SAN DIEGO (TheStreet) — Tree houses are typically the stuff of children's dreams and, for the lucky, backyard reality.
But why should tree house slumbers beneath the stars vanish with adulthood?
Luca Franco and his partners at Luxury Frontiers have turned that question into a personal mission. For the past two and a half years the company has been providing capital and technical, development and operational expertise to hotel and resort owners, hotel chains, operators or developers wanting luxury treetop accommodations and dining experiences at hotels and resorts around the globe.
Franco, the managing partner, says the company's treetop rooms, which they call "treetop living," provide a journey for travelers that captures the imagination and appeals to a childlike sense of wonder.
"People now are looking for memorable experiences, unforgettable experiences, enrichment and engagement. They don't want to sit by the pool and read a book," Franco says. "There is a lot of buzz about the experiential travel industry. It's the new thing and not just for backpackers, but also very wealthy individuals, billionaires, who want to enjoy unforgettable experiences."
The company builds what it calls sustainable, out-of-the-box solutions for resorts around the world — maximizing a resort's assets and letting the resort capitalize on a booming travel trend. It has worked with some of the world's top luxury hotel brands, including the Four Seasons, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, Aman Resorts and Ritz-Carlton, and upcoming projects will take its engineers to the Amazon, Costa Rica and Panama.
Not everyone is looking for tree houses. The company also builds "Luxury Under Canvas," ultra luxurious tents akin to the grandest of hotel suites.
But while the luxury tents are oh so alluring, the treetop living is the stuff of truly exotic dreams.
At the Soneva Kiri in Koh Kood, Thailand, a Luxury Frontiers treepod perches amid a tropical, leafy canopy, taking fine dining to new heights in an ancient rain forest. Diners in the treepod are able to gaze out at the ocean while food is served via the zip-line acrobatics of a waiter.
"Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served there. And the resort suddenly had a new amenity and a new experience of dining on top of a tree, and it's quite an unusual experience," Franco says. "People have said that their most memorable experience was drinking and dining on top of the tree. The whole idea is creating memorable experiences that are unique and can be shared with family."
At La Piantata, in Tuscany, Italy, amid a field of lavender in a century-old oak not far from an olive grove, stands a Luxury Frontiers treetop guest room. The room has a four-poster bed, a bathroom with shower, and a furnished terrace. Breakfast is served in the room via a pulley system.
As with the company's tenting experiences, there is no sacrificing luxury in treetop living, Franco says.
"All the luxury guests expect with regard to comfort can be there," he says. "Everything can be supplied and created. But on the other hand, it's really about staying in a tree. It's really a different perspective and experience."
The company's latest project is a tree house at the Gran Hotel Son Net in Mallorca. Built around an ancient tree, the tree house provides guests with stunning views of the Serra de Tramuntana Mountains and the village of Puigpunyent.
The structures are eco friendly. They do not harm or penetrate the tree at any point during or after construction. There are no nails in the tree, and the tree is surveyed regularly after construction for growth and to determine if the tree house needs to be recalibrated in any way. The cost of building treetop living structures ranges from $80,000 to $500,000, Franco says, depending on what's included and the type of infrastructure it requires — including lighting and plumbing.
The cost to stay in such a room varies by resort, but starts around $250, but Luxury Frontiers treetop structures are also used by resorts as rooms for yoga, spas and journaling.
Franco has become a fan of sleeping among the trees.
"I love it and my kids love it. It's like you're in middle of nature and you hear the noise of the birds, the leaves and the wind. Everything is very different from normal, from being on the ground, you have a very different perspective," he says.