Jeri Clausing

One of the fun things about this time of the year is seeing the annual predictions, new products and the latest additions to luxury collections.

And with the continuing global boom in luxury travel and openings of high-end resorts, it's no surprise that the lists of members of luxury collections and consortia just keeping getting longer.

Take this year's Virtuoso "Best of the Best" trip-planning guide. At 700 pages, the guide is the largest to date, with more than 1,300 properties in Virtuoso's portfolio of hotels, resorts, lodges, tents, camps, private islands, villas and apartments across 103 countries.

Ranging from one to 4,004 rooms, almost half (48%) are under 100 rooms, and the same number are unaffiliated with a collection or brand. The properties all provide more than $500 in enhanced benefits to Virtuoso clients, although 44% provide those perks to solely to Virtuoso clients.

The guide is being distributed to 150,000 Virtuoso clients. And in a first, this year's printing includes a limited number of hardcover copies for Virtuoso travel agencies in the U.S. and Canada to display to clients as a coffee-table book, which Virtuoso says "attests to the guide's success as a valued trip-planning reference with a year-round shelf life."

Meanwhile, Relais & Chateaux kicked off the year with the addition of 13 members to its collection of hotels and restaurants, including four hotels that have yet to open.

While Relais adds a handful of members every year, it's the first time in its history that that a hotel has joined the association before officially opening its doors. Until now, an establishment could only qualify to join after being open for several years. 

Among these soon-to-open properties is the highly anticipated Blackberry Mountain, located in the Smoky Mountains, a sister property to the iconic Blackberry Farm. The other three are the Palais Ronsard in Marrakech, Morocco; Grantley Hall in Ripon, England; and Hotel Plaza e de Russie in Viareggio, Italy (which will be reopening after an extensive renovation).

Relais & Chateaux president Philippe Gombert said, "It was evident to us that making the change of allowing a brand-new property to be a part of the Relais & Chateaux association would only benefit the brand's hospitality expertise.

"For us, bringing our values and commitments to life from the very beginning of the property's opening is definitely the guarantee of a strong relationship. The four new members accepted in pre-opening are familiar to us. We know their personalities and who they embody, making them the perfect ambassadors for our brand."

The other new Relais & Chateaux members for 2019 are the Rosedon Hotel in Bermuda; Le Calandre Restaurant in Rubano, Italy; Ristorante Quadri in Venice; Chteau de Drudas in Drudas, France; Dragsholm Slot in Horv, Denmark;  The Purist Villas & Spa in Ubud, Indonesia; the Gaggan Restaurant and Restaurant Shring in Bangkok; and Laura at Pt. Leo Estate, Merricks, Australia.

Let's have fun! (??)

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