While the hyper-competitive Experience Economy is nothing new, it is clear that we haven't yet seen the full impact of the Instragram effect. In 2018 travellers will be looking to get their luxury hands 'dirty' by helping to design their own experience. 700,000 Hourswandering hotel, brought to you by the brains behind Dar Ahlam in Morocco, will allow guests to choose its location each year. Guests can also get a true 'scents' of place at Hotel Magna Pars Suites Milano where they can choose the fragrance of their room in this old perfume factory, and at The VIEW Lugano in Switzerland where the smell is not the only choice to make in advance of a stay – the color of their toilet paper, brand of toiletries and linens, as well as when to have their bag unpacked are all ways guests can customize their experience.
The wellness industry has always been entwined with spirituality, and in 2018 the focus will be on those spiritual experiences that enable guests to seek out one-of-a-kind moments to focus their independent minds. From visiting rejuvenating ancient Power Spots at the Sankara Hotel & Spa Yakushima in Japan, to night-time spa treatments under the stars, floating on water or being lapped by the waves, at Spa Village Resort Tembok Bali, the bespoke nature of these immersive experiences goes far deeper than a deep tissue massage.
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A complete digital detox might be too much for some of us, however, the desire to take a 'holiday' from modern technology and nostalgia for times when life seemed simpler has led to a resurgence of literature in small hotels. Providing a taste of the timeless, hotels are paying homage to esteemed writers or classic novels, as well as offering libraries, reading rooms and library butlers. The Betsy South Beach in Miami celebrates its Pulitzer connection with bedtime poems and a Writers Room where guests can interact with local creatives. Le Pavillon des Lettres in Paris offers Literary room service and Kristiania Lech in Austria a Book Butler who creates a bespoke reading list to reflect the guest's tastes. Rockliffe Hall in the UK will be opening a Lewis Carroll inspired parkland in 2018 as a nod to his love for the area, and the Owl and the Pussycat Hotel in Sri Lanka crosses the divide by using Instagram to recreate the nonsensical world of Edward Lear.
It is no longer enough to offer a pillow menu and a comfy bed to guarantee a good night's sleep – some brands are now introducing pioneering bed linens that prevent sweating and eliminate bacteria. In 2018 hotels will be competing to guarantee the optimum night's sleep in more traditional, yet original, ways. 137 Pillars Suites Bangkok and 137 Pillars House in Chiang Mai offers Sleep by Design therapy and a Sleepdown service conducted by a dedicated Sleep Curator. Sometimes, however, it's worth having an interrupted night, as demonstrated by the Hotel Ranga in Iceland's Northern Lights wake up call.
While data capture can promise optimum personalization, in small luxury hotels nothing beats a thorough and instinctive understanding of each guest to get everything just right, just for them. Menus and inflexible dining rituals are disregarded at Dar Ahlam in Morocco, Ett Hem in Stockholm and Foxhill Manor in the UK, where guests can eat what they want, where they want and when they want, or are conveniently surprised just when they are feeling a little peckish.
In addition to these hotel specific trends, SLH continues to evolve as a business embracing new technology and pioneering new destinations, all to improve the experience of its guests.
In 2018, SLH.com and the 2018 SLH Directory will feature geographical references from What3Words for all 500+ hotels. This global addressing system that pinpoints locations to 3x3m squares has now been downloaded to 1 in 4 phones and is used by brands including Mercedes and Land Rover.
The development team at SLH has also been seeking out new and interesting new destinations to offer to our guests – in 2018 brand new hotels will be added to the portfolio in Comporta, just south of Lisbon in Portugal and touted as 'the new Ibiza'; Cape Fahn, a private island off the coast of Koh Samui in Thailand; and Sailrock Resort, opening next week, the first luxury resort to open on South Caicos in the Caribbean.
For more information about SLH and its 500 hotels in 80 countries worldwide visit www.slh.com.