The Nature of Space: Rewilding for the 21st Century Luxury Traveler

In these unprecedented times, as we temporarily divert from our accustomed pace and normal routines, we are realigning with necessities of the human spirit, and nature is revealing itself as a steady drumbeat. Time may seem out of joint, but things are coming together in extraordinary ways. As we emerge stronger and wiser from this phase of our lives, staying close to nature and maximizing life’s simple pleasures will be of even greater importance in hospitality design.

Designers can give guests the option to retreat in comfort while staying connected to nature through the luxury tent experience, blurring lines between traditional hotel and upmarket canvas architecture. According to Luca Franco, CEO & Founder of Luxury Frontiers, one of the premier luxury tented camp designers in the world, the trend of crafting engaging experiences and dissolving barriers between people and their environments formed in Africa, and in recent years has taken hold in the Americas and Asia, with a common thread driving demand.

“The call to re-wild and connect with nature was omniprevalent before the arrival of COVID-19,” said Franco. “Crafting engaging experiences in nature and designing contextually has always been our ethos, and that context is always nature. As experts of high-end tented architecture, we are spiritually and literally closer to nature through everything we design and develop.”

The United States has been slow to consider tents in the same league as luxurious resort experiences, but the paradigm shift resulting from this pandemic will continue to redefine modern luxury and nature escapes, with more destinations blending comfort, simplicity, and serenity with the allure of adventure travel.

25 years ago, I helped design Costanoa Resort & Camp in Pescadero, California, an eco-adventure resort with 40 lodge rooms, individual cabins, and spa for guests to discover nature’s pace along California’s coast. The resort offers a wide range of accommodation options, from a luxury suite to a Douglas Fir Cabin, tent bungalows fully outfitted with creature comforts, the option to pitch your own tent on a basic platform, and ‘glamping’ RV units available for families or groups seeking the comforts of home, a sense of freedom and adventure, and incredible ocean views. Fast forward 25 years, and the Canyon Group’s Amangiri Resort and Spa has established a popular multi-layered “back to nature” experience, geared toward affluent travelers. Set in a protected valley on a wild 600+-acre site in southern Utah, Amangiri was designed to showcase dramatic 200-million-year-old rock formations, which has resonated with travelers who seek a truly inspiring and elemental experience. A giant rock monolith descending into the resort’s large pool creates a stunning contrast between the comfort of being submerged in water and the jagged edge of nearby cliffs. Suspension bridges – part of Amangiri’s many via Ferrata experiences – give hikers the exhilarating experience of scaling a cliff amid prime desert terrain.

Next level ‘glamping’ experiences will continue gaining traction in 2020 and beyond. When travel resumes, the luxury hotel group Aman will launch Camp Sarika, an elevated wilderness experience located close to Amangiri guestrooms and comprised of 10 tented pavilions designed by Luxury Frontiers. Set amidst the vast open space, rocky outcrops, and flat-topped mesas of the desert, the tented camp design offers luxurious shelter in spacious one-and two-bedroom tents where guests experience the soft intimacy of natural canvas and the immensity of monumental sandstone formations in the surrounding environment.

In a similar vein, in collaboration with EDSA, SB Architects’ design of the eco-luxury five-star Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Peninsula Papagayo delivers zen-like luxury within adventure’s reach. Encompassing 120-keys across hotel and residential villas (including six tents and three treehouses), the destination gives guests a sense of transcendence achieved through adventure, and the ultra-luxury satisfaction they crave.

Nestled within one of the peninsula’s most prized coastal locations, the resort puts guests in touch with nature’s wide-open spaces and offers opportunities to stray from the path and stumble upon hidden gems, from a pedestrian hanging rope bridge over a tropical ravine to a secret grotto pool tucked among the jungle and winding forest trails. An iconic funicular provides an immersive, gravity-defying experience unique to Ritz-Carlton Reserve but with an impact akin to Amangiri’s via Ferrata. Whisking 200 feet up and down the coastal hillsides, guests enjoy bird’s-eye views between the village and beach club, allowing nature’s invigorating sights to awaken and restore their spirits.

Clustered or individually notched into the jungle, the resort’s keys offer ocean views and the freedom to explore the peninsula’s wild side from a range of home bases. Elevated treehouses at the sea’s edge, beautifully crafted La Casona suites, expansive hillside villas, and the quintessential presidential suite give guests multiple levels of connectivity with nature and the ability to adapt their surroundings to their preference. Through a partnership with Luxury Frontiers, we are integrating luxury tents with incredible views of the ocean into the resort. Coupled with an incredible adventure travel experience, tent guests will have access to the spa’s indulgent spa rituals and treatments inspired by the local culture, and Ritz-Carlton resort amenities.

There is ample opportunity in the experiential lodging space to bridge adventure-driven environments with guest access to luxury amenities and resort facilities, and it is our aim to immerse guests in a delicate liminal space where idyllic escape feels exposed to nature, protected and wild at the same time. Luxury Frontiers Founder, Luca Franco, captured this with a timely statement: “Nature is our stage, a place to seek shelter from, but also to explore and discover. In frightening times like these where we all are fighting a microscopic enemy, nature is the perfect reminder of the beauty of the world at large.”  

Originally created for and published on Hotel Executive as ‘In Crisis, New Meaning: Incorporating Nature in Hotel Design’.