Keeping Up with the Smiths
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Like this on Facebook: