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Why Experiential Concepts Like Starbeds Are Revolutionizing Hotel Design

For years, we’ve been sensing a seismic change in the travel industry—a movement toward experiences that foster and promote an authentic sense of place, harmony with nature, and spiritual recalibration, to name a few.

With COVID-19, this shift in values and value proposition is taking on more urgency than ever before. Now, as Hotel Designs notes in a recent editorial, this change in perception is even trickling down to the level of hotel design, with brands like Four Seasons and Marriott experimenting with hospitality concepts “that aim to address the significant industry-wide challenges posed by COVID-19.”

Why Experiential Concepts Like Starbeds Are Revolutionizing Hotel Design
The starbeds at Zambia’s Puku Ridge overlook a world-renowned wildlife sanctuary. Photo by Scott Ramsay

One of the “new” concepts being ushered in by this new wave of thinking is the rise of “al fresco guestrooms.” States the article: “The theory behind the layout, with the bed being perched on a wooden platform, is that the natural landscape becomes the backdrop.”

While more properties will dabble with this hotel design in the months and years to come, we at Luxury Frontiers have been perfecting the concept for years, particularly when it comes to our dreamy, innovative starbeds. Equal parts inviting and exhilarating, these starbeds marry the comforts of a traditional guestroom (a fluffy bed enclosed in gauzy mosquito netting) with the rush of being outdoors: the twinkling of the stars above, the sounds of the flora and fauna, and the crisp night air. With minimal lighting (to prevent light pollution) and simple, rustic décor, the experience is designed to support a complete and undistracted immersion in nature.

Why Experiential Concepts Like Starbeds Are Revolutionizing Hotel Design
Photo of a starbed at Puku Ridge by Scott Ramsay

At Zambia’s Puku Ridge, a renowned bush lodge that was recently reimagined by Luxury Frontiers, one of the new additions were two-story observation towers (one per guest suite), each featuring a starbed with uninterrupted, panoramic views of the South Luangwa National Park. Built out of lightweight Zambian timber, with carbon-neutral composite bamboo flooring and waterproof woven fiber exteriors, the structure feels like an extension of the surrounding trees, lending the feeling of truly sleeping in nature. Guests can uncurl on their mosquito-net enclosed bed, which sits under a shaded canopy during the daytime and is pulled out to bask under the stars during the evening, and look out to one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world.

Our starbed experience at Botswana’s legendary Abu Camp is just as astonishing. Situated high above the elephant boma, which is home to the camp’s own elephant sanctuary, the canopy-level suite is equipped with lanterns, vintage-style trunks, and a four-poster bed encased in mosquito netting. The vibe is one of retro-romance; celebrate your special evening with a champagne toast, then opt for a private dinner under a starry sky. Your meal will come accompanied with up-close views of the sanctuary’s rescued elephants as they snooze just beyond your outdoor suite.

Why Experiential Concepts Like Starbeds Are Revolutionizing Hotel Design
Photo of a starbed at Abu Camp by Dana Allen/Wilderness Safaris

Commenting on the popularity of these starbed designs in a recent Travel + Leisure article, Wilderness Safaris Zimbabwe Managing Director, Ron Goatley, said: “…more and more of our guests seek new and different safari experiences that help them to not only reconnect with nature, but also with themselves and their loved ones.”

We at Luxury Frontiers promise to continue anticipating (not reacting to) these shifts in values and perceptions, offering unique hotel designs that buck tradition in favor of meaningful, transformational guest experiences.