From the rise in eco-friendly hotels to the search for authentic experiences, the world of travel has never been so ‘woke’. In my final feature, as part of a series of articles revealing what’s new and what’s coming up on the horizon, I continue my look at what’s happening in travel for 2020.
1. Cool out in the Caribbean
Antigua looks set to up the ante next year with the island adding over 2,000 new rooms to its inventory by 2021. Kicking off the frisson of activity on the island, and promising ultra-modern pool villas, is the new adults-only Hammock Cove Resort & Spa, located just a few hundred yards from Devil’s Bridge National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also set to open its doors next year is a new Waldorf Astoria Antigua – found on 30 acres of beachfront, it will have a destination spa and waterside dining.
The iconic The Great House Antigua, a 350-year-old sugar plantation hotel, is also not missing out on the action and has also opened four new cottage suites. While, further down the line, in 2022, Rosewood Half Moon Bay will also open its doors, and, date still to be released, there will be a $40m Marriott Autograph Collection Resort, also on the island. Antigua will also enjoy even more visitors following the increased Virgin Atlantic service from London Gatwick to Antigua, boosting flights from three per week to four per week, from 8 June 2020.
There’s also good news for lovers of the British Virgin Islands. Long regarded as one of the world’s greatest getaways, founded by conservationist Laurance Rockefeller over half a century ago, Rosewood Little Dix Bay will open in January 2020, following a four-year closure.
The relaunch of the iconic retreat is set to kickstart a new chapter for Virgin Gorda and the British Virgin Islands. Inspired by its natural setting with structures positioned to follow the lines of the landscape, the resort has been reimagined for today’s ultra-luxury traveller by New York-based design team Meyer Davis. Spanning 500 acres on half a mile of beach, the resort will include four distinct dining venues, two pools, a state-of-the-art fitness center and Sense, A Rosewood Spa set high on a bluff at the cliff's edge.
2. Marrakesh revitalised
Named as Africa’s first Capital of Culture in 2020, due to its architectural, artistic and cultural legacy, Marrakech looks set to have a year welcoming even more visitors. Already home to two UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites: the famous square of Djemaa El Fna and its labyrinthine medina, the walled old city, two of its iconic hotels have also had updates.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary next year, the lavish Royal Mansour Marrakech has several new offerings. First up is its new restaurant, Sesamo, spearheaded by brothers Raffaele and Massimiliano Alajmo. Originally of family-owned Le Calandre, near Padua in Italy, the two chefs built on their mother’s Michelin star to earn two more (Massimiliano was the youngest chef to earn three stars at the age of 28).
Also new is the hotel’s kitchen garden, which will grow produce for the hotel’s four restaurants, offer a home to beehives and The Nest, a new elevated private dining space overlooking the 1.5 hectare of verdant space.
Finally, the hotel has also launched new wellness programmes with Paris-based micro-nutritionist Valerie Espinasse, who will visit the hotel once a month to provide personalised consultations and ‘cures’ to guests – including intolerance testing, nutritional advice, detox and body treatments. On offer will be bespoke menus, conceived with executive chef Jerome Videau. Also new are Chi Nei Tsang abdominal massage and Tibetan singing bow sessions.
Another one of the city’s legendary hotels, La Mamounia, which opened in 1923 and was restored in 2009, has also announced plans for a revamp. While it means the hotel will be closed from 25 May to 1 September next year, the new refurb by Parisian firm Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku, will see a reimagination of the culinary spaces, guest rooms and public areas.
“We look forward to the challenge that will see La Mamounia refurbished, both as representative of the current day and as a 95-year-old property that has maintained its charm and heritage through the decades”, says Pierre Jochem, general manager of La Mamounia.
3. Uganda: the fastest emerging African destination
With exciting new lodges and luxury offerings due to open in 2020, luxury tour operator, Scott Dunn anticipates that Uganda will become one of the most exciting emerging wildlife destinations for intrepid travellers. Gorilla trekking permits are at a lower price point than in neighbouring Rwanda, and Uganda offers guests a once in a lifetime chance to experience gorilla habituation within the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, where they can spend up to four hours watching the gorillas.
With its eco-luxe lodges garnering attention, Volcanoes Safaris was the very first international safari company to open gorilla lodges in Uganda, with Gahinga Lodge the original, which opened in 1997. The company reveals that visitor numbers to Uganda having increased 32% (since 2017), and travellers are now starting to explore the country’s exceptional natural beauty and abundant wildlife.
Not only is Uganda home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas (which sits at approx 1,000 total), visitors can also see the ‘Big Five’ and visit three UNESCO world heritage sites (which includes the Rwenzori Mountains – home to Africa’s third highest summit).
In early 2020, Volcanoes Safaris will complete an extensive four year revamp of its lodges – Bwindi Lodge, Gahinga Lodge and Kyambura Gorge Lodge – in terms of design, dining, and easy access for guests to its not-for-profit community projects. For those staying in Kyambura Gorge Lodge, on the edge of Queen Elizabeth National Park, they can enjoy Volcanoes Safaris’ brand-new walking safaris through the reclaimed Kyambura Gorge Wetland (which Volcanoes Safaris purchased earlier this year to safeguard 27 endangered chimps) as well as plant seedlings, to contribute to the long term conservation of this beautiful ecosystem. Heartwarming, in more ways than one.