Felicity Long
Felicity Long

*logoFor the first quarter of 2009, Small Luxury Hotels of the World reported a record 20% increase in the number of requests to join the portfolio compared with the same quarter the previous year, particularly from properties in Eastern Europe, South America and China.

Of those, 5%, or 25 hotels, were accepted, bringing SLH membership to more than 500 properties.

"We believe that part of this [the flood of requests] is due to the fact that hotels look towards a brand like SLH to provide them with a safe haven when conditions are challenging," said Paul Kerr, SLH's CEO.

Several of the new members are notable for their ultrahip decors and swanky amenities, such as the personal iPhones available to guests at Blow Up Hall, in Poznan, Poland, and the hot pink swing in the lobby of the Gray in Milan.

More traditional touches are the trademark of Heidelberg Suites, a restored 19th century villa facing the German city's castle.

And in an indicator of how much things can change in one generation, the U.K., formerly known more for its castles than for its high cuisine, has become a culinary destination in its own right.

Even more remarkably, not all the hot, new restaurants are in London.

Of the four properties in England that joined SLH so far this year, two have received nods for their restaurants: the Pennyhill Park Hotel near London with its first Michelin star; and South Lodge Hotel in West Sussex with three AA Rosettes.

The two other properties are the Lainston House Hotel in Hampshire and the Feversham Arms Hotel in North Yorkshire.

Of course, the uptick in SLH's portfolio won't mean a thing if people don't travel, and with the increasing trend toward last-minute bookings, we won't know the results of the all-important summer season for a while.

For a list of the other new SLH members in Europe and elsewhere, visit www.slh.com.


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