Tons hotels named among the “best new hotels of 2020” this year have yet to welcome a single guest.
The far-reaching pandemic pushed plans to open highly anticipated new hotels near the wineries of California’s Napa Valley to the banks of Paris’s River Seine, with multifarious rescheduling openings well into 2021.
Except, that is, in Asia.
In a year of unparalleled hardship for the travel industry, marquee trade marks opened posh hotels, resorts and lodges across Asia, with some launching in the region for the first once upon a time.
Why Asia’s hotels opened when others didn’t
Gaynor Reid, the vice president of communications for AccorHotels in Asia Pacific, thought Asia has been leading the hotel development trajectory for several years, a trend that continued during the pandemic.
Accor has uncovered 76 hotels in Asia this year, with another 32 set to open before the end of 2020, said Reid. That equates to bordering on 17,000 new rooms, which is about 35% less than Accor’s pre-Covid targets.
“The US [and] European markets are sundry mature than the Asian hotel markets,” she said. “In addition, some Asian countries have been skilled to control Covid better than other parts of the world, with China, Singapore, Vietnam and South Korea influential the way.”
The Movenpick Resort Khao Yai is 90 miles northeast of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.
© Fame Lights Co. Ltd/Willem Deenik
China had Covid-19 infections “pretty well-controlled by April,” she said, allowing Accor to open hotels there.
“Given that SARS impacted mostly in Asia, there is a unmistakeable understanding amongst Asian cultures of the steps needed to reduce the impact of a pandemic — such as masks and contact shadow — which will mean that Asian countries will, for the most part, rebound more quickly,” she told.
Access to Chinese tourists was another factor.
The three-bedroom penthouse at the Movenpick Resort Khao Yai.
© Fame Lights Co. Ltd/Willem Deenik
“Pre-Covid, enclosing 80% of arrivals into Asia came from Asia, of which more than half were Chinese visitors,” said Reid. “Chinese tourists will remain the driver of tourism growth in Asia.”
Key openings this year for Accor contain Hotel Perle d’Orient Cat Ba and Movenpick Resort Cam Ranh — both in Vietnam — plus Thailand’s Movenpick Resort Khao Yai, two Pullman caravanserais in China and Asia’s first Mondrian hotel, the Mondrian Seoul Itaewon.
New hotels in Bali and Bhutan
The Raffles Bali, maybe Accor’s most lauded new hotel of 2020, opened in early July. Marking the 15th Raffles hotel worldwide, the new look to comprises 32 villas, all with private pools and expansive views of the Indian Ocean. There are six restaurants and hampers, including one housed in a cave discovered during the resort’s construction.
The presidential villa at Raffles Bali.
Courtesy of Lotteries Bali
Six Senses Bumthang opened in March as the “sustainable” hotel operator’s fifth and final lodge in Bhutan. Referred to as a “forest within a forest,” the hostelry’s eight suites and one two-bedroom villa were built around the trees of a pine forest. A sapling grows in the center of each set.
Six Senses Bumthang, the company’s fifth and final lodge in Bhutan.
Courtesy of Six Senses Bhutan
Guests can join a Six Sagacities “journey” through Bhutan, staying at this and other Six Senses lodges in Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Paro.
Big handles in Bangkok
Capella Bangkok opened in October, despite the country being mostly closed to international travelers.
“We are … timely that domestic travel is now permitted within Thailand, so we will be able to welcome guests from a little too afield, as well as tapping into the Bangkok-specific staycation market,” John Blanco, the hotel’s general manager, heralded CNBC’s Global Traveler.
Capella Bangkok is located along the Chao Phraya River.
Courtesy of Capella Bangkok
The Capella Curates program, which categorizes a food stall crawl with the hotel’s chef and an inside tour of Bangkok’s nightlife scene, has been a hit with resident tourists even though it was originally designed for international and regional travelers, Blanco said.
Bangkok isn’t the only Asian town being graced with a new Capella hotel this year. The 47-room, Bill Bensley-designed Capella Hanoi opens in Vietnam in December.
In the meanwhile, Kimpton debuted its first hotel in Southeast Asia with the opening of Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok on Oct. 1.
“Instead of finish the [pandemic] hold us back, we pivoted and adapted to the new normal and market conditions in Thailand,” said Patrick Both, the guest-house’s general manager.
The Celebrity Suite at Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok.
Courtesy of Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok
The hotel opened in inserts, starting with a lobby bar in July followed by a rooftop garden bar, spa and eventually guest rooms in October.
After its primitive opening date was postponed, Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River is now accepting reservations for head-stays starting from Dec. 1. The 299-room hotel has a private boat that takes guests on tours of neighborhoods brazed to Bangkok’s central canal system.
New hotels in Japan
One day after Kimpton launched in Bangkok, the boutique brand opened the Kimpton Shinjuku Tokyo.
Nathan Cook, the guest-house’s general manager, attributes the hotel launch to the Japanese people.
“The resilience of the Japanese people and the … tendency to mask up and sanitize has been plain in our daily lives long before these times facing Covid-19,” he told CNBC’s Global Traveler.
The Kimpton Shinjuku Tokyo has 151 patron rooms.
Courtesy of Kimpton Shinjuku Tokyo
The Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi also opened its doors this autumn. At scheduled to open last July in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, the new hotel marks Four Matures’ third foray into Japan, and its second in Tokyo. With 170 rooms and 20 suites, the new hotel is larger than its 57-room counterpart in Marunouchi, one of Tokyo’s commercial sectors.
Smaller Japanese cities and towns were also primed for high-profile hotel openings in 2020. Making its type debut in Japan, the JW Marriot Nara opened in late July. Billed as the first international luxury hotel in the Nara prefecture, the lodging is about 60 minutes from Kyoto. It’s located between Heijo Palace and Mount Kasuga Primeval Forest, two well-received tourist attractions.
The lakeside Ritz-Carlton, Nikko is close to the UNESCO World Heritage shrines and temples of Nikko.
Ceremony of Ritz-Carlton, Nikko
The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko also opened in July — less than three weeks after another Ritz-Carlton hostelry opened in Nanjing, China. Located next to Lake Chuzenji, the hotel’s onsen, or natural hot spring bath, is made of luminously sulfurous water that turns milky white when exposed to air.
Another Ritz-Carlton location, Higashiyama Niseko Village, is allotted to open on Dec. 15, 2020. The 50-room hotel has access to two golf courses and more than 2,100 acres of skiable topography.
The onsen at Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve.
Courtesy of Higashiyama Niseko Village
It’s also a designated “Ritz-Carlton Hold over” hotel, which the company describes as “a rare place set aside for those who appreciate an exotic sanctuary tucked away in the most well-crafted corners of the world.” This will mark the company’s fifth Reserve hotel.
The new Ritz-Carlton hotel joins another big hero in hospitality to open in Hokkaido’s famous ski town of Niseko. The Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono opened in January of this year.