In a year where very few of us are travelling much outside a few miles of our home, V&VPR is honoured to see 12 of our clients ranking among the top hotels in the Condé Nast Traveler 2020 Reader’s Choice Awards – and there is one very good reason why these properties were amongst the chosen few.
With travel planning off the cards, this year has been a time for the industry to pause and reset, evaluating what is truly important. Despite a tumultuous 2020, the teams at Capella Hotels and Resorts, Singita, and Swire Hotels have each made a conscious effort to better their local and international communities, through a range of initiatives designed to make the post-pandemic world a slightly better place.
Capella Hotels and Resorts: Properties within the Capella Hotels and Resorts portfolio launched a number of CSR initiatives, such as a ‘Solitude in Nature’ experience at Capella Ubud – a portion of the funds from which were donated to local families in the Keliki village who had been impacted by the pandemic – and complimentary stays for healthcare professionals at Capella Shanghai.
- Capella Sanya – #21 Top 30 Resorts in Asia
- Capella Shanghai – #16 Top 20 Hotels in China
- Capella Singapore – #2 Top 20 Hotels in Singapore
- Capella Ubud – #16 Top 20 Resorts in Indonesia list
Singita: Sadly, the halt in tourism is having a devastating ripple effect on conservation efforts across Africa. Throughout this period, Singita’s conservation teams and partners are ensuring their ongoing conservation and community programmes continue to thrive, making sure that areas, animals and surrounding community are happy and safe, with anti-poaching canine units and fundraising efforts for the relocation of endangered rhinos.
- Singita Sasakwa Lodge – #1 Best Hotels and Resorts in Africa
- Singita Pamushana Lodge – #5 Best Hotels and Resorts in Africa
- Singita Boulders Lodge – #2 Best Hotels and Resorts in South Africa
Swire Hotels: Continuing their CSR efforts this year, Swire Hotels launched several new initiatives; The Upper House worked with Foodlink Foundation to help reduce hunger as well as the pressure on Hong Kong’s landfills, whilst The Opposite House launched a ‘Top Sanlitun Picks’ initiative to shine a spotlight on local independent businesses during these trying times.
- The Temple House, Chengdu – #3 Top 20 Hotels in China
- The Opposite House, Beijing – #4 Top 20 Hotels in China
- The Middle House, Shanghai – #17 Top 20 Hotels in China
- The Upper House – #5 Top 10 Hotels in Hong Kong
- EAST, Hong Kong – #8 Top 10 Hotels in Hong Kong
The awards are compiled by Condé Nast Traveler readers, who rate each property according to their personal experiences. Particularly in 2020, the awards highlight the restorative and transformative power of travel.
We cannot wait to return to these wonderful properties.
The full Condé Nast Traveler 2020 Reader’s Choice Awards Results can be found here.
We can’t physically run wild right now, but that doesn’t mean our imaginations can’t. To help ward off cabin fever and help you kickstart the planning for the wondrous trip you’ll be desperate to take when the world recovers, we’ve rounded up some of the places we’d love to travel to right now…
Go on a history and culture-rich hike across Tajikistan
The Walk Tajikistan itinerary with Scott Dunn showcases breath-taking landscapes with an insight into the country’s colourful history and culture. This itinerary is crafted for the discerning traveller – hiking across the remote mountain system of the Fann Mountains, renowned for its phenomenal panoramas and stunning azure alpine lakes. Visit two of the less famous Silk Road destinations, including one of Asia’s oldest cities, Khujand, and venture to Iskanderkul, nicknamed the ‘jewel in Tajikistan’s crown’, home to the Iskanderkul Lake with ethereal blue and green waters and a magnificent waterfall.
