Alta Gracia Costa Rica

I’m currently attending the International Luxury Travel Mart conference in the Riviera Maya this week (ILTM Americas) at a hotel I’m always glad to be in again: Fairmont Mayakoba. Through presentations and just bopping around the booths, I’m getting the scoop on what’s on the way next year and beyond. There are supposedly 429 hotels in development just for Central and South America, with 17.5 percent of those classified as luxury.

The most luxurious project I saw for the future was Alta Gracia in Costa Rica, which looks like a very ambitious step up from what’s available there now. It’s going to be a challenge to get people to come to the hacienda hotel, located on mountain farmland 45 minutes south of Manuel Antonio park and beach, but they’re making it easier with a private plane transfer from San Jose and then a horse ride to your cabin. And by “cabin,” I mean your own house that ranges from 1,173 to 2,346 square feet. Lots of activities will be included in the rates, like horseback riding, nature hikes, and whale watching from an ultralight.

Hyatt has been on a roll this past year, opening Andaz Papagayo and multiple middle-range properties throughout the region, such as Hyatt Place La Paz. (Unfortunately two of the new all-inclusives in the Los Cabos region got hit badly in the hurricane.) More of these are on the way, with the next being a Hyatt in Playa del Carmen. There will also be one in Rio opening before the Olympics. On the luxe side, Brazil’s first Park Hyatt will be near Iguaçu Falls, probably in 2017. Someday there will be an Andaz resort in the Mayakoba complex of the Riviera Maya of Mexico, but 2016 at the earliest.

W Bogota

Starwood didn’t make an appearance this year, oddly, but their W Bogota is slated to open in December, with everything probably on better footing in January. Also, we have high hopes their Luxury Collection Frida Kahlo one in Guadalajara that we mentioned last year will stay on schedule and open in the middle of 2015.

Speaking of Guadalajara, that underserved city will get another big shot of energy even earlier when Grupo Habita lands there. The people who brought you Condesa df, Purificadora and Escondido will surely deliver a hotel that’s stylish and fun.

Meanwhile, we’re excited about many new hotels and resorts that are coming on line now and will be running in 2015. These include Eolo, Vira Vira, and the Vik Viña wine lodge in Chile’s countryside, plus Singular Santiago in the capital. Look for Luxury Latin America to have some of the earliest first-person reviews posted. We also hope to get to the new Indura, a swanky resort in Tela, Honduras that could really change the perception of upscale travel in that country.

In the past decade, tourism has risen by 50% in Latin America. It’s important to note that a fair bit of this rise in tourism in the region is coming from the Latinos themselves. That’s only going to continue. Hyatt quoted a survey that tw0-thirds of Brazilians plan to travel more in the coming year, while 55% of Mexicans did as well.