Despite some recession gloom casting shadows over the hospitality sector, I am happy to see that a number of big hotel players are opening exciting new properties this year. Rocco Forte, for example, who already has properties like Rome’s Hotel de Russie, London’s Brown, and the Hotel Amigo in Brussels under his belt, will debut two new hotels. The Augustine will launch in Prague in the next couple of months. A former thirteenth-century monastery with vaulted ceilings and spectacular views of Prague Castle, it will get a new dose of style from Forte’s design-dynamo sister, Olga Polizzi. In late May, Forte’s anticipated Sicily project, Verdura Golf Resort & Spa, will open for business on the southwest part of the island with a large spa, an 18-hole Kyle Phillips-designed golf course, and six restaurants. This seaside property sits on a huge plot of land near the Valley of the Temples; it is arguably Forte’s most ambitious project yet.
The Aman Group is also set for expansion this year. I am looking forward to the unveiling of the Amangiri in southern Utah: the views look jaw dropping and I like a little luxury mixed into an outdoorsy vacation. Aman has also just opened the first part of its Montenegro project–you can read more about this fascinating country in David Ebershoff’s Condé Nast Traveler feature–at the Villa Milocer, once Tito’s summer residence. The completion of the resort, called Aman Sveti Stefan, will come in August, when the sturdy medieval buildings that face Villa Milocer across the bay are transformed into a hotel. This part of the coast was once a glamorous seaside getaway for the likes of Richard Burton and Sophia Loren, and the property claims mile-and-a-half-long private pink-sand beaches. A side trip to UNESCO-protected Kotor is a must.
Numerous resorts have put their construction on hold until 2010 in the hope that the economy will have taken a turn for the better by then. In the meantime, I will keep you posted on those forging ahead..