From a travel agents’ perspective, one of the most interesting phenomena to reveal itself over the course of the past ten years is that, given the choice, consumers like to spend more, rather than less money on their hotel accommodation. Let me explain: As low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and EasyJet went from strength to strength and made international travel available to everyone, people started travelling more regularly and whilst they were prepared to put up with the no frills experience of spending several hours in a flying tin can to get from A to B, they quickly realised that ‘slumming it’ in a no-star hotel once you got to your destination didn’t quite make the same economic sense. Over time, consumers started moving up the value chain with the result that you’ll now probably see as many four-star hotels as you will three-star properties both at home and abroad and two-star establishments are almost a thing of the past. The fact of the matter is that people like their creature comforts and tend to choose properties that offer that little something extra — whether it be location, facilities, food, quirkiness or novelty value and it is to the latter that we devote this week’s blog!
Deluxe hotel chains like Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Shangri La and the like are all well and good, but luxury alone is sometimes not enough to attract some discerning or demanding customers nowadays. ‘Experiential’ is the new buzz word in travel circles and is a catch-all phrase that describes the phenomenon where the experience itself is more important than the locational context in which it happens, and the lodging industry is not immune to this trend. Unusual accommodations have been with us for many years, but it was probably not until the arrival of the famous Ice hotel in Sweden in the late Eighties that travellers’ imaginations were truly captured and, as the old cliché goes, ‘the rest is history!’
The hotel in question, built 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle in the Swedish Village of Jukkasjarvi probably helped the trend go mainstream and it still gets built from scratch each winter. Nowadays of course, you are no longer limited to just Sweden as similar ‘ice hotels’ have popped up in some of its Scandinavian neighbours (Sorrisniva Igloo hotel in Alat Norway; Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Saariselka in Finland) and a bunch of other countries have also gotten in on the act such as Austria (Iglu Village, Kuhtai), Canada (Hotel du Glace, Quebec City) and Romania (Hotel of Ice, Cartisoara).
If ice is not your thing then perhaps you should consider an overnight in a room made entirely of sand? If so, then you need to beat a path to the Dutch villages of Oss or Sneek which ironically, are not located anywhere near a beach! The Dutch, it would appear, have an appetite for quirky, one-off establishments because in Amsterdams’ docklands, you can overnight in a crane in a place called Faralda — check out the video here . And if cranes aren’t industrial enough for you, how about overnighting in a grain silo as there’s a place in faraway New Zealand where you can satisfy that fetish .
Of course, if cave-dwelling is your thing, then you’ve simply got to go to central Turkey to a fabulous region called Cappadocia where there are any number of hotels that have been carved into the living rock and whilst I’ve visited a number of them and can attest to their authenticity, I’ve never had the pleasure of actually spending a night in one .
Last, and certainly by no means least, as we are literally only skimming the surface here, is the prospect of becoming Jacques Cousteau for a night and spending it beneath the ocean waves in someplace like the Conrad on Rangali Island in the Maldives.