With the arrival of 2020 comes a flurry of anticipated hotel openings. Tokyo will get a much-needed boost just in time for the Summer Olympics while London will welcome around 8,000 new hotel rooms this year, with some of the most coveted at the Guardsman, a boutique hotel that emphasises a personalised guest experience and sustainability.
Other industry trends to watch for this new year include the conversion of heritage spaces into hotels and the expansion of small homegrown brands such as the Hong Kong-headquartered Ovolo hotels group, which will open a sleek property in Bali; and Spain’s ME by Meliá, which debuts in Dubai.
Here’s a closer look at the hotel openings worthy of your precious travel time.
Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok, Thailand
The Thai capital’s hotel scene will get a notable refresh in the new year, especially along the Chao Phraya river. The city’s central aquatic artery is set to welcome the Capella Bangkok, with all of its 101 rooms and suites angled over the historic waterway. Next door on the eastern riverbank, Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok returns to town with a sprawling 3.6-hectare complex featuring six food and beverage outlets and 299 rooms and suites. Belgian designer Jean-Michel Gathy has installed a bevy of gentle courtyards, landscaped terraces and water features here to mirror the river’s never-ending flow. Along with cocktails by international mixologist Philip Bischoff at the in-house BKK Social Club, this urban sanctuary shines a spotlight on Thai craftsmanship with an on-site gallery to showcase contemporary artists, reflective of the Charoen Krung neighbourhood’s growing reputation as Bangkok’s cultural hub. Together, they add to an already booming Bangkok hotel scene.
Le Grand Contrôle, France
Built by Louis XIV’s go-to architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1681, Le Grand Contrôle at the Château de Versailles originally housed France’s war finance ministry and served as a military canteen. Fast forward to spring 2020, when it will open its doors as a 14-room hotel, something unthinkable at Versailles until now. Beyond the one-of-a-kind accommodations – arrayed with four-poster beds, restored period furniture and valuable art – guests enjoy behind-the-scenes access to the Sun King’s palace with its legendary Hall of Mirrors and Petit Trianon. The indulgent experience continues at the in-house Valmont spa and the Alain Ducasse restaurant reviving forgotten French traditional dishes in view of the Orangerie, a 150-metre-long gallery lined by trees from Portugal, Spain and Italy.
ME Dubai, UAE
The late, great Zaha Hadid – nicknamed ‘Queen of the Curve’ for her bold, fluid urban structures – personally designed this stunningly sculptural duo of towers conjoined by an asymmetric three-storey bridge 71 meters above ground. Inside this singular building named Opus, the pioneering architect also had a hand in creating the interiors of the 93 rooms and suites as well as 96 serviced apartments for ME Dubai, an outpost of the Spanish hotel brand which will occupy six lower floors of the geometric structure. Dining options here will span the globe, from lobster rolls at Maine Land Brasserie to Japanese robatayaki at Roka. It opens doors to guests in February 2020.
W Chengdu, China
Economic development policies rarely make their way onto the lifestyle pages, but it’s a different story for Chengdu. Synonymous with pandas and spicy hot pot, the capital of Sichuan province is one of the major beneficiaries of the Great Western Development Campaign, which has steered public and private investment in the western part of China. Over the past few decades, Chengdu has seen major infrastructural upgrades, including a slew of luxury hotel openings from international brands. A new nexus for Chengdu’s influencers, W Chengdu opens in March 2020 at the heart of Gaoxin district, with 297 rooms subtly laced with local design elements. Expect the common areas to draw the most attention, with funky, locavore artworks including a gargantuan sculpture of a Sichuan peppercorn dominating the dining room of modern South East Asian bistro Zing.
