World Boutique Hotel awards gathered some of the industry's biggest names in London
Asked about their own favorite hotel stays, winners praised venues that went the extra mile
If anyone knows how to make a hotel stay exquisitely perfect, it’s the people who make it their life’s work. And at the World Boutique Hotel Awards in London in November 2016, there was a room full of them.
We caught up with some of the top hoteliers on the planet and asked them: “What was your best hotel stay ever and why?”
Their answers ranged from eating fresh-baked bread at a shared breakfast table in Chile, to a magical New Year’s Eve beside a Buddhist temple in Indonesia. What they all had in common was hotel staff going the extra mile to make their guests’ stay memorable.
Says Gregor Nassief, owner of Secret Bay, named World’s Best Boutique Hotel 2016: “The best boutique hotels transport you to a place totally unexpected and new, yet comfortable and familiar. A home you never knew you had.
“More often than not, someone else’s love story becomes entwined in your own.”
Here are the rest of the winners’ responses.
A belated honeymoon in Valparaiso
Gregor Nassief is the owner of Secret Bay, an award-winning eco-luxury resort in Dominica. In 2003, he and his wife spent their long-postponed honeymoon in Valparaiso, Chile.
“We chose a small hotel called Luna Sonrisa, a renovated 100+ year old house in Cerro Alegre. We stayed in the only room with its own bathroom, a tiny room painted in raspberry red with a vanilla painted ceiling.
“We loved to have breakfast at the communal table where the owner’s wife would bring her just-baked bread from her own bakery Pan de Magia. Everything was served in beautiful locally made clay plates and had the magic touch that only love can put on things.”
Secret Bay; Ross Blvd, Dominica, West Indies; +1 767 445 4444
Luna Sonrisa; Templeman 833, Cerro Alegre, Valparaiso, Chile; +56 32 273 4117
A ‘dessert room’ in an Italian palace
Alain Bachmann is general manager of the Chedi Club Tanah Gajah, a design hotel set among paddy fields in the Bali highlands (World’s Best Relaxation Retreat 2016).
In 2014, he went on a “romantic getaway” to Italy’s Capri Palace.
“What made it so special? Flawless, very personable service, a great, spacious room and exceptional food served in their restaurants with one of them featuring a ‘dessert room’! – It’s your quintessential ‘kid in a (gourmet) candy store’ experience!
“And all of this on a beautiful island with understated elegance.”
Chedi Club Tanah Gajah; Tengkulak Kaja, Jl. Raya Goa Gajah, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia; +62 361 975685
Capri Palace; Via Capodimonte, 14, 80071 Anacapri, Isola di Capri, Italy; +39 081 9780111
Wildlife encounters on a South African game reserve
Gertrud Grassl is head of marketing at Vigilius Mountain Resort, a five-star hotel in South Tyrol specializing in wellness vacations (World’s Best Sustainable Hotel 2016).
In 2015, she visited Woodbury Tented Camp in South Africa’s malaria-free Amakhala Game Reserve.
“South Africa is a timeless and ageless place where everything is governed by wild, hard and ruthless nature. I wanted to take a trip based on simplicity and essential things that could really make me feel part of a world so far away from Western life. My greatest desire was to visit a private reserve to closely observe wild animals.
“An amazing breathtaking experience: The lounge has a view all over the endless savannah, while in the tend during the night it was possible to hear animal and nature noises.”
Vigilius Mountain Resort; Pawigl 43, Vigiljoch, 39011 Lana BZ, Italy; +39 0473 556600
Woodbury Tented Camp; Amakhala Game Reserve, South Africa; +27 (0) 42 235 1109
A family homecoming in Mumbai
Janus Kamradt is villa manager at Over Yonder Cay, a private island in the Bahamas (World’s Best Private Villa 2016).
In 2007, he and his family accompanied his adopted younger sister Emily on her first visit to her birth country of India.
“We visited Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai and Nagpur (where she was born) but it was the stay in Mumbai which stood out. We were originally booked in to the Taj President but on arrival we were met by the GM of the Taj Mahal Palace and escorted to the Heritage Wing VIP check-in.
“From then on everything was nothing short of exceptional. Clearly the hotel had been briefed by a concierge or someone from the hotel in Delhi that my sister was en route to Mumbai and that she was visiting her native country with her adopted family.
“The rooms were stunning, colonial luxury at its best and the service was memorable in so many ways. I still remember the name of the butler and many of the serving staff which is more than I can say for any other hotel I have stayed in over the years.”
Over Yonder Cay; The Bahamas
Taj Mahal Palace; Apollo Bunder, Mumbai, Maharashtra - 400 011, India; +91 22 6665 3366
A ‘uniquely curated’ New Year’s Eve in Indonesia
Mary Jordan is the owner of Kau Manor, a recently renovated 13th-century manor house and the former home of Baltic German explorer Otto von Kotzebue (World’s Most Inspired Design Hotel 2016).
She first visited Amanjiwo Luxury Resort in Java, Indonesia, around 15 years ago.
“The architecture of the hotel was round, unique and surrounded by jungles and lush hills. We had New Years Eve there and it was a uniquely curated evening. Artistic and musical. It was so memorable that I went back there to have my wedding in 2011. Food and service was with kindness and elegance.”
Kau Manor; Triigi küla, Kõue vald, Harjumaa, Estonia; +372 644 1411
Amanjiwo Luxury Resort; Ds. Majaksingi, Borobudur, Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia; +(62) 293 788 333
A birthday celebration in Guatemala
Yens Steller is owner of the Drake Bay Getaway Resort, a Costa Rican hotel and eco lodge (The Americas’ Best Romantic Retreat 2016).
He recalled a trip to Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel in Guatemala to celebrate the birthday of his Drake Bay co-owner Patrick Ludwig.
“From the airport pickup, to arranging all our tours and giving us their best cabin, we loved every moment there. The cabin bed was located next to a lake and it had a wonderful view of the water right from the bed.
“Their staff, from the gardener to the front desk, was friendly and attentive. Their local gourmet food was delicious and unique.
“To our surprise, on Patrick’s birthday, they arranged a special table for us with beautiful flower decorations and a nice bottle of wine.”
Drake Bay Getaway Resort; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; +506 6003 7253
Las Lagunas; Flores Petén 17001, Guatemala; +502 7790 0300
2016 Boutique Hotel Awards
World’s Best Boutique Hotel: Secret Bay, Dominica, West Indies
World’s Best Beach or Coastal hotel: El Nido, Pangulasian Island, Philippines
World’s Best City Hotel: 11 Mirrors, Kiev, Ukraine
World’s Best Classic Hotel: Hotel Heritage, Bruges, Belgium
World’s Best Culinary Hotel: Vila Joya, Algarve, Portugal
World’s Most Inspired Design Hotel 2016: Kau Manor, Estonia
World’s Best Honeymoon Hideaway 2016: Punta Tragara, Capri, Italy
World’s Best New Hotel 2016: Hotel Gotham, Manchester, UK
World’s Best Relaxation Retreat 2016: Chedi Club Tanah Gajah Ubud, Bali
World’s Most Romantic Hotel 2016: Aenaon Villas, Santorini, Greece
World’s Best Sustainable Hotel 2016: Vigilius Mountain Resort, South Tyrol, Italy
World’s Best Wellness Spa 2016: Borgo Egnazia, Puglia, Italy
World’s Best Private Villa 2016: Over Yonder Cay, Bahamas