The one big trend we keep hearing about is how Experiential Travel is adding value to the high-end group events. This can mean anything from booking the new crop of designer properties like W Hotels, to properties situated in exotic, up-and-coming destinations with a wide array of easily accessible tours, like many of those within the Luxury Collection by Starwood.
"Starwood's luxury brands continue to see great opportunity for growth within emerging markets," says Paul James, Global Brand Leader of The Luxury Collection & St. Regis Hotels & Resorts. "In fact, 70% of our pipeline for St. Regis and The Luxury Collection is in emerging markets because they are the fastest growing luxury markets."
For example, floors of local marble, yards of gleaming Thai silk, and sprays of fresh orchids set the tone at the 420-room Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, a member of the Luxe Collection, located in Bangkok's fashionable entertainment district close to downtown.
Following last year's brief skirmishes in the spring, Bangkok is now offering some of the best deals in Southeast Asia, combined with a slew of cultural experiences within easy access of Sukhumvit's front doors.
"Certainly the hotel endured some challenging times during the civil unrest in the second quarter of 2010," says GM Richard Chapman. "It has taken almost a year for group business to return. However, business travelers began returning before the end of last year."
Chapman says pricing is lower than 2008 and 2009, although that has as much to do with a wide array of new room product coming online in the last couple years.
Another selling point, he says, are two of Bangkok's hottest restaurants located onsite in the Sheraton. At the 110-seat Basil, an award-winning venue, visitors can take Thai cooking lessons taught by hotel chefs. Or, groups can meet in one of three private dining rooms seating 20, while sharing dishes like Pla Krapong Sam Rod: deep fried seabass with sweet, sour and chili sauces.
For Western palates, the 90-seat Rossini's serves formal Italian cuisine. The steamed swordfish with crispy pancetta is a signature item. For more casual dining but no less dramatic, the 120-seat Sala is a local favorite with the poolside setting in a lush tropical garden thriving with bright florals and Thai statuary.
"Guests love our downtown location, our oversized rooms—some of the city's largest—and our efforts to ensure an exceptional local experience," says Chapman. "We emphasize the cultural atmosphere—from authentic Thai furnishings to our award-winning cuisine and streetside tuk-tuks, Bangkok's ubiquitous three-wheeled transportation. Our Grande Spa's indulgent Thai massages and facials have built up our remarkable returnee rate and the swimming pool is simply an oasis."
"Limos are always available, and we're directly linked to the clean, safe SkyTrain and other mass transit, but guests love the tuk-tuks waiting outside to whisk them away," says Chapman.
A few of the highlights include: Grand Palace—a complex containing beautiful royal buildings and the temple of Wat Phra Kaeo—Bangkok's most important historical site. There's also the 35-acre Chatuchak Weekend Market for an incredible local experience shopping for handcrafts, exquisite fabrics and Thai antiques. Check out the Jim Thompson House a museum showcasing the American who was instrumental in creating the global Thai silk industry. And the Vimanmek Mansion is the largest teak structure in the world, blending both Victorian and classic Thai architecture.
-- Alexis Quinlan
Reprinted with permission of Prevue/prevueonline.net (edited version). To read the original article visit: http://www.prevueonline.net/blog/themes/culture/the-new-luxury/2