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Bring on 2021: luxury agents share favourite hotels and gems to look forward to

After a rollercoaster of a year, we asked a selection of luxury agents to share what – and who – has got them through the crisis, some of their star performers when it comes to hotels, insight into their own favourite places of the year – and their top tips and dream trips for next year. Roll on 2021!

Penthouse at Forestis in the Italian Dolomites
Penthouse at Forestis in the Italian Dolomites
Bring on 2021: luxury agents share favourite hotels and gems to look forward to

Olivia Chetham, Papillon Travel

Which hotel have you loved the most this year? I wasn’t able to stay there, but during a villa holiday to Puglia, I visited Rocco Forte’s Masseria Torre Maizza and La Fiermontina (Lecce) in August – I thought they worked so well to include together in an itinerary.


Which hotel has been your star performer? Wilderness Reserve (a collection of exclusive-use country houses, holiday cottages, and off-grid boltholes in a 5,000-acre Suffolk estate) has been a great option for domestic travel and both GP Associates and Tom (Thomas Keetch) on property are so helpful.


Where are you lusting after? Reschio in Umbria – also looked after by GP Associates – looks wonderful and it is high on my list for 2021; in my head, I’ve planned a huge Italian itinerary and I definitely want to go there, as well as having my eye on Dimora Delle Balze in Noto, Sicily, before popping over to the Aeolian Islands and staying at the simple but stylish Hotel Principe di Salina.

Masseria Torre Maizza
Masseria Torre Maizza

What have you learned about yourself in 2020? That I can actually survive longer than I thought without going abroad! Although my travel wish list is now so long, I think 2021 could be a busy year of travel.


Who – or what – has got you through the year? That would definitely be my travel industry friends.


What’s your dream 2021 trip? I’m desperate to go to Sri Lanka having booked clients but never been. Whilst going anywhere would be a dream, I’ve missed exploring, being a hotel geek checking out boutique hotels and experiencing local culture and cuisine; Sri Lanka ticks so many boxes for me.

Jules Orford, Summers & Winters

Which hotel have you loved the most this year? Trips this year have been limited of course, however I was lucky enough to stay at Severins in Lech in Austria a week before lockdown. It is such a lovely combination of chalet and small hotel; the rooms are beautiful and if has everything you could imagine... a stunning spa, kids’ club, delicious restaurant and such a lovely, warm, friendly feel. It gives the flexibility of a hotel – booking by the room and not being tied into staying for the whole week – along with the personal service and homely feel of a chalet. And during the summer we were also able to escape to Devon, where we stayed at Hope Cove House, a small, family-run, beautifully stylish hotel, with outstanding food.


Which hotel has been your “star” performer? Actually, Four Seasons in general have been brilliant as a hotel group. I am part of 360, which has a great relationship with them as a group, and they have been so supportive with moving bookings, upgrading clients and generally being flexible.


Where are you lusting after? Anywhere that isn’t here!! I would probably say Lily of the Valley, a resort in the South of France … on my own, for some well-needed wellness and rebalancing.

Lily of the Valley in the South of France
Lily of the Valley in the South of France

What have you learned about yourself in 2020? That after home-schooling a five and a seven-year old, I shouldn’t give up on travel and re-train as a teacher! Also that I need to take time out for myself, and that isn’t a selfish thing, it benefits everyone; you can’t pour from an empty cup, as they say. Also, I had spent 10 years on my own as Summers & Winters and was hesitant about joining a bigger company, but two years ago, I decided to go under the 360 Private Travel umbrella, and that has single-handedly saved my sanity, my bacon, and probably my business too. They have been incredible and so supportive throughout this year. We really are a team.


Who – or what – has got you through the year? Apart from my amazing husband and wonderful family (and gin), it has to be my girlfriends. I have several groups, from school mums, to university mates, to other 360 girls, and it has been crucial to have that release and be able to chat to people in the same situation, whether as a wife, a mum, or someone in travel. Never undervalue the healing power of a well timed, amusing gif on a Whatsapp group!


