I just attended a luxury travel conference attended by expensive hotels and tour companies catering to the wealthy. This is nothing new, but the focus of this one was new: the “creative class” travelers who want their fine linens and concierges to come with a ladle full of cool.
Boutique hotels have gone from occasional oddities to a class of hotel that has sprouted like a forest of mushrooms in the past decade. In most any city of somesize, those who want their hotel to be as creative as they themselves feel have multiple hip hotels to choose from.
The LE Miami conference brought together many of the best of this breed to meet with travel specialists catering to this group of wandering creative workers surfing on the edge of the new and now.
Here’s how Serge Dive, founder of the conference sees it. “The growing creative class is “creating a demand for travel products and services that are unique, design-oriented, cultural, bespoke, and in tune with the local neighborhood.”
We’re seeing this change in the new hotels and resorts we’re reviewing lately in many spots, from Cartagena to Patagonia, joining those who hopped in early in Buenos Aires and Mexico City.
Hotels for the Creative Class
Who stays at these design hotels? Rock stars, museum curators, fashion designers, app creators, executive chefs, manga artists, architects, and-here’s the key part-people who wish they were one of the above. (And let’s be fair, that includes the trust fund kids and moguls’ offspring who have long kept Ibiza, South Beach, and Punta del Este pumping
The funny thing is, judging by the look of most of these hotels, the creative class is a pretty well-defined bunch. Not in their own individual looks perhaps, but in their sensibilities. They obviously like modern furniture, sleek lines, electronic music, dramatic lighting, and a good bar scene with all of the above. They read Wallpaper and Wired, live in progressive cities, and all use Apple products (so much for non-conformity).
The hotels can’t just follow a playbook and attract this crowd like hipsters to Brooklyn, however. Otherwise any well-designed boutique hotel anyone threw up would be an instant success. Instead many on the travel magazines’ “Hot List” or “It List” are out of business a few years later. They look good in photos, but you’re not wowed enough by the experience to spread the word.
Artsy Hotels in Latin America
Which brings us back to the hotels that were a part of this conference. Many of the properties from Latin America attending LE Miami were long-running ones we’ve reviewed. They’re iconic, interesting, and have a personality. Hey, one’s even called Unique. Here’s a sampling:
Several tour companies were also there, including Mai 10 in Argentina (see this story we worked with them on the lake district of Patagonia), Journey Mexico, Catherwood Travels of Merida, and Matueté in Brazil.
I discovered several hotels there that we hope to check out soon. Blue Diamond in Mexico took over the closed Mandarin Oriental in the Riviera Maya. Nizuc recently opened nearby, after years of delays. Kenoa Resort on the northern coast of Brazil looks heavenly. We’ll be keeping an eye on P Hotel Mendoza too when it opens. Also Nayara Springs in Costa Rica, slated for November.
I got to see a personal hero of mine speak, the marketing wunderkind and author Seth Godin, who had a lot of profound things to say about the state of hospitality today and the competition. “Anyone can provide a quiet dark room away from home, so that’s not worth $400 a night.” “High standards are a given; it’s what you provide on top of that-the experience-that sets you apart.”
The second night I was there was South Beach at its best: Guatemalan rum, a couple Cuban guys rolling cigars, and a party at a fabulous hotel: W South Beach. For a night anyway, I was rolling with those who roll with the in crowd.