Jan 10, 2022
IT’S SAFE TO SAY THAT two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve all grown a little weary. Ever-changing restrictions and hard-to-navigate border controls have put paid to many of our travel plans. But as vaccination rates increase and countries move towards a “living with Covid” strategy, there’s an air of hopefulness among those of us with wanderlust. Some of us are making plans for the year ahead, and we’re not the only ones.
We spoke to some of the most influential people in Asia’s travel industry—from hoteliers to chefs to starchitects—about where they hope to travel in 2022, and it’s got us ready to book flights. Take note.
Who is she? Singaporean-born adventurer Hajar Ali wears many hats: Co-founder of luxury travel firm Urbane Nomads… The first woman to cross the Empty Quarter… Avid horse-rider and polo player. But perhaps the one that describes her best is dedicated traveler. She’s spent the pandemic hunkered down in Singapore, but she’s ready to hit the road again in 2022.
Where to go in 2022? “Given the current circumstances in Africa, many of the destinations I want to visit seem like a long-shot,” muses Hajar. “Still, I’d like to go to South Sudan to meet the Dinka tribe. From there, I’d want to head down to South Africa and take a private jet to Antarctica. Finally, I want to go to Brazzaville [capital of the Congo] because I’ve always been so intrigued by the Sapeurs [a fashionable Congolese subculture].”
Who is he? Having previously helmed the kitchens at notable eateries in Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Macau, Albert Au arrived in Singapore just over a year ago to bring his renowned Cantonese cuisine to Jiang-Nan Chun at the Four Seasons Hotel Singapore. Like many of us, in 2022, he hopes to go home to see family—as well as find more inspiration for his menus.
Where to go in 2022? “I’d love to head back to Hong Kong as I haven’t been able to visit my family and friends since I moved here,” Au says. “I’ve tried many foodie hotspots in Singapore, which has helped me understand the locals’ taste preferences, but I think it would be nice to return home to find new inspiration and ingredients to bring back to Jiang-Nan Chun.”
Who is he? Award-winning designer Bill Bensley is known for his captivating hotel concepts created with sustainability at their core, including Shinta Mani Wild, a luxury safari camp set in the jungles of Cambodia. With studios in Bangkok and Bali, he can usually be found traveling the globe keeping tabs on his current projects, picking up unique furnishings for his hotels, and enjoying off-the-grid adventures.
Where to go in 2022? Bensley’s first adventure of 2022 actually began in December 2021. He visited Puerto Rico and Curacao to visit some of his projects, then stopped in Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende—not just his favorite village in the world, but also that of T+L readers’ as well—to spend time with friends and family and explore Mexican crafts, furniture, sculpture and art.
“Later, I’m thinking of a trip to Niseko, Japan, for a spot of skiing and to visit a future project—the Sukhothai Hokkaido,” Bensley tells us. “In the summer, I’m most looking forward to Mongolia. I bring friends and we’re totally disconnected from the world, finding joy again by hiking, camping, drawing, catch-and-release fishing, and horseback riding.”
Who is he? An American of Bolivian heritage who grew up all over the world, John Blanco’s career in luxury hospitality spans a quarter-century and many cities across the globe. Since 2019, Blanco has been based in Thailand, overseeing the opening of one of the country’s most lauded properties as the general manager of Capella Bangkok. It’s now rated No. 4 in the world.
Where to go in 2022? Blanco says he’s ready to head overseas to seek adventure, nature, and incredible landscapes while enjoying some family time.
“I hope to return to Japan for another ski trip and Maui [Hawaii] to visit family. Japan is always a surprising, fascinating destination and staying in small, less-frequented onsen villages in the winter is pure magic, as is the food, culture, stunning environment, and ever-polite people,” Blanco says. “Maui is an equally magical place filled with jaw-dropping hikes, stunning coastlines, friendly natives, and of course, my family.”
Who is he? In the early 2000s, Andrew Dixon and a group of friends bounced around the islands and beaches of Indonesia. When they came upon two undeveloped islands off the shores of Bintan, they turned them into Nikoi and Cempedak, two sustainable, barefoot-luxury resorts that also work to protect the environment and support local communities. Dixon normally spends his time between those islands and his home in Singapore, but he wants to go further afield in 2022.
Where to go in 2022? Dixon went back to Australia to visit family over Christmas and rang in 2022 Down Under. But now, he hopes to get back to Nikoi and Cempedak. “It’s been nearly two years since I’ve been there, so it’ll be great to catch up with staff in person,” Dixon says. “There are a few other places in Indonesia I’d like to visit, including Misool Eco Resort in Raja Ampat, and I’m also keen to visit the Philippines.”
Who is she? Managing director of Hong Kong-based agency Charlotte Travel, Charlotte Harris has spent the last two nears navigating ongoing challenges. After smaller-than-planned wedding celebrations, a postponed honeymoon, and being apart from friends and family scattered across the globe, she’s hopeful that 2020 will see people traveling again, albeit more mindfully.
Where to go in 2022? “I think this halt has been a reminder that we need to relook at travel in a more meaningful and sustainable way,” Harris opines. “Visiting family and friends will be a priority in 2022, and I’m hoping to get back on track with planned trips to Paris—I’m eager to see the new Cheval Blanc—Oman, New Zealand, Tahiti, and a stay at The Brando.”
Who is he? Founder and creative partner of award-winning architecture and interior design firm BLINK Design Group, American-born Clint Nagata is usually based in Bangkok, where he oversees the group’s projects across five continents. A constant explorer with an appreciation for the world’s diverse cultures and landscapes, he hopes to revisit what he considers one of the most beautiful spots in the world.
Where to go in 2022? “I’m a passionate admirer of beautiful places to stay, wonderful wines, and amazing culinary experiences, and Napa [California] has it all,” says Nagata. “There’s the new Four Seasons Napa Valley or the conveniently located Hotel Villagio at The Estate Yountville—I’d like to visit them while sipping and sniffing my way through the smaller wineries like Quintessa, Ovid, and Nickel & Nickel, and feasting at the many critically acclaimed restaurants.”
Who is he? An experienced hotelier who’s worked with major hotel brands across Bangkok and Luang Prabang, Pitak ‘Chin’ Norathepkitti has spent most of the pandemic in Cambodia, having been appointed as general manager of the Anantara Angkor Resort in June 2020. Some 18 months later, though, he’s craving the comforts of home.
Where to go in 2022? “I’d like to travel to Chiang Mai in 2022,” Norathepkitti tells us. “It’s where I’m from, and it’s also the spiritual center of Thailand and filled with beautiful scenery, temples, cafés and eco-tourism activities. After these crazy years, I think we all need some time to slow down and relax.”
Who is she? Last year was a busy one for Kristina Snaith-Lense. She took over as general manager of The Upper House, Hong Kong’s most acclaimed boutique hotel, and has helped oversee the rebranding and reopening of two restaurants—Salisterra and The Continental—as well as a slew of innovative activities and pop-ups designed to keep Hongkongers engaged during the pandemic. No wonder, then, that she’s ready for a serious vacation in 2022.
Where to go in 2022? “A proper beach holiday is top of my list,” says Snaith-Lense. “I can’t wait to return to Andara in Phuket—that’s the last place I traveled to with my eldest son, in August 2019, who is now three! I also want to go to Europe to see our family in London and Germany, and go back to Cadiz in southern Spain for a romantic mini-break and some amazing tapas with my husband.”