BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (TheStreet) -- Despite being on the tail end of the worst recession in modern history, 2010 proved a winner for a few select hotels, restaurants and nightclubs whose business models and practices allowed them to rise to the occasion.
Microchain boutique hotels
After beginning as a hipster-granola hotel concept in the Pacific Northwest,
has spread across the United States with a celebrity-studded outpost in New York and destination resort in the California desert.
The bathrooms on Emirates' 15 Airbus A380s go beyond luxurious in first class. The airline has become the first and only to offer in-flight showers.
The realization that artists on a budget need stylish and comfortable rooms too has evolved into bohemian enclaves that in New York include a Michelin one-star eatery by the creators of the Spotted Pig. Their gastropub eatery is just as popular with city folk as it is with hotel visitors.
In Palm Springs, Ace has brought a Dash Snow sensibility to the destination pool party, with celebrity jam sessions and indie DJs recruited from LA to spin lazy Sunday afternoons by a pool stewing with tattooed rock stars and models on winter break from the Milan-Paris-Tokyo-Ibiza circuit.
They've been a staple of London social life since the advent of the Groucho Club and Soho House, the latter migrating through Berlin and New York before sweeping across the United States this year. The membership club concept thrives most notably in Los Angeles, where Nick Jones'
has essentially a monopoly on celebrity dining and nightlife from its penthouse West Hollywood location along the Sunset Strip.
Potential members scour their circle of friends for sponsors only to line up for a multimonth waiting list from which only a connected few at a time are selected to join.
November saw the opening of Soho Beach House in Miami, which includes a hotel that was the party site du jour at Art Basel 2010. Meanwhile, Miami's perennial
was set to expand to Aspen, where the Caribou Club has long had a stranglehold on the billionaire and ski bunny set.
Are you a friend of Andre Saraiva?
He seems to be everywhere these days. In
his Le Baron nightclub is the fashion stalwart of local nightlife, while the Hotel Amour he co-owns has become the most fashionable address for one-name artists and celebrity designers. Ditto for Japan, where
is the hottest club in Tokyo.
In United States, Saraiva has the Boom Boom Room and Le Bain atop the Standard New York and plans for a nightclub in Chinatown. Pop-up installments of Saraiva's nightclubs are the "it" events at the Cannes Film Festival and Art Basel, where he was essentially handed the keys to Delano's famous Florida Room for the past two year.
In St. Tropez he's transformed the once derelict
into a bastion of cool on the scale of LA's Chateau Marmont, but with a French accent.
Saraiva, only 38 and already the new Ian Schrager, is the man of the moment, the coolest guy in town -- any town.
Let's make a deal
It wasn't long ago that the name
was barely pronounceable to the average Internet consumers, let alone recognized as a discount retailer specializing in deals for high-fashion goods for subscribers. This year Gilt launched its JetSetter travel deals, offering cut rates at selected hotels that range from quirky boutiques to the best luxury addresses in Paris.
The formula has brought competition from such players as Tablet Hotels, Design Hotels and Leading Hotels of the World that now allows even the high end of the travel market to scout out a deal without embarrassment. Drawbacks include a not always stellar selection with prenegotiated availability and, often, required prepayments. The endless emails for affiliated and launching products also detract from the experience of a once exclusive membership now open to pretty much anyone.
Shower before landing
The advent of the French Airbus A380 has allowed a creative interpretation of the traditional first class flying experience, and Emirates, with its impressive 15 of the craft, offers the most luxurious and over-the-top configuration: It has become the first and only airline in operation to offer in-flight showers.
Emirates' Private Suites, touted by Carrie Bradshaw in
Sex and the City 2
, are equipped with sliding doors and minibars of almost full-size premium goodies. There's also two shower spas at the front of the first-class area -- complete with Bulgari bath products and fluffy Italian linens -- offering a burlwood boudoir that's become the hottest amenity in the aviation industry.
Celebrity chefs, the latest must-have amenity for new hotels, are a sure-fire way to keep guest dollars in house as well as a burgeoning business for hoteliers looking to divest real estate during tough times. This year has seen the debut of Daniel Boloud's DB Bistro Modern at the new JW Marriott Marquis Miami, J&G Steakhouse by Jean-George Vongerichten at St. Regis Deer Valley, the highly touted WP24 by Wolfgang Puck at the Ritz Carlton at LA Live and Michelle Bernstein at the Omphoy in Palm Beach.
Pierre Gagnaire seems to be in front of the trend, conquering the globe with a new Reflets eatery in Dubai, a two-star Michelin-rated restaurant at Les Airelles in Courchevel and an outpost at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas. With no shortage of celebrity chefs, Vegas is also welcoming Scott Contant's Scarpetta and Jose Andres' Jaleo, which just opened at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.
Look for even bigger chef names to debut next year. The world's most heralded chef, Heston Blumenthal of Fat Duck, given three stars by Michelin, will debut a concept eatery at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London that already has its own Bar Boulud in the basement.
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Chris Martenson is an economic researcher and futurist specializing in energy and resource depletion. He is the founder and editor of the Web site ChrisMartenson.com, as well as its popular video seminar, The Crash Course. Martenson is in the 'dot-connecting' business. A former scientist and Fortune 300 executive, he studies macro trends through his proprietary analytical framework based on the interdependence of the 'Three E's' -� the economy, energy and the environment �- and uses this lens to assess the probable impact of current developments in the marketplace. This is used to help readers and clients mitigate and contain risk.