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Our little black book of enchanting places

It's all about the experience

Posted in HOTELS + VILLAS By Maggie O' Sullivan

© phive2015/thinkstockphotos 

Gone are the days when we checked into a hotel for the top-notch service or luxurious bedrooms, let alone the gourmet restaurant or the holistic spa. In 2017 hotel stays are all about ‘experiences’. It’s something boutique hotels have been offering for a while, though not always successfully. I still cringe when I recall the visit ‘to a local home’ I once made courtesy of a very exclusive hotel in Rajasthan. A group of us sat on plastic chairs in a semi-circle, while the family of one of the hotel gardeners stared at us as if we were animals in a zoo.The point of immersive experiences is to give hotel guests something that will help them build a lasting relationship with the hotel and spread the word to friends and family back home. And when done well, they really do work. After my Rajasthan experience, I signed up for another ‘meet the locals’ trip, this time at Song Saa, above, a very eco-minded private island resort in Cambodia. Five years later, I’m still talking about it – and the resort – to anyone who will listen. One of the latest companies to jump on the ‘experiences’ bandwagon, is Airbnb, which now offers a service called Trips, which covers everything from activities to one-off events. In France, for example, Airbnb has teamed up with Châteaux & Hôtels Collection to create four gourmet experiences, including a visit to The Alain Ducasse Cooking School in Paris, above, for a behind-the-scenes tour, a wine tasting session, cooking lesson and lunch.Immersive experiences are not always about meeting the locals, although most do involve them on some level, perhaps acting as tutors or guides. Sometimes experiences are about doing something you wouldn’t do anywhere else, such as training gun dogs at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, above, foraging for food at Lime Wood in the New Forest, or learning the art of burlesque dancing at Haymarket Hotel in London. These are the things you’ll remember long after you’ve forgotten the thread count of the bed linen. Plus, of course, they will give you something more interesting to post on Instagram than pictures of your dinner.

BY MAGGIE O'SULLIVAN

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