Encounter gentle gorillas on a trek through Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park
For a truly immersive experience in the Rwandan wilderness, we recommend a stay at Singita Kwitonda Lodge. Set on 178 acres at the edge of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, the lodge was named after a legendary silverback gorilla, known for his humility and gentle nature. This is where you’ll be able to take part in life-changing gorilla treks for a humbling, soul-centring experience of encountering gorilla families in their natural habitats. Surrounded by greenery, the lodge also has on-site nursery which has provided approximately 250,000 indigenous forest shrubs, bamboo shoots and trees for Singita’s extensive reforestation initiative to increase the range and numbers of the endangered mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park.
Spend a weekend on an island paradise in Indonesia
The exquisite island of Sumba is an hour’s flight from Bali – a bucolic haven far removed from tourist hotspots. From plunging waterfalls to pristine beaches with world-class surf spots, this amazing destination is replete with plenty of #InstaWorthy sights and activities for your travel bucket list. If you’re looking for the ultimate island getaway experience, Nihi Sumba Resort is your dream accommodation. Placed first in Top 10 Hotels for Travel + Leisure’s 2016 World’s Best Awards, the property boasts a selection of off-script experiences that are hard to beat – including swimming with horses, surf lessons at Coconut Cove and watching turtle hatchlings released into the ocean.
Explore the best of Australia’s nature in the Blue Mountains, NSW
Just a 3-hour drive from Sydney, the Blue Mountains is known for its dramatic scenery, cascading falls, lush valleys and greenery – a true paradise for ecophiliacs yearning for fresh air and open spaces. The Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley Resort is a luxurious eco-retreat that will sweep you off your feet if you’re looking to stay and explore the area. Ensconced in 4,000 acres of natural wonder, go for a horse-riding session through winding trails and native eucalypt woodlands, or take part in an authentic ‘walkabout’ in one of Australia’s untouched stretches of natural, protected bushland. Unwind at the end of a long day in your own private plunge pool – we won’t tell if you decide to go for a skinny-dip!
Immerse in a unique modern safari experience in Tanzania
For the true adventure seekers, it doesn’t get any wilder than this – located on a dramatic riverbend in the remote Lamai triangle in Tanzania, Mara River Tented Camp is a permanent camp with a modern take on the classic East African safari. Set on 98,000 acres of untouched wilderness in northern Tanzania, guests will have access to some of the world’s most prized and private game-viewing opportunities, including breath-taking views of the renowned migratory route traversed annually by more than a million wildebeest. Get involved in game drives, guided bush walks and stargazing in the evening under the African night sky.
Check out the rest of our page here for more travel inspiration.
It’s human nature to crave adventure – we’re all itching to explore foreign cities, visit beautiful destinations, maybe meet a few strangers who become friends — but how can we do this responsibly, minimising the negative impact that tourism can have on the planet?
By traveling smarter, we can leverage the power of the industry to positively contribute to environmental, community, social and economic gains. Here are our top tips to achieve a more sustainable travel itinerary in 2020:
- Avoid over-tourism: it’s tempting to be lured to Insta-popular destinations (think Venice, Machu Picchu, and Santorini), but these destinations are being overwhelmed by tourists, causing a strain on infrastructure and pricing locals out of the communities. When planning your next trip, venture off the beaten track and explore somewhere new – one of our top picks for 2020 is Mongolia, which is perfect for those seeking remote adventures and eye-opening cultural experiences
- Timing is key: if you still prefer to visit a more popular destination, consider traveling outside of peak season; there will be fewer people around, and the money you spend will help businesses that may struggle during quieter periods
- Support recovering areas: another way to be more mindful when creating your destination bucket list is to explore areas that have been impacted by natural disaster or social unrest, and are relying on the economic benefits of tourism to bounce back. Sri Lanka and New South Wales are a couple of options to consider
Opt for a hotel or accommodation option that holds itself to high environmental standards. A couple of our favourites include:
- Singita: conservation brand Singita follows a 100-year purpose to preserve and protect the African wilderness for future generations through the three pillars of biodiversity, community and sustainability. Through partnerships with non-profit funds and trusts Singita implements strategic conservation projects in each of the six regions in which they are located to ensure the existence of Africa’s magnificent wildlife populations and with programmes that aim to help create economic independence within communities that live alongside their reserves.
