Hottest new luxury hotels: shooting for five stars

From Shanghai to New York and back to NSW, luxury hotels are set to open en masse, writes Christina Pfeiffer.

From glamorous art deco-style hotels to chic inner-city pads, spare-no-expense over-water bungalows to five-star tents, luxury resorts around the world are pushing ahead with plans to open this year. Hotspots include the Maldives, Bali, New York, Shanghai and Abu Dhabi.

"The global economic crisis has delayed many openings and postponed major renovation projects but the qualified projects are still being executed," says Bernard Agache, the senior vice president of membership services with Leading Hotels of the World, a company that represents 450 hotels in 80 countries.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is spending ?130 million ($258 million) to refit the Savoy Hotel in London and opening properties in Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Beijing, Pittsburgh and Kunshan; Accor is revamping seven flagship properties under a new Sofitel Legend brand; InterContinental Hotels & Resorts is opening new resorts in the Venezuelan city of Maracaibo as well as Kiev, Dubai, Mauritius, Islamabad, Hua Hin, Ho Chi Minh City, Fiji and Huizhou, Sanya and Shanghai in China.

Closer to home, travellers can check into five-star luxury in some of Australia's most stunning locations. At Emirates Hotels & Resorts' $100-million Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa (opening in October), well-to-do travellers willing to spend $1950 a couple a night will be pampered with an all-inclusive meal, activity and accommodation package.

"Just like everyone else, we're concerned about the effects of the financial crisis on high-end tourism," says general manager Joost Heymeijer. "But the feedback we've received so far has been extremely positive."

The $25-million Pinctada Cable Beach, Broome's first five-star resort since 1988, welcomed its first guests earlier this week. And next month, ski bunnies will be able to hit the slopes from Quay West Resort & Spa Falls Creek, a $65-million five-star apartment hotel with ski-in, ski-out facilities. Saffire, a $32-million boutique retreat, opens later this year on Tasmania's Freycinet Peninsula.

Here's a look around the world of luxury:

SHANGHAI Visitors to Shanghai can now enjoy views of the glittering metropolis from the just-opened 653-room Pullman Shanghai Skyway. But those who yearn for the era when Shanghai was the "Paris of the East" can get their fix at the 1930s-glam Langham Yangtze Boutique.


Next month, the 209-room PuLi Resort and Spa (prices from $650) will offer all the trappings of an urban resort, including 24-hour butler service, bathtubs with views of the Shanghai skyline, an Anantara Spa and an exclusive lounge for guests of The PuLi Club.

BALI Alila Villas Uluwatu, which opens next month along Bali's southern coast, offers one-bedroom villas from $US725 ($951). But those willing to splurge $US3300 a night will sleep in a three-bedroom cliff-side villa with dramatic ocean views. Alila Hotels & Resorts has plans to open Alila Villas Soori on Bali's southwest coast in November and new resorts in the Maldives (August), Goa (September), Koh Samui and Bangkok.

THAILAND The 49 cliff-top rooms at five-star resort Paresa, opening in July in Phuket, are priced from $US695 and overlook the Andaman Ocean.

"Luxury travellers are still travelling in droves but many are looking for something extra," says Paresa's general manager Scot Toon. Private pool villas, attractive introductory rates and extras such as transfers and daily canapes are among Paresa's offerings.

The Regent is also opening a 106-room resort on the south-eastern tip of Phuket Island at Cape Panwa.

SINGAPORE Colonial meets contemporary on lush Sentosa Island. Australians stopping over in Singapore might enjoy breaking their journey at the island nation's newly opened Capella Singapore. Prices range from $S650 ($584) to $S7500 for a Capella Manor.

PHILIPPINES The funky Hotel H20 in Manila Bay opened this month with aquarium-themed rooms from 8000 pesos ($222). And the white sandy shore of Boracay is now home to the island's first five-star resort, Shangri-La's Boracay Resort and Spa.

INDIA The recent opening of Banjaar Tola's nine tented suites offers Jungle Book fans the chance to trek in style in Kanha National Park. The camp completes a wildlife circuit of luxury lodges in Madhya Pradesh. High-season rates are 30,000 rupees ($795) a person.

MALDIVES A favourite Indian Ocean playground for the rich and famous, the Maldives continues to ramp up the luxury stakes with new private island resorts. Mandarin Oriental has just signed up to manage an exclusive over-water resort (opening within 12 months) on Maavelavaru Island in the Noonu Atoll. Set to open later this year is The Regent's 50 plunge-pool villas on Maalefushi Island in the Thaa Atoll. The resort has a money-no-object design that showcases indigenous thatch, timber and stone.

Alila Villas Hadahaa is on track for an August launch of 14 over-water aqua villas and 36 island villas on the island of Hadahaa in the Gaafu Alifu Atoll. "When the financial crisis first struck, we experienced delays and cost increases," says Alila Villas Hadahaa's general manager Julian Moore. "But these were quickly addressed and the project soon returned to full speed."

NEW YORK Martinis, shopping and Sex In The City tours are still in vogue. Even though the global financial crisis is predicted to put a halt to some projects in the Big Apple, the city expects to add 5770 new rooms. Major revamps include The Mark (re-opens in July) and The Pierre, the 1930s iconic US flagship of Taj Hotels on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park, which will re-open next month following a $US100 million renovation. A green twist will see the opening of NoMad Hotel, the first hotel conversion in New York City to pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for environmentally sustainable construction.

ABU DHABI The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority says all tourism projects will be delivered to plan this year. Hotel projects due for completion include the desert retreat Anantara Resort and Spa Qasr Al Sarab (October), located in the famed Empty Quarter, and the over-the-top Grand Corniche Hotel (December) that is estimated to cost $US300 million with its sleek glass-dhow design.

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