What’s your dream 2021 trip? I love to experience new cultures and enjoy different places and rarely go to the same place twice – why would you? Sri Lanka has always been of interest to me, as has Mexico. I want to know what they feel like, what they smell like… Our big dream trip is to hire a massive winnebago and take the children on a road trip around California, but I think they are a few years away from that. Closer to home I would love to do a multigenerational trip around Ireland with my mother. She grew up in Northern Ireland and went to Trinity College Dublin, but then moved over here when she was 22; I would love her to be able to show her grandchildren around. We aren’t really ones to fly and flop – that said we have just said “stuff 2020” and are holding flights to the Maldives for Christmas!


Pippa O’Keefe, Pippa Rose Lifestyle

Which hotel have you loved the most this year? This is very hard as I have two! I went to a new hotel in Lisbon called Palacio Principe Real, and Forestis (pictured below) in the Dolomites. Two very different hotels in terms of location and style, but their client-centric ethos was faultless; that and the fact that both performed wonderfully given this must be one of the hardest years to open a hotel.


Which hotel has been your “star” performer? The Newt in Somerset: they have been great at rearranging my client’s stays and all-round being really forthcoming with all the necessary hotel adjustments ahead of the clients stay, as well as pre-empting time slots for restaurant reservations and spa treatments. They have also been really proactive in getting me availability when the staycation demand was so high.


Where are you lusting after? Six Senses Shaharut in Israel, which is a country I’ve always wanted to go to anyway, and having had a sneak peek of what Six Senses is doing with this desert resort it is very much on my bucket list. After the year we have all had, I think it is going to be the perfect place to get off-grid.


What have you learned about yourself in 2020? Resilience. The travel world is usually hit with everything from terrorism to geographical phenomena, and we adjust and react accordingly. This year has brought a whole new meaning to how I feel for the industry and I have often thought about throwing in the towel, but I truly believe we will come back stronger than before and much more knowledgeable.


Who – or what – has got you through the year? Love. And not in a Richard Curtis film kind of way, but the pure care and kindness I've received not only from my clients, family and friends, but suppliers and friends in the industry, who also adore their jobs as much as I do.


Would be your dream trip of 2021? As you can imagine – the list has become endless… however top of my list would be a bush and beach combo of Botswana and Mozambique. I have always wanted to do it and this year has taught me not to put stuff off!

Clare Levy

Clare Levy, Different Planet Travel

Which hotel have you loved the most this year? Beaverbrook (pictured below), in Surrey. It’s a place of joy in a turbulent world that wraps clients in a coat of care!


Which hotel has been your “star” performer? I’d have to say One&Only generally as a group, because of their superb service, being super flexible with changes and cancellations and just generally being decent people to work with.


Where are you lusting after? La Fiermontine in Lecce for the unique sense of charm of owners and their amazing background. Plus the food!


What have you learned about yourself in 2020? That I am more resilient than I thought and that as people we all are able to adapt quickly to pressure.


Who – or what – has got you through the year? So much – mainly my kids. It’s a cliche, but they have grounded me in what is important and brought the joy and crazy fun when needed. Also gin and exercise in equal measure!


Would be your dream trip of 2021? The Maldives – there is so much product I am desperate to see out there and it was my home when I was 22 as a rep, so a time of freedom and peace I want to recreate, even if for a few days!


Gemma Antrobus, Haslemere Travel

Which hotel have you loved the most this year? Grand Hotel Tremezzo (pictured below) in Lake Como, where we holidayed in August. It’s one of my family’s most favourite hotels, so it was the perfect escape post-lockdown. The hotel had been so innovative in their ways to work with the new restrictions and they couldn't have made us feel more at home.


Where are you lusting after? A trip to Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland and Labrador. This unique project sits on an island, off an island and is built with the highest principles of sustainability and respect for nature and culture.


