GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - The best hotels are not only sanctuaries for travellers, but also the starting point of their adventure in a new place.
Hotels have been reinvented over the past decade as premier destinations for travellers who want it all: design, art, culture, food and adventure - all experienced within the four walls of an exquisite property.
A nomad at heart, I find travel addictive and irreplaceable. While travel plans remain on pause for now due to the pandemic, we continue to dream about our first flight out, buoyed by good news of the vaccine's mass roll-out and signs that the hotel industry is resilient.
According to hospitality data firm STR, hotel occupancy rates dropped in Europe by 30 per cent in March but with staycations in demand, hoteliers were soon not only holding the fort during the pandemic, but also opening new hotels.
Big chains like Hilton will add 60 new hotels to its growing list of properties while Marriott has continued to rival competitors with more than 163 new properties slated to open.
No longer just a place to lay down weary heads, hotels now curate art collections on their premises or sculptures in adjoining public gardens, for instance.
Guests may have excellent views of Unesco World Heritage Sites and dine at the tables of noteworthy chefs who add culinary authenticity to a trip.
Here, I share the newly opened hotels on my hit-list while you plan overdue vacations.
1. Circulo Mexicano, Mexico
More than 20 years ago, high- school friends Carlos Couturier and Moises Micha opened their first hotel in Mexico City. In August 2019, in the same city, the design-minded hoteliers opened their 12th hotel, a minimalist property with rooms almost "naked" in appearance, mirroring the Mexican patio-centric house with "honest" furnishings.
Besides a rooftop pool, the hotel also has a community space that doubles as a marketplace selling local fashion and furniture, which adds to its raw charm.
Nearby: Visit Museo del Templo Mayor or the National Palace, though the hotel, itself the birthplace of the nation's most celebrated photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo (1902-2002), is peppered with his works and worth a stay for that alone.
Bonus tip: Head to the neighbourhood eatery El Balcon del Zocalo for modernised Mexican dishes.
2. JK Place Paris, France
Unlike many luxury hotels in Paris which remained closed during the summer, JK Place Paris opened its doors in August, much to the delight of French travellers.
Guests can have the ultimate Paris pieds-dans-l'eau experience, which translates to "feet in water", as the hotel has an annexe on water and private boats.
Wonderful artworks and collectibles are placed around the hotel, such as Tom Ford reading lamps and mirrored chests by David Hicks.
Info: JK Place Paris' website
Nearby: Free exhibitions which encourage social distancing for art and culture lovers, such as La Villette, a park with museums and concert halls. Or head to the Luxembourg Gardens during the warmer months.
Bonus tip: Explore new green initiatives in Paris by jumping on a bike or heading to Nature Urbaine, the world's largest rooftop urban farm which just opened recently.
3. Les Sources de Cheverny, France
Imagine sipping Sauvignon Blanc and polishing off your second wheel of goat cheese after a delightfully long French dinner as you watch the sunset in the valley.
Les Sources de Cheverny, nestled in the heart of the Loire Valley and surrounded by vineyards, is housed in an 18th-century castle.
Explore 45ha of woodlands, which makes social distancing very enjoyable, as well as the bygone design, open gardens and Caudalie spa of the hotel which opened its doors in September last year.
Nearby: Explore the wineries of Loire Valley and pop by the Chateau Royal de Blois, a one-time royal palace with paintings and sculptures dating back to the 16th century.
Bonus tip: Check out La Maison de la Magie Robert-Houdin, the only public museum in Europe to present magic collections, as well as a rotating list of live events.
4. The Tuxon, United States
Americans rekindled their love of road trips during the pandemic, with record numbers visiting national parks like Yosemite on the west coast and the Appalachian Trail in the east.
It is little wonder that boutique hotels are popping up in these outdoorsy places.
The Tuxon in Tucson, Arizona opened last July at the foot of Sentinel Peak and on the bank of the Santa Cruz River, making it ideal for outdoor adventures despite its close proximity to the bustling downtown.
Info: The Tuxon's website
Nearby: Tucson, the country's first Unesco City of Gastronomy, is best explored by bike. Be sure to stop at Mercado San Agustin restaurant and climb the rocky mountains nearby.
Bonus tip: The hotel hosts live music events and activities such as film festivals, farmers' markets and even gem shows.
5. Paragon 700 Boutique Hotel & Spa, Italy
Could sipping a negroni by the Italian coast in Puglia be one of your fantasies? When travel resumes, book a stay at the new luxury hotel, Paragon 700 Boutique Hotel & Spa, which opened in June last year in Puglia.
With only 11 rooms in this restored palace, its whitewashed buildings blend into the hilly towns surrounding the village of Ostuni and make it a great starting point for exploring.
The restaurant helmed by chef Giovanni Cerroni offers traditional dishes from Puglia, such as baccala alla salentina, a salted cod dish, which you can also recreate during a cooking class in the hotel.
Nearby: Jump into a car and visit Bari for fresh seafood or Lecce for its baroque architecture. Or sail on the hotel's private 15m yacht and sunbathe on the Adriatic Sea.
Bonus tip: Many items in the hotel are for sale, including furnishings and paintings by artists Adrian Boswell and Caio Gracco.
6. Tokyo Edition, Toranomon, Japan
Try and pull yourself away from the new Tokyo Edition, Toranomon when you are in Japan's capital.
It invites guests to be immersed in both traditional and modern Tokyo within the hotel designed by architect Kengo Kuma. It opened in October, despite the Olympics being postponed.
Choose from three restaurants, including one by London chef Tom Aikins. Enjoy cocktails in the Garden Terrace or modern Japanese tea ceremony activities in The Gold Bar.
Nearby: Fukushiro Inari Shrine, with its more than 300 years of history, has a new home a stone's throw from the hotel.
Bonus tip: The lobby has more than 500 exotic and local plants, including sword ferns and alocasia.
• Based in Europe, Australia-born Michelle Tchea is the author of Chefs Collective and writes on food, wine and travel.