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A room with an ocean view, advertised on the Mr & Mrs Smith website.
A room with an ocean view, advertised on the Mr and Mrs Smith website.

Keeping Up with the Smiths

For many Brits, a weekend away starts with a visit to this website

“Oh, so you’re having a Mr & Mrs Smith weekend?” No, not a weekend to keep up with the Jones’ but what the British refer to as a cheeky and sexier escape to have that special time with your special someone.

So it is no wonder that Mr. & Mrs. Smith is wooing the globe as the boutique hotel specialists for a new generation of stylish and romantic jetsetters with posh, yet accessible, destinations from the Scottish Highlands to the Yucatan Peninsula. The U.K. based company that boasts almost 80,000 members has stolen the hearts of the British and has its eye on the United States.

The coffee table guidebook turned online review and booking brand boasts a collection of nearly handpicked 1,000 properties from quirky hotels to charming bed and breakfasts spread across six continents that are anonymously reviewed by panel of taste makers.

Once solely an audience of romance seeking couples looking for the essential ‘in the know’ details for a weekend rendezvous, MrandMrsSmith.com now incorporates locations fit for families and friends but with style for splurgers and frugglers.

The Real Mr & Mrs Smith

Mr & Mrs Smith is a labor of love for a real life couple. James Lohan and his then-girlfriend, now wife, Tamara Heber-Percy, began the company in 2000 after one disastrous weekend courtesy of misguiding reviews of a “shall not be named” hotel in the Lake District of England.

“All the hotels were kind old fashion and chintzy and a bit formal and they’d make you wear your jacket and tie for dinner and the service was a bit snooty,” explained Lohan. “And we just didn’t want that as a thirty something audience.”




The real Mr and Mrs Smith are James Lohan and his wife Tamara Heber-Percy of England.
The real Mr and Mrs Smith are James Lohan and his wife Tamara Heber-Percy of England.

The fabulously chic couple decided to take matters into their own hands and created a guidebook for romantic getaways with the extra oomph. Being faced with skeptical publishers and distributers at the time, the Lohan’s re-mortgaged their house and published it themselves.

With tantalizing photographs of the to-die for locations and real life testimonies as their bow and arrow, their first book, Mr & Mrs Smith: Hotel Collection UK and Ireland, sold nearly 20,000 copies in three months; proving to be an instant sensation in British social circles.

The Taste Panel

Instead of leaving all of the reviewing up to the leading couple, the pair invites friends and colleagues from the world of fashion, music, and entertainment to join their ‘taste panel.’ The panel members travel with their partners to secretly inspect a preselected boutique hotel and destination.

Their only goal is to uncover the insider secrets and intimate details to every location so that readers know exactly what to look forward to down to the thread counts on the sheets, the size of the bathtub, the best views for local events, the most comfortable table in the restaurant and which bartender can mix the perfect martini. “These are the things that really matter,” according to Lohan.

In addition to the panel, the site welcomes registered members who have traveled to the locations, add their thoughts. “It’s becoming so difficult to navigate your way around the web and to know who really is to be trusted,” said Lohan, trusting his like-minded members to assist in the inspection efforts. “Trip Advisor is a mind field for me. I don’t know how these people are or who is promoting for what.” The hotels reviewed on the site have no influence over what is being reviewed or when so that the taste panel has the genuine experience and opinion of a location.

Destinations

The website is equipped with every tool to effortlessly inspire a getaway of any kind. Browsers can search locations by type of accommodation such as home stays or bed and breakfast, by specific destinations in every corner of the world, or by the several categories which include spa stays, beaches within reach, European spots accessible by train, child or pet friendly, wildlife romps, ski slopes, and more.

Undecided travelers even have the option to play with an interactive map. Every property review begins with a tailored accommodation style and setting characterization and captivating photo slideshows to stimulate travel fantasies, which become a reality. With a diverse palette of locations and accommodation styles, Mr & Mrs Smith provides inspiration for any type of traveler.

Some listings: Australia, Morocco, the Alps

For the sophisticated ocean lover, designer holiday home Alanghi sits perched among dense bush land overlooking a serene sandy beach on Australia’s Capricorn Coast equipped with an oversized cabana ideal for alfresco entertaining. The living room boasts a 50-inch flat screen television and floor-to-ceiling glass door to the terrace allowing for glittering ocean views. Although, the prime viewing lounge on the property is the cushioned bench on the terrace that is quintessential for wallaby watching.