Ace Hotel Kyoto, Japan
Along with the cherry blossoms, this spring will see Kyoto welcome an unconventional Ace hotel in a conversion of the red-brick former central telephone office tower. The mastermind behind this project is Kengo Kuma, the Japanese starchitect who also designed Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium for the 2020 Summer Games. He relied on natural light and indigenous natural materials throughout the 28-room property, conferring a true sense of sanctuary in the middle of this popular city. Interiors by Commune Design draw inspiration from both East and West while actively engaging local artists and craftsmen to collaborate on this stunner located a short walk from Nijo Castle on the former grounds of Kyoto’s imperial palace. As at the other hotels from this American-born brand, there’s likely to be a buzzing lobby scene.
Ovolo Bali, Indonesia
Hong Kong has long made an artform of the ‘small is beautiful’ maxim thanks to its size constraints. As this trend has caught on overseas, we’ll be seeing Hong Kong hotel brands spread their wings in the new decade. With a portfolio spanning both its home base and Australia, Ovolo Hotels adds an Indonesian outpost in the first quarter of 2020. The boutique brand is hard at work giving a makeover to the Citadines Kuta Beach apartment hotel and transforming it into Ovolo Bali. The 194-room property will follow the brand’s sleek design schemes and incorporate its signature communal workspaces and cultural programming as part of its offering. All eyes should be trained on the photogenic rooftop, where an infinity swimming pool and laid-back lounge await.
Miraval Berkshires, US
Pioneering wellness retreat Miraval Arizona opened in 1995 and grew to two with the 2019 opening of Miraval Austin in Texas. By springtime 2020, we can expect Miraval Berkshires, comprised of 102 grey-on-white guestrooms among the Gilded Age mansions of Lenox, Massachusetts, on 150 bucolic hectares designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect behind New York’s Central Park. Indoor walkways will ensure easy year-round access to its mindfulness therapies like Common Ground, a two-hour session designed ‘to identify communication blocks and develop new paths to self-recognition and healthy relationships’. Seeking something more active? Swing and a Prayer involves strapping into a harness and dropping 10 metres – aficionados swear by the empowering sense of emotional release.
Back in 2012, businessman Mark Weingard purchased a landmark townhouse on St Barbara Bastions, overlooking the Grand Harbour of Valletta, the capital of the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta. Although he initially planned to move in, he changed tactics upon becoming convinced that the only obstacle keeping the well-heeled from visiting this historic melting pot has been a lack of suitable accommodations. The financier-turned-philanthropist bought up adjacent heritage buildings including a former bank and a string of vaults previously used to store dynamite. Painstakingly restored, these will soon serve as a gym and spa below the 23-suite Iniala Malta hotel, which will open its baroque doors in May 2020. Within are contemporary rooms designed by Spain’s A-Cero and Turkey’s Autoban studios, as well as Malta’s own DAAA Haus. Open to all will be the rooftop restaurant overlooking the fortified cities of Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua.
The Guardsman, England
Steps from Buckingham Palace, this boutique address will open its doors come June 2020 with 53 guestrooms behind a funky black-and-white brick facade designed by Dexter Moren Associates (whose portfolio includes London hotspots such as The Curtain hotel and Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard) with refined interiors in muted hues by London’s Tonik Associates. Conferring a private members club vibe, The Guardsman looks set to achieve what many new developments promise: to reshape our notions of staying in a hotel. It plans to do so by inviting guests to choose their rooms on arrival, as well their in-room and bath amenities, and by operating consciously, on 100 per cent renewable energy.
The Tokyo Edition, Japan
Olympics fever will rise with the mercury as the Summer Games kick off in Tokyo on 24 July 2020. An estimated 40 million people are expected to attend the event, and a multitude of new hotels will spring up across the city in the coming months to help make room. Among them will be the 200-room The Tokyo Edition Toranomon atop a shiny new 38-storey tower near Roppongi-Itchome Station, which marks the Japanese debut of Ian Schrager’s personalised take on tried-and-tested luxury. The New York-based hotelier’s attention to detail has already met its match in the hotel’s developer, Japan’s design-driven Mori Trust, which spent two weeks meticulously moving a 100-year-old tree onto the property. Meanwhile in the nearby business district of Otemachi, Four Seasons is opening its much-anticipated 193-room property, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy.
