What’s the elite traveler in the mood for going into 2023? Think Mallorca: The Balearic island is the embodiment of the current trend for “small places, incredible locations with fabulous views that are a little bit away from everyone,” says Jules Maury, head of Scott Dunn Private.
Mallorca has Tuscany’s rustic charm but fewer people and a newer edge. United Airlines recently introduced a nonstop seasonal flight from Newark to the capital, Palma, unlocking easy access from the US for the first time. Maury’s pick is the 31-room Son Net, a 17th-century estate opening in April under the auspices of Spanish hotelier Finca Cortesin, with the GM shuttling between the two properties. “It’s going to be a grande dame, the most fabulous country-house hotel,” she says. Cari Gray, of private-travel specialist Gray & Co., agrees, noting that the property’s location in the foothills of the Tramuntana Mountains makes it ideal for outdoorsy types. “The biking is some of the best in Europe, and it’s very raw,” she says. “That’s what people are after lately.” By summer, Virgin Limited Edition will add another property to the island: Son Bunyola. The fusion of an old finca with contemporary additions sits on an 810-acre estate; the best of the 26 rooms will be the Tower Suites, one of which is housed in a 15th-century fortification.
Small is beautiful in Africa, too. In November, indie safari outfitter Angama, from Kenya’s Maasai Mara, will add a second site, Angama Amboseli, with just 10 rooms. It’s located in the Kimana Sanctuary, a park famous for its supertusker elephants but also for having little luxury nearby—until now. Angama is the brainchild of industry doyenne Nicky Fitzgerald, who retired in March (her daughter, Kate, remains head of business development); it’s known for supporting local communities in concrete ways, whether appointing a Kenyan-born GM or working with the families in Amboseli to create a standalone concession for the hotel. In Botswana, North Island Okavango will consist of only three tented suites that sit right on the namesake delta, which will be teeming with dry-season wildlife when it debuts in June. “I’d be surprised if it’s easy to book on a single-room basis,” says Jonathan Goldsmith, of Cazenove + Loyd. “The vast majority of bookings will be buyouts.”
Bhutan, meanwhile, has long focused on low-density, high-end tourism as a model for luxury travel to Asia, keeping numbers low for minimal impact. Johannesburg-based &Beyond will offer an even more rarefied riff on this approach when it imports its safari-style operation to the country in late 2023 with the Punakha River Lodge, with six luxury tents and two villas sitting riverside in an area known for its rice paddies and chili farms. “It will bring that philosophy of exploration, physical activity and conservation together,” says Jack Ezon of Embark Beyond, highlighting the location’s river rafting, kayaking and swimming as well as plenty of birdwatching. And though the 67-room resort in Indonesia’s Sumba, Cap Karoso, is larger than most high-end properties, its location is one of the country’s most pristine strips of sand. “If you want to dive or snorkel, Maldives-style, you can do it right off your room at the beach,” Ezon says. “It’s one of the most beautiful reefs in the world.” (Watch out, too, for new Indonesian island properties from hotelier James McBride, who first put Sumba on the luxe travel map and who’s slated to open Nihi Rote and Nihi Flores, likely in 2024.)
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan only just reopened to unchaperoned travel late this year, so many of the hotels prepped for its Olympics-era spotlight are following in the wake. Jonathan Goldsmith calls out the Bellustar, a 97-room five-star hotel-within-a-hotel atop a skyscraper in Shinjuku, with rooms topping out at almost 3,000 square feet. “Japan’s really a new experience, and for a city hotel, this will be interesting,” he says.
There’s a raft of new luxury cruise lines and ships coming worldwide, too. Explora Journeys is primed to be a disrupter: Owned by cruise giant MSC, it’s largely run by a team that has defected from elsewhere in luxury hospitality. “They’re selling it as a floating hotel, with itineraries that are about longer stays in port—maybe three nights, so you can get off and have dinner in port,” says Embark Beyond’s Ezon. “It’s not about checking things off.” Look, too, for new expedition ships, including Seabourn Pursuit, with two submersibles for heading under the Antarctic water, as well as Swan Hellenic’s Diana, from the firm renowned for combining far-flung sailings with top-notch service.
But don’t think overseas is the only option for finding a bracing break in luxurious isolation, says Cari Gray. Coffee Ridge, in rural Tennessee, will welcome adult travelers to its 15 villas across 300 acres; nightly rates when it debuts in Q4 will start at $6,500, including all activities, such as horseback riding and even helicopter transfers. “It’s riding on the tide of Blackberry Mountain,” Gray adds. “The Smokies are bubbling right now.”