The site includes suggestions for romantic weekends and holidays all over the world.
The site includes suggestions for romantic weekends and holidays all over the world.

For the explorer searching for classic safari experience, Zambia’s Chiawa Camp encompasses the glamour of old world jet setting and adventurous safari. Overlooking the Zambezi River, the thatched roof and canvas tent suites have private game-views decks, interior and exterior showers, and roll-top bathes. Sunrise breakfasts features Afro-European fusion cuisine. The suggested dress code: anything but zebra print.

For the culture cravers, the “funky old Medina” Marrakech, Morocco is a bizarre of unmatchable sites and sounds. Dar Darma, a private residence with worldly guest suites, provides a sultry oasis saturated in jewel tone textiles and moody ambiences. The housekeeper, Maria, is the exceptional hostess who whips up French and Moroccan dishes for lunch or dinner such as tagines and tarte tatin. Occasionally, gnaoua musicians serenade guests during dinner.

For the ski bunnies hitting the slopes with friends, Le Ti Chalet’s shabby chic Alpine-inspired home charms its guests with a cozy cabin feel. Perched in the main Médran ski station, the location is crucial for hitting the slopes or shacking up with gorgeous views. The house comes with a professional chef who prepares breakfast, afternoon tea and evening meals for the entire party and a chauffeur for all of your transportation needs. The layout is perfect for entertaining and includes a den beckoning for a game of poker. “Make sure you bring a pair of sunglasses as it makes it much easier to bluff. Oh, and you can wear them skiing too,” suggests the taste panel reviewers.

"Glamping" in Africa's bush is popular among Mr and Mrs Smith users.
Glamping in Africa's bush is popular among Mr and Mrs Smith users.

For the exotic beach seekers, Karbi, Thailand’s Rayavadee is the ultimate jungle retreat hotel set on three white-sand beaches and “cinematic limestone cliff-sides.”

Between the lagoon style infinity swimming pool, cave restaurant, and snuggly-cushioned wooden swings instead of sofas, every nook of the resort glistens with alluring leisure. The hotel offers an array of adventurous excursions but the real entertainment is the “misbehaving” monkeys that can be seen playing from any pavilion.

As a result of the books and website’s success, customers wanted to book their trips directly through Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The brand quickly jumped to the web for online bookings for their reviewed properties without extra fees. Three years ago, a full time travel team was added to the Smith roster to assist customers around the clock from three locations, London, New York City, and Melbourne, Australia.

Coming Across the Pond

“The U.K. is still the heartland for our fans but we are gathering fans from all over,” said Lohan. Nearly 20 percent of their accommodation database is U.S. properties and continues to grow rapidly with unique locations such as Amangiri in Lake Powell, Dunton Hot Springs in San Juan Mountains, and Gamercy Park Hotel in New York. Relying on word of mouth and partnerships with American companies, Mr & Mrs Smith continues to experience 100 percent increases in membership and booking figures annually but with many trial and error approaches.

“The biggest challenge is [that Americans] are very different [than Brits],” explained Lohan. “East coast and West coast all have different likes and dislikes. It is like preaching to different countries.” And since vacation time is limited in the United States compared to the U.K., “You really need to get the hotel address right every time.”

Membership has its privileges

Although membership is not required in order to browse through and book on the site, membership definitely has its perks on Mr. & Mrs. Smith. For $30 USD a year, the Blacksmith card allows less frequent travelers to keep pampered with special hotel offers and a free gift up arrival courtesy of the hotels. For the more experienced globe trotters, the Silversmith and the Goldsmith cards, $250 and $600 respectively, present last minute booking deals, a personal travel concierge, free airport lounge access, and a chauffeur, just for starters.

To book or browse boutique hotels with Mr & Mrs Smith, visit www.mrandmrssmith.com.

Lindsey Davis


Lindsey Davis
is an editorial assistant at GoNOMAD and Managing Editor of the Daily Collegian, the student newspaper at the University of Massachusetts.

 

 

 







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