Michael Holtz is owner and founder of SmartFlyer, a luxury travel agency with offices spanning from New York to Newport Beach, Singapore, Sydney and St. Louis, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. I asked him which new hotels he is most excited about.
Amanemu, Kii Peninsula on Ago Bay, Japan
Amanemu, which opened March 1, will be a resort for all seasons, says Holtz. Located on the hills above Ago Bay and close to the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails, a UNESCO World Heritage designee with a golf course nearby, the main draw is nature and the naturally heated mineral hot springs. It is surrounded by the Ise Shima National Park on the Kii Peninsula. You can get your dose of the healthy water in a pool that goes with a 20,000 sq. ft. spa as well as your own private onsen if you take a villa.
There are 24 one-bedroom suites (1,065 sq. ft. each), however, Holtz recommends the four 3,710 sq. ft. two-bedroom villas, which can be bought as single bedroom units as well. Each features a dining table for six and outside veranda with daybeds. The Nagi Villa has the best views of Ago Bay and is the most private, while the two Sora Villas have partial water views and the Mora Villa has a garden view. There is also fine Japanese dining featuring Matsusaka beef (know for its high fat-to-meat ratio) and local spiny lobster. Activities include kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, visits to oyster farms or even crab fishing.
Nagoya’s Chubu Centrair International Airport is a 25-minute helicopter ride, and you can equally access the resort by helicopter from Kyoto and Osaka. While Holtz says Amanemu makes a great weekend break if you are visiting Japan on business, it is also busiest then. If you can, arrive on Sunday or Monday and stay for three nights and you might feel as you are in your own private forest. Another plus is that there is a level of competence in English that Holtz says isn’t standard in Japan.
Il Sereno and Villa Pliniano, Lake Como, Italy
Il Sereno Lago di Como (30 suites) will open in July on the shores of Lake Como adding the modern design of Patricia Urquiola (B&B Italia, Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, Missoni’s flagship store in Milan) to the area’s grand dame properties (Villa d’Este), and Holtz expects the same sexy vibe as its sister St. Bart’s property of the same name. Forbes, Robb Report and others have it on their lists of Top 2016 openings.
The hotel (a sister of El Sereno in St. Barts) will feature its own private dock so you can come and go by water taxi. Suites range in size from 600 sq. ft. to The Penthouse at 2,150 sq. ft., including a private terrace and garden with a rooftop lap pool. There will be 23 Lakefront Suites ranging from 645 to 710 sq. ft. Holtz recommends the three Corner Suites at 893 sq. ft., which he says offers views of both the pool and double lake exposure. There are also two Lake Apartments are on the ground level with private terraces that are close enough to the water that you might catch the spray from the waves when the lake gets windy. There is an infinity pool, cabanas, restaurant, bar, a spa with option for in-room treatments and fitness center.
That’s not it. Late last month it was announced that 19-key Villa Pliniana (below) had been acquired by the group and will be offered for full takeovers, proving a terrific venue for celebrations (up to 200 people), weddings and any other reason you want to party like your neighbor on the lake, George Clooney. Accommodations include three standalone villas and four large apartments. It opened at the beginning of March. Both are four miles from the town and there is a helipad so you can easily transfer from Milan’s Malpensa and Linate airports.
The Beekman, A Thompson Hotel, New York City
The Beekman features a a nine-story atrium topped by a skylight (the building’s facade is a designated historical landmark). Opening in June, there will be Carrara-marble tiled bathrooms, rain showers and oak beds with leather headboards. James Beard award winners Tom Colicchio (Fowler & Wells) and Keith McNally (Augustine) will each have restaurants, and The Bar Room will be a gathering spot in the spectacular atrium. Holtz calls the hotel “a great, solid downtown option with a trendy flair.”
There are 287 rooms, 45 suites and two penthouses located in the turrets of the building, each with private rooftop terraces with views of City Hall Park and One World Trade Center. Interior design is by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio with credits including The Ivy and Soho Beach House Miami.
The two Turret Penthouses feature 400 sq. ft private terraces with Manhattan skyline views. The suite features 30 foot ceilings, curated artworks and aged oak floors in 1,200 sq. ft. There is an entry floor living room and dining area for six, steel and stone fireplace and built-in wet bar. The second floor is within the building’s turret with the bedroom and freestanding bathtub. The next suite category down is the 1,000 sq. ft. Thompson Suite.
St. Regis Langkawi, Malaysia
Built on a lagoon overlooking the Andaman Sea with 89 suites and villas, he says, there are a number of connecting suite options that make it ideal for families with all ages of children, including the 3,029 sq. ft. Presidential Suite (pictured above). There are also several suite types ranging from 743 sq. ft. to 1,496 sq. ft. that have private pools as well as overwater villas. There is also an Iridium Spa.
Holtz notes Langkawi is “clean and has lots of activities” to keep all ages occupied. Attractions include sunset cruises, rice garden tours, The Kilim Geoforest Park, a cable car, waterfalls, night markets and luxury shopping. The resort is 12 miles from Langkawi International Airport (LGK), an international port of entry with a 12,500 ft. runway, however it does have a night curfew.