1 Hotel Toronto, Canada
This nascent North American brand seamlessly incorporates nature in its design and culinary collaborations. Consider that it uses repurposed reclaimed local materials like timber, driftwood and local limestone at each of its existing four properties in New York City, Miami and Los Angeles. For its first Canadian venture, 1 Hotel Toronto, the brand is upping the ante with a lobby-level farmers’ market. There will also be organic cotton mattresses, upcycled headboards and living green walls. Plans are in the works to tap the creativity and craftsmanship of local artists, builders and chefs to ensure meaningful ties with the community for guests of this soon-to-open address at King Street West and the Toronto Marketplace. Also in the works for summer is the remaking of a Marriott in the fashionable Yorkville neighbourhood into Toronto’s first W hotel.
Xigera Safari Lodge, Botswana
By summer 2020, 105 handpicked staff will be looking after 24 guests at this 100-per-cent solar-powered lodge with 12 suspended suites, all individually designed and surrounded by wizened trees and flood plains on the western side of the Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta. Each suite will float above the water, allowing wildlife to pass uninterruptedly beneath, and will act as a ‘living gallery’ showcasing Southern African art and design, curated by Cape Town’s Southern Guild gallery. Guests will come to know the works of compelling African artists and craftsmen including Adam Birch, Madoda Fani, Porky Hefer, Otto du Plessis, and Stanislaw Trzebinski. Morning, afternoon and evening game drives can be arranged at any hour. Or, explore the delta’s waterways by traditional canoe, glass-bottom mokoro or motorboat – complete with ‘feet-in-the-water’ sundowners.
Chedi Kudavillingili, Maldives
The government of the Maldives has set a target of 2.5 million annual tourists by 2023 (it received 1.4 in 2018) – and the hotel industry has taken notice. Baglioni Resort Maldives, JW Marriott Maldives and Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi were among last year’s notable debuts, and 2020 heralds the arrival of Chedi Kudavillingili. This high-design property includes beachside and overwater villas that confer privacy while allowing plenty of tropical sunlight and fresh air. Available for sale as residences, the Chedi occupies an island just a 30-minute boat ride from the airport. Also worth keeping on your radar for 2021 is the Capella Maldives, the handiwork of a dream team of architects: Japan’s Kengo Kuma, Hong Kong’s André Fu and Lebanon-based Vladimir Djurovic.
Six Senses Fort Barwara, India
This year will see a slew of new hotels opening within historic structures. A standout among these monumental overhauls, Six Senses Fort Barwara sees the Thai resort brand converting a 14th-century fortress in Rajasthan, about 100 kilometres southeast of Jaipur. Slated to open by autumn 2020, the 48-suite boutique property sits opposite Chauth ka Barwara Mandir temple and is a short drive from the protected tiger haven of Ranthambore National Park. Conservation-minded travellers will appreciate that Six Senses and the local royal family sought guidance from architectural preservation specialists to update the 700-year-old fort. Don’t miss the expansive Six Senses Spa in the original women’s palace, as well as meditation sessions and signature integrative and sleep-focused wellness offerings.
Aman New York, US
Built in 1921, the Crown Building presides over prime Manhattan real estate at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, its 26 storeys of windows and terraces angled over Central Park and topped by a three-metre-tall gold-plated weathervane. The building is a fitting new home for an iconic Asian hotel brand’s first urban address in the Americas: Aman New York. Designed by Jean-Michel Gathy, the 83 guestrooms and suites will be joined by Italian and Japanese restaurants, a wine bar, a subterranean jazz club and a wraparound garden terrace proffering park views. The 24,700-square-foot Aman Spa will extend over three levels, with a 20-metre indoor swimming pool surrounded by fire pits and daybeds. Owners of the 22 private Aman Residences will enjoy unlimited access to all such hotel amenities.