What have you learned about yourself in 2020? That I’m far more resilient than I thought I was and a positive attitude will get you through even the darkest of days.

Gemma hotel

Who – or what – has got you through the year? My husband and his unwavering support, guidance and a kick up the butt every now and again. Also my family, my closest friends and a number of travel industry buddies.


Would be your dream trip of 2021? To take the family to Japan. Having had to re-arrange a number of Japan itineraries for 2021, it has reminded me that, despite having visited the country before, there is still so much to discover, and I want to share this with my family.

Elizabeth Ellis

Elizabeth Ellis, Blue Marble Private

Which hotel have you loved the most this year? Villa Treville in Positano lived up to all expectations, and more! I managed to escape to Italy in September where I was welcomed to glorious sunshine, daily dips in the glistening sea, and all with the most stunning setting from dawn to dusk.


Which hotel has been your “star” performer? The Newt (pictured below) in Somerset which is arguably the best country hotel in the UK, and despite to-ing and fro-ing from the government, the team there has remained reassuring throughout. Even when the hotel itself was forced to close, they kept the gorgeous grounds open to visitors (all socially distanced, of course) with evening picnic hampers and live music amidst the apple trees. Availability for 2021 is already filling up and deservedly so!


Where are you lusting after? For me, it’s Mustique, which is perfect in a year when privacy has been high on our clients’ wish lists, and I’ve been particularly reminded of Princess Margaret’s Caribbean hideaway by the recent series of The Crown. Plus, for 2021, there will be new direct flights to St Vincent with Virgin – I am dreaming of mojitos at Basil’s Bar!

The Newt

Who – or what – has got you through the year? Time away from London – firstly with friends in Cornwall who are developing a collection of beach houses called Three Mile Beach, secondly Somerset (the so called “new Notting Hill”...for better or worse!), and latterly Umbria, the green heart of Italy, which has been heavenly.


Would be your dream trip of 2021? Rwanda, now on the UK’s quarantine-free list. Africa has long held a firm place in my heart, and Rwanda is somewhere I am yet to visit. Trekking with gorillas is by all accounts a genuinely life-affirming experience and after the year we’ve all been through, I’d love to get out into the wild.

Dan Salmon

Dan Salmon, Never A Wasted Journey

Which hotel have you loved the most this year? Rosewood London – it’s hard to believe this relaxing escape for the weekend was tucked away in central London. It was like entering into another, much calmer, world, with the highest levels of elegant luxury and service throughout.

Which hotel has been your “star” performer? Blue Waters Antigua was excellent with my clients: there were only limited travel corridors available, but they weren’t disappointed with where I booked them, and the hotel offered the exact break away they desperately needed: a really relaxing one, where the staff went above and beyond to make them feel safe and welcome. From never having been to the Caribbean, they can’t wait to go back in 2021!


Where are you lusting after? Shinta Mani Wild (pictured below) in Cambodia – I am a big fan of how Bill Bensley designs hotels, and this one in particular looks like a game changer, and one that has been on my list for a while now. Arriving Indiana Jones-style by zip-line? Yes, please!

Shinta Mani

What have you learned in 2020? How short life is and how I previously took things for granted. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone and it’s a reason why you should snap up every opportunity in life! I also feel proud to work in the travel industry, it’s been a tough year for us all, but we’ve all come together like one big family.


Who – or what – has got you through the year? Work wise, the support of the trusted suppliers I work with, especially Carrier, who have gone above and beyond, being as flexible as possible with everything that has been thrown our way, making my job as easy as possible during such difficult times and keeping my clients happy! Apart from this, it has to be spending quality time with my family and West Ham actually winning some games this season…


Would be your dream trip of 2021? For me, Bali is high up on my bucket list and is still one I would love to tick off – a mix of the adventure of Ubud, followed by some R&R time on one of the Balinese beaches.

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