Bob Dylan, Coco Chanel, Margaret Thatcher. What do a counter-culture icon, the inventor of the little black dress and the Iron Lady of British politics all have in common? Very little, you might think, but they all spent a good deal of time living in five-star hotels. Think about it: daily chores taken care of, superb facilities to use and a concierge on call, 24/7. It’s an appealing prospect for anyone with the money. Well, it might not be so far out of reach: a version of this super-exclusive lifestyle is available that is just very expensive rather than insanely so.
Most discerning travellers are familiar with Six Senses, but the ecoluxe hotel group’s new property in Courchevel will surprise veterans of the brand. Yes, there’s a stunningly good spa – pretty much the group’s signature – alongside rooms that include high-thread count bedding and a multiroom sound system. And, yes, the finish across the property is superb (in this case, a confection of wood and stone, best described as Alpine chic). However, there’s not a single hotel room in the Six Senses Residences Courchevel. That’s because this is the group’s first fully residential project, comprising 53 serviced apartments available both to buy or rent out. Of course, it’s not cheap – units start at a cool $1.8m – but the prices are consistent with the cost of buying a chalet here, and with rental options, the entry bar drops further. Plus, you get to enjoy living under the care of one of the world’s most luxurious operators.
Other hotel groups – Starwood, Kempinski, Aman, Shangri-La, to name a few – have also dabbled in branded residences, albeit ones where private and hotel rooms are combined, often offering perks to entice potential residents to buy. The owners of the 41 apartments in the new Four Seasons at Ten Trinity Square in London get access to a members’ club. But the Six Senses development – made up solely of apartments – has expanded this paradigm. And by all accounts it’s been a big hit, with 60 per cent of units already sold, the buyers no doubt further attracted by the returns they can get from rental when they’re not in residence.
If I was a developer I’d be terrified, since even the best serviced apartments can’t really compete with the know-how of a player like Six Senses. No wonder the group is looking at expanding the concept elsewhere, followed swiftly by every other big hotel group, I’d suspect. Who knows? Perhaps one day we’ll all live in hotels.