This year promises some interesting and unusual new - and renewed - hotels and resorts.
The biggest hotel event in Paris this year will be the long-delayed (or "much-anticipated") reopening of the Hotel Ritz. Closed - for its first significant renovations since the 1970s - in August 2012, this historic property was originally due to be unveiled back in 2014. It's now accepting reservations from March 15. Another of the French capital's grandes dames, the Hotel de Crillon closed for a major refurbishment in 2013 and was expected to be relaunched under the management of Hong Kong-based Rosewood Hotels & Resorts last spring, but is unlikely to reopen until sometime next year.
One Rosewood property that should be ready in 2016 is the genuinely anticipated Rosewood Phuket, but until then the big news on the Thai island is the return this year of the Royal Phuket Yacht Club in the shape of the Nai Harn Resort (below). Phuket's first luxury resort when it opened in the mid-1980s, it has been managed in the past by both Mandarin Oriental and Le Meridien, and sits right above TripAdvisor's Best Beach in Thailand 2015. Closed in 2014, it was expected to reopen on January 16, but it bucked the worldwide trend for lengthy hotel delays and actually got a jump on 2016 by welcoming its first guests last week.
Over on Koh Samui, the award-winning Akaryn Samui was sold last year, leaving the Akaryn brand with no hotels or resorts to its name. This year the Thai-owned company will be making a comeback with The President by Akaryn, in the Lao capital, Vientiane, in March, and Arovada by Akaryn, Private Island, Cambodia (below) in June. Located on Koh Krabey, a 20-minute boat ride south of sleepy Sihanoukville, Arovada promises "a private island sanctuary unlike anything you have experienced before … wrought from the fertile imagination of world-renowned designer Kenzo [Takada]."
Speaking of famous designers, the Oberoi Sukhvilas will no doubt be the best hotel in town when it opens in Chandigarh later this year. Often claimed to be India's safest and cleanest city, Chandigarh is special in that it was planned and designed from the ground up by Swiss architect and designer Le Corbusier in the 1950s. It's also the starting point for the popular and scenic narrow-gauge train up to Shimla, in the foothills of the Himalayas. New Oberoi properties are also promised for Marrakech, in Morocco, and Dubai this year.
Down south in Sri Lanka, Shangri-La's Hambantota Resort & Spa - originally expected to be ready by 2013 - looks set to open on the south coast sometime in the next couple of months or so. The Anantara Kalutara, 40km south of Colombo, should be ready by April 1, joining Anantara's Peace Haven Tangalle (top), which opened on the south coast last month.
Another Anantara property due to open early this year is the Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, in Oman. This mountain-top hideaway, claimed to be the second-highest five-star resort in the world, at 2,000 metres above sea level, is a few kilometres (as the hawk flies) from the similarly named and similarly situated Alila Jabal Akhdar (above), which opened a couple of years ago.
Tokyo will, quite surprisingly, be getting its first luxury ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn, this July, when the Hoshinoya Tokyo opens near the Imperial Palace. Hoping to challenge the many recently arrived upmarket international hotel brands in Tokyo, Hoshino Resorts specialises in breathing new life into struggling old ryokans around Japan, and this will be its first urban project. Down in Kyoto, the long-awaited Four Seasons Hotel is expected to finally open sometime this year after several years' delay, while Aman Resorts' luxury onsen resort, Amanemu (below), in Ise Shima National Park, to the south of Nagoya, is taking reservations from March 1.
The last of mainland China's old backpacker havens to be "discovered" by an international hotel company, the town of Dali, in Yunnan province, will be welcoming a Hilton on January 15. Dali was, from the 1980s, a little oasis for travellers on the hippy trail and in search of banana pancakes, muesli and used Lonely Planet guides - as were Lijiang to the north and Yangshuo, near Guilin. Lijiang is now home to the likes of InterContinental, Hyatt and Aman Resorts and the Banyan Tree Yangshuo opened in 2014. The arrival of the Hilton Dali Resort & Spa will, then, see the New Year start with the end of an era. At least for some.