide luxury travellers with best-in-class luxury destinations and everything they desire in one place,” adds Bart.

PERSONALISED EXPERIENCES

Call it the evolving tastes of the consumers in keeping with their changing tacit needs. Today, luxury is no longer solely defined by opulence and extravagance. Travellers are looking for meaningful emotional connections. “People instead seek personalised experiences that resonate with their individual tastes and values. They want to feel a connection with the places they visit, and the brands they choose. The leaning towards transformative experiences explains the phenomenal growth of laidback luxe properties where the focus is on sustainable practices, wellbeing, and authentic cultural immersion that aligns with the evolving preferences of modern luxury travellers,” explains Adhiyanto Goen, Head of Communications, Banyan Tree Group. “At Banyan Tree, luxury goes beyond material possessions, deeper into nature and well-being. True luxury lies in feeling rejuvenated through the healing power of nature and gaining a renewed sense of purpose by immersing oneself in local culture. At Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape, our guests can unearth a sense of tranquillity, renew their energy, and commune with nature in its purest form.” By mid-2023, Banyan Tree has already opened nine properties: Dhawa Ihuru in the Maldives, Homm Saranam in Bali; and the latest Angsana and Dhawa Ho Tram in Vietnam that marks the 70 th property in the region. Up next are Homm Luang Prabang in Laos, Angsana Quan Lan in Vietnam, Garrya Sleman Yogyakarta in Indonesia, Garrya Mu Chang Chai in Vietnam, Homm Tu Le in Vietnam, and Homm Chura Samui in Thailand. “People want a better way of living, more relevant today than ever before. The ongoing climate conditions that have highlighted the interconnectedness of self, others, and nature,” says Goen, working on a guest recognition program for even more detailed services.

Shilpi Madan for BurdaLuxury.com

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A compulsive, non conformist wordsmith. A sybaritic connoisseur of all 'tis epicurean. An insatiable sybarite. An incurable book-chomper. For me, there is nothing more powerful than the excitement of shaping the written word. I simply live to write.