WHEN you are planning a romantic holiday, what’s the first thing you think about?  Well, most people would start with the destination. Beaches in Bali, for instance or Phuket. Or perhaps some place that’s off the beaten track like a tea estate in Sri Lanka or a wellness spa in the Himalayas. Destinations like these immediately bring to mind visions of a truly romantic holiday.

Beyond the destination, what makes the holiday really romantic is the hotel, since you end up spending your most precious hours during the holiday inside the hotel. In the room, by the pool, at one of the restaurants or in the spa. Or simply lazing around in your villa or resort doing nothing.

What then makes a hotel truly romantic? This question is posed every year by reputed luxury travel magazines the world over. They invite travellers to rate the best hotels and based on their responses, the magazines publish the list.

The leading travel magazine, Travel + Leisure, publishes its own list of the most celebrated hotels annually. The magazine said earlier this year:

“Regardless of where they are in the world, this year’s crop of romantic hotels all share a commitment to discreet, personalized service, and the opportunity for couples to enjoy intimate moments alone in a gorgeous setting — be it a Tahitian atoll, rural Vermont, or Argentina’s picturesque wine country.”

Or in Asia, be it beautiful Bali or picturesque Phuket, we may add.

MORE COUPLE HOTELS IN ASIA

Today, more than ever before, travelling is beginning to define major couple goals and relationship goals. More and more couples are looking for romantic holidays to celebrate their birthdays, anniversaries and other such significant milestones. Destinations in Asia are among the most sought after by millennials from around the world.

Over the last several years, many new luxury and boutique hotels in Asian destinations have emerged as romantic hotels of choice among discerning couples. Whether it is for short breaks or long stays, more travelers from Asia, and indeed from around the world are discovering these Asian hotels. Many of these are either a one-off property or a clutch of a few small hotels owned by enterprising men and women with passion. What make these hotels special for couples is they understand emerging trends in couple travel and then go ahead to cater to this fast-growing segment.

Commenting on new trends shaping romantic getaways, American Express Departures magazine wrote:

“It’s no longer enough to sprinkle a few rose petals on a bed, offer a complimentary bottle of Champagne, and call it a romantic getaway.

While bottles of bubbly are still a prominent feature—and we don’t have any complaints about that—today’s most sophisticated luxury hotels go one step further by connecting guests with the inherent beauty of a destination via creative offerings.

Think: spa treatments for two using native flora, mouthwatering meals incorporating local ingredients, or expertly designed outdoor spaces showcasing spectacular views in places like a barely touched Cambodian archipelago or the tried-and-truly lovely Santorini. Never mawkish and always unforgettable, these romantic getaways are perfect for escaping with the one you love.”

WHAT DISTINGUISHES ROMANTIC HOTELS

So, what kind of hotels in Asia should you look for when you are planning a really romantic holiday?

The Romance Collection,  the hotel booking website  for romantic luxury and boutique hotels in Asia, lists 5 attributes that distinguish romantic hotels.

ONE: Private and Intimate

Couples prefer hotels that gives a cozy feeling. They usually find this in smaller resorts and boutique hotels or in secluded sections of large hotels that are more private and offer an intimate setting. This allows them to be away from the worries of work and away from the families and groups that take over every spot in big hotels: swimming pool, restaurants, gym, spa and even the lounge.

A certain no-no are the large chain hotels they use during their work trips and which all look the same, whether you are in London, Tokyo or even Bali! Couples often mention that those chain hotels remind them of work, which is why they prefer the private setting where they can really unwind in each other’s company.

TWO: Personalised, not Intrusive

Naturally, you so want personalised service at hotels when you are holidaying with your loved one. Not just in terms of luxury. Sometimes, little things matter, like the restaurant remembering your dietary restrictions and food allergies and keeping that in mind during mealtime. At the same time, it’s important service at the hotels not become overbearing or intrusive, which sometimes happen in Asia, because of the staff’s desire to please the customer.

THREE: Sense of Place and Locally Relevant

Hotel ambiance counts too. Stunning views of the nature around, be it the ocean or mountain, awe-inspiring sights do matter to drum up the beats of romance. Equally, guests prefer hotels to have a sense of place rather than be the same soulless concrete structures found in cities around the world that do not reflect the character of its location. Sense of place manifests itself in so many different ways within the hotel: in the variety of cuisine, the decor of the hotel and rooms, at the spa or in terms of the leisure activities offered. Being rooted and local is big.

FOUR: Couple Activities

Creating a romantic experience for guests is no longer just offering a candle-lit dinner and wine set-up on the beach. It goes much beyond that.

Couples enjoy doing things together, taking up activities that enhance bonding when they are on a holiday. In response, hotels are offering activities that enrich their holiday experience. Whether it’s a cooking experience with the Chef, or it’s the butler taking them out of the hotel premises, for fun activities like archery on the beach, trekking in nearby hills, tours along rice paddies, and even for volunteering their time at the local weaving village.

FIVE: Pampering Index

Who doesn’t like to be pampered by the hotel? Not just on Valentine’s day, but right round the year. Hotels that score high on what we call the Pampering Index naturally appeal greatly to couples on a romantic holiday. For instance, hotels offering a carefully crafted Romance package can make the experience special, memorable and celebratory.

Pinnacle of pampering? When you get an exclusive complimentary treat from the hotel, such as a bottle of sparkling wine or a spa experience or a room upgrade. Something that other regular guests usually don’t get. The Romance Collection hotels offer such free benefits to pamper their guests who book on their website.

THE next time you want to go on a celebratory holiday with your loved one, make sure the hotels you book offer these R-factors to make your experience fun, enjoyable and meaningful.