All the continents abound in exclusive retreats for ultra privileged clientele, hidden treasures offering total disconnection from the world. For this clientele that includes a “Happy few” who seek isolation, these properties offer a credible alternative to the Four Seasons or the Ritz Carlton while playing on a terrain where it is difficult for luxury hotel leaders to venture: size. The limited inventory – from 10 to 30 rooms – guarantees the intimacy of the place and thus very attentive service. With rack rates that vie with those of the world’s top hotels, these hotels enjoy a strong appeal thanks to an equivalent offer (gastronomic restaurant, spa). While they may not have the striking force of a brand, most properties are turning towards major consortia for their sales and marketing. The Omnia in Zermatt is a Design Hotel, the Brazilian resort Ponta dos Gauchos is part of Relais & Châteaux. The Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur in California is affiliated with Small Luxury Hotels. Moreover, Leading Small Hotels of the World was expressly created a decade ago to attract these jewels in the hotel circuit. But many others are joining forces to fully free themselves from a network such as Cap Estel, the former Datcha of a Russian prince between Nice and Monaco or La Scalinatella on the island of Capri. The later received the very rare score of 100/100 and was elected “Best Hotel in the World” by readers of Condé Nast Traveller. Such awards and press coverage for these uncommon hotels act as passports to access this demanding clientele. Some go further by creating a veritable collection of “miniature” hotels such as the Lungarno Hotels, the hotel branch of the famous couturier Leonardo Ferragamo. There is a similar phenomenon in the resort segment, where Alex Van Heeren gave his celebrated Huka Lodge in New Zealand a pair of twins: Grande Provence in South Africa and Dolphin Islands in the Fiji Islands. The latter is emblematic of several trends that are stirring up the ultra luxury market: the quest for protected places that make it possible to plunge oneself into the local culture, the ecology – this clientele is increasingly ecofriendly – and the private villa, since the Dolphin Islands are really small private islands with villas, where guests, alone or as a group, are sure to be the only ones in residence.
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