Resorts up the ante in girlfriend getaways

By Felicity Long
As the economy creaks into recovery mode, are staycations a thing of the past for the high-end girlfriend getaway market? According to a recent survey of the segment by TripAdvisor, nearly a third of respondents, or 31%, say they plan to increase the amount they will spend on leisure travel in 2012; that increase is as high as $10,000 or more for 21% of respondents.

Nearly a quarter of those surveyed were planning to take a trip with female or male friends this year, up from 22% in 2011. That hotels and resorts are well aware of this uptick in luxury girlfriend getaways is evident in the wave of packages for women who want to leave the stresses of kids and work behind and hang out with each other.

The good news for travel agents is that these packages feature activities designed to appeal to a range of interests, because women-only groups, just like any market, are not always like-minded in how they want to spend their leisure time.

Spa and fitness getaways are a given, but adventurous and experiential travel is making inroads into this luxury segment. Offerings that caught our eye follow.

• The Regent Palms Turks and Caicos is looking to shed its honeymoon-only image by promoting amenities suited to girlfriend getaways, most notably its 25,000-square-foot Regent Spa and infinity pool.

The 12-acre, 72-suite resort on Grace Bay features two-bedroom suites that can accommodate up to eight, complete with gourmet kitchen where the chef -- because this is supposed to be a vacation after all -- can prepare a customized meal for the group. Activities include tennis, kayaking or a cooking and wine-pairing course taught by the chef and the sommelier.

Two-bedroom suites start at $1,550. See www.regenthotels.com/EN/Palms.  

Paresa Resort, Phuket• The two-night Be a Princess package at Paresa Resort in Phuket, Thailand, good through October, kicks off with a private poolside barbecue party on arrival day, complete with butler service and champagne. Other features include a Heavenly Bliss spa treatment and the use of a chauffeur-driven luxury SUV for a day of shopping or exploring the surroundings.

All 49 of the cliff-top resort's villas overlook the Andaman Sea. The package, designed for four, also includes roundtrip limousine airport transfers and is priced from $4,339. Visit www.paresaresorts.com.  

• The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi created two one-night girlfriend packages timed to coincide with a Madonna concert on June 4. In addition to accommodations, features include two concert tickets, with either reserved grandstand seating or Golden Circle standing room space close to the stage, and free valet parking.

The 369-room property features a private beach, pool and Jacuzzi. The packages are priced at about $517 with grandstand seating and $730 for Golden Circle standing room space, per night, per room. For more, see www.fairmont.com/babalbahr.  

• The 450-room Ritz-Carlton Naples in Naples, Fla., created a two-night Rejuvenate You package, good all year, that bundles a 50-minute spa treatment, lunch for two in the =H2O+ spa restaurant and access for two to the spa and fitness center.

The package is priced from $689 per night, double. Visit www.ritzcarlton.com.  

• The secluded Bloomfield Lodge overlooking Weary Bay and Daintree Rainforest in Cairns, Australia, is putting a different spin on relaxation by offering guests a two-hour cruise on the Bloomfield River to spot crocodiles in their natural habitat. Access to the 17-cabin property is via privately chartered plane from Cairns or a four-hour trip in a four-wheel drive. Activities range from fine dining and a holistic spa to snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.

Nightly rates at the lodge, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, start at about $893, including all meals and taxes. Log on to www.bloomfieldlodge.com.au.  

• The six-suite Villa Le Rose in Italy's Tuscany region, a 16th century estate and member of the Lungarno Collection owned by the Ferragamo family, unveiled a number of new activities that range from hunting for game to guided visits to the nearby Ducati and Lamborghini factories. Women more interested in culinary pursuits can take one- to three-hour private cooking classes in the villa kitchen with local chefs.

Weekly rates at the Villa start at about $33,117. See www.villalerose.com.  

• Guests can mix and match activities to create their own girlfriend getaway at the Kapalua Villas Maui, thanks to activities that range from morning fitness walks led by Ben Auerbach, a gold medalist in track at the Maccabiah Games, to treatments incorporating local ingredients at the 30,000-square-foot Kapalua Spa. Accommodations are in one-, two- and three-bedroom villas, with kitchens, that can accommodate a twosome or an entire sorority.

Rates start at $4,750 per night in a four-bedroom luxury home, with a minimum seven-night stay. See www.kapaluavillasmaui.com.
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