Going the experiential mile

These days, hotels are no longer about offering a bed and breakfast. From safari excursions to purpose-built communal spaces, travellers are increasingly seeking out authentic and culturally immersive experiences, and hotels are answering the call.

Raising the woof
The very pet-friendly Rosewood Hotel takes pet luxury to a whole new level. The establishment welcomes cats and dogs weighing less than 15kg for free, though they are barred entry into the hotel’s F&B venues. Still, the hotel offers a selection of special amenities, such as beds and bowls, welcome treats, and pet toys to ensure that four-legged guests feel right at home. Director of culinary operations, chef Sandro Gamba, has also curated a canine menu for posh pets to dine on gourmet chow.

Up close and personalised
Guests are in for a “living like a local” stay when they are poured a beer at the front desk upon check-in at the Paramount House Hotel, Sydney. The charm extends to the room service meals which arrive in stacked tiffins, although the contents like oysters and salted caramels are far from the usual tiffin fare. The hotel also prides itself in blending experiences and interaction with the neighbourhood. Guests and locals alike mingle in the purpose built communal spaces in the boutique hotel, while rooms boast artworks by local artists.

Call of the wild
Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts stand out in Sri Lanka’s leisure sector for bringing big-ticket musicals such as Mamma Mia and The Sound of Music to the country. The hotel is also big on destination dining, touting everything from a champagne breakfast in the treetops to a candle-lit dinner against the backdrop of majestic elephants in the lake. With many of their resorts adjacent to Sri Lanka’s national parks, the hotel also offers curated experiences taking guests to explore the wilds of Sri Lanka, chaperoned by experienced guides and naturalists.

Fit for the wellness gods
Indonesia’s Tauzia Hotels has been engaging the communities in accordance with the brand identity of each property. As healthy lifestyle is the brand identity of Harris Hotels, for instance, the brand’s properties not only highlight healthy food in the restaurants, but also offers various wellness-related initiatives like the Fit and Fun Package, a special room promotion which includes a jump rope and stress ball to encourage stress relief and exercise. The hotel also works with Celebrity Fitness to organise health and wellness activities regularly.

Living the good lyf
The newly-opened, Instagrammable lyf Funan Singapore encourages bonding among guests with millennial-centric communal spaces. Guests can whip up homecooked meals, take culinary classes or chat with other travellers at the social kitchen. Interactive elements that inspire playtime include a giant ball pit, a social gymnasium with a human-sized hamster wheel, and a larger-than-life Connect Four set. Social programmes, such as TED talks, craft workshops and hackathons, are also held weekly.

Fish you were here
Four Seasons Resort Langkawi’s Rumah Ikan Fish House offers guests the chance to get schooled on the traditional methods of catching seafood from the Andaman Sea, while helping to preserve Langkawi’s fishing heritage. At the Fish House, situated at a secluded spot along the resort’s mile-long coastline, guests can observe Pak Din, a local fisherman, hard at work, or try their hand at fishing the old-fashioned way. Year-round, the hotel also runs excursions led by an in-house naturalist to Langkawi’s Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, famed for its mangrove forests, diverse wildlife and ancient limestone formations.

Livin’ La Vida Local
The Grand Copthorne Waterfront invites guests to Live Like a Local with its weekly experiential local tours and monthly workshops. The half-day heritage guided walking tour will let guests discover hidden gems at Singapore’s oldest housing estate Tiong Bahru. The tour includes visits to blast-from-the-past wall murals painted by a local artist, the famous Tiong Bahru Market, and the Monkey God Temple. Specially curated in-house hotel activities, such as dumpling-making classes and family yoga sessions at the Promenade, are also held monthly.

Journey into the wild
Taj’s luxury five-star safari hotels tout up close and personal experiences with the wilderness. Its latest initiative, Walk With The Pardhis, offers guests staying at Pashan Garh, A Taj Safari guided tours led by members of the Pardhi tribe through India’s Panna National Park. The wildlife reserve had suffered due to poaching by the Pardhi community. Strict anti-poaching laws led to a rise in tiger numbers, but left the Pardhis to look for alternative sources of income. This sustainable initiative offers a new livelihood for future generations of Pardhis.

Flex those green fingers
The Frangipani Langkawi Resort and Spa runs organic farming courses to equip its guests and the local community with green skills, such as composting, rainwater harvesting, and growing edible landscapes. The resort also holds daily eco-walks around the property to educate guests on the resort’s green practices which they can adopt at home, such as air-conditioning water harvesting, building vertical gardens to grow vegetables, and making natural insect repellent by mixing citronella and lemongrass leaves with water.

Beyond Angkor Wat
All Shinta Mani Hotels put the spotlight on exclusive experiences that delve into the real Cambodia. Authentic offerings range from visiting the remote Banteay Chhmar Temple by helicopter, escorted by one of Cambodia’s top archaeologists; to making local rice wine; and experiential dining at Villa Chandara nestled amid sprawling rice paddies. The year-old Shinta Mani Wild offers an array of adventures, from following rangers on jungle patrols and laying camera traps, to joining a chef to forage for fresh ingredients.

Getting in on the green act
Sustainability is a core driving force at East, Hong Kong, which has in place various sustainability efforts to offer guests an environmentally friendly stay. The business hotel was the first Hong Kong property to go paperless, and has since continued its pursuit of other green initiatives, such as installing in-room water filters to purify local water on site to reduce plastic usage, using cage-free eggs to support animal rights, and offering plant-based dishes for guests keen to reduce carbon footprint from livestock.

Culture vulture
Vietnam’s The Anam beach resort is constantly refreshing its collection of curated experiences. It recently teamed up with boutique chocolate factory, Fifty Fresh Farms, to offer a Chocolate Discovery cultural food tour that gives guests a delicious insight into Vietnam’s chocolate industry. The resort also holds a weekly Artist in Residence Vietnamese Art and Street Food evening, where local artists set up their easels and practice their craft as guests feast on a variety of Vietnamese street food favourites.

The Art of Design
Indonesia’s Artotel Group is evolving to offer a holistic experience to customers that goes beyond a hotel stay. Artotel Group’s CEO Erastus Radjimin said that a hotel is not just providing guests with a place to sleep, but also to gather and chat, and function as a creative community centre. For instance, the Artotel Wahid Hasyim in Jakarta offers 122 rooms all decorated by five emerging local artists. The property is also home to Artspace, a gallery for the local artist community and which is also a mandatory fixture at Artotel properties.

Marissa Carruthers, Mimi Hudoyo, S Puvaneswary, Pamela Chow, Prudence Lui, Adelaine Ng and Feizal Samath contributed to this column

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