- Capella Ubud: a luxury tented camp designed by Bill Bensley, Capella Ubud is nestled amidst the unspoiled beauty of Bali’s luscious rainforest. With the conscious idea of “minimal intervention,” thoughtful care was taken in the design of the hotel, and all trees and local plants were left untouched and protected throughout the construction process – not a single tree was cut during the camp’s creation, and as such, there are several trees intercepting the property’s accommodation, restaurants and the spa tents.
- Air travel is often the only viable way to reach some of the world’s greatest destinations, but try to fly direct as much as possible, select eco-friendly airlines and look for carriers that use sustainable aviation biofuel. To avoid air travel altogether, consider destinations that are closer to home; The Sanchaya is a 50-minute ferry ride from Singapore
- Consider the romance of rail travel and embark on an unforgettable rail journey through the likes of South Africa or Tibet
- Explore by foot – Walk Japan has an unrivalled range of tours spread across the length and breadth of Japan, focusing the development of tours on Japan’s little-known and less-visited regions. The team are keenly aware of the need for the responsible and sustainable development of Japan’s tourism resources and are widely recognised for their endeavours
Whilst you’re there:
- Disconnect from the digital world and immerse yourself into local life; ask locals for recommendations on where to eat and what to see and strike up conversations about the history and traditions of the area
- Carry a reusable water bottle to avoid unnecessary use of single-use plastic bottles. Our favourites are from bkr and byta
What are your top tips for travelling more responsibly?
Due to Cape Town’s proximity to mountains and stunning coastline, there are plenty of opportunities to burn off the calories. Where better to start than with a hike up Table Mountain. The walk up takes roughly four hours, but for those looking for a more challenging ascent, there’s the India Venster Trail which involves a bit of actual climbing. The views from the top, especially on a clear day, are out of this world. You’re able to look far towards the Cape of Good Hope and up north towards Namibia. Keep a look out for wildlife as the trail is full of exotic animals.
For those looking for a less challenging hike, the Lion’s Head trail is another alternative with equally stunning views. The descent from Table Mountain is straightforward as you hop on a cable car that takes a few minutes (V&VPR insider tip: to save time, buy cable car tickets ahead of schedule).
There are two amazing places in Cape Town to catch the sunset: one is Signal Hill, and the other is Clifton Beach. Both offer uninterrupted views of the Atlantic Ocean.
In addition to the stunning vistas of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, a visit must be paid to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens which are at the foot of Table Mountain. The park is vast, and it is also a great place to sit back, relax and admire the vivid variety of flora. Do note that some of the resident Egyptian Geese might ask you to leave in a not-so-polite manner. A great way to get a full view of the park is to head to the boomslang – named after a snake, it is a treetop walkway that gives an obstacle-free view of the park and of Table Mountain behind it.
A trip to South Africa or the Southern African continent, in general, is not complete without a safari. Just an hour and a half outside of Cape Town is the Aquila game reserve. The Game Reserve boasts a large variety of wildlife including the Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard) and if you’re lucky, you might be able to spot all five. The guides are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the work they do and the conservation efforts they lead.
While South Africa and Cape Town are amazing, it is essential to take into account the history of the country, particularly during the Apartheid regime during visits to different parts of the city. A way to learn more about the past is a visit to Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela was held from 1964 for 18 years of his 27-year sentence. The tour takes roughly three hours including the ferry transfer, and it starts with a tour of the prison where a former political prisoner of the island leads the tour. You learn a lot about how poor conditions were and see Mandela’s cell. The rest of the visit is on a bus around the island where people still live on the island today as it is now a site of animal conservation. The highlight of the island tour is getting the best view of Table Mountain and a family of Cape Penguins that chill by the seaside.
Whether it be for work or leisure, Cape Town is an exciting city. With amazing delicacies, soaring mountains and stunning coastlines, the city have so much to offer. It is waiting to be discovered and savoured.