Bora Bora is a dream destination for many, but getting there is no easy task. After a 13-hour flight from New York, and an additional hour-long jaunt from Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, guests are ready for a welcoming arrival. Those staying at Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora are greeted at the airport and receive a lei before boarding Heinoanoa, a custom (and well-stocked) yacht that ferries visitors to the resort. Guests are given a cool mango-juice shooter to enjoy over the strains of traditional music before being shuttled to their overwater bungalow via golf cart.
It is a sublime arrival experience not easily forgotten. And while arrival amenities are nothing new, a select few hotels have gone above and beyond, wowing even the most seasoned travelers. First impressions not only count, they create repeat business, and arrivals have become increasingly representative of a property’s locale, brand and style.
“We have one time and one time only to make a first impression on our guests,” says Rami Sayess, regional vice president at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “If we can give them a little bit extra during the arrival experience, we’ve already begun to make their stay even more special.”
Some places focus on ultra-special indulgences. Leela Palace in Udaipur, India, presents a foot massage and a traditional welcome ceremony, while the Mandarin Oriental Paris can retrieve passengers from the airport by helicopter and glide them to the Issy-les-Moulineaux Heliport, just a short distance from the hotel.
Other experiences are designed for those seeking solitude, like the two-mile journey down a desert mountain road that corkscrews past hidden canyons and stratified plateaus on its way to Amangiri in Canyon Point, Utah. And some hotels, like Park Hyatt Tokyo, keep things simple but no less memorable: The bellmen and staff greet each guest by name upon arrival, even those who have never stayed with them before.