What Recession? Some Destinations Keep Thriving.

The only crash that seems to be hitting Miami Beach these days is that of azure waves lapping against sand. The art deco skyline along the beachfront is changing at a furious pace. A new multistory W opens in June that will include a branch of the high-end Asian-fusion restaurant chain Mr. Chow. New York's cool Hotel Gansevoort just launched a South Beach outpost, and Canyon Ranch has recently debuted a new hotel and condo complex close to the historic Fontainebleau, which reopened last year after a $1 billion face-lift. Next year Philippe Starck's Ritz Plaza hotel will debut on the beach, and the St. Regis Resort & Residences will open their doors in the tony suburb of Bal Harbour—where, incidentally, fashionistas are snatching up creations by Valentino and Cartier at the Bal Harbour Shops like it was 1999. At the Delano and Shore Club hotels, staff are wearing black T shirts that at first glance appear to read RECESSION. But on closer inspection, it's clear what they really say: RECESS IS ON.

Recess, it seems, is always on in Miami Beach and certain other destinations—Aspen, St-Tropez, Marbella and Capri, to name a few—that appear remarkably untouched by the global recession. The number of visitors to the Swiss ski resort Gstaad this past season ranked among the highest of the last 10 winters. On Mustique, the private Caribbean island, bookings have held steady and the amount people are spending is up from last year. "It would take a lot for our typical guests to say, 'We are not going to come this year'," says Linda Bruno of the Mustique Co. While no place is immune from economic dips, the locales that have historically drawn the posh and the privileged do exhibit a stronger degree of resilience than most. "You can almost go around the world and certain destinations just won't be affected because of their popularity," says Jeremy Sutton of the agency Quintessentially Travel. "Unless something very severe happens in the global market, those peak destinations will always remain."

One reason such destinations fare better in tough times is that they can depend on a certain breed of clientele. Mustique has long been a favored hideaway spot for royals like Britain's Prince William and billionaires like Bill Gates. St-Tropez has for centuries drawn artists like Pablo Picasso and Colette; today, their contemporary equivalents—like Beyoncé and Bono—come to soak up the sun and the scene. "We are not really feeling the crisis," says Claude Maniscalco, director of the city's tourism board. "Every year we renew the buildings, the decorations in the hotels change, there are always new restaurants and boutiques, so people know they will come and discover a new StTropez." That sense of continuity and renewal draws people back year after year. Jim Taylor, vice chair of Harrison Group, says there has been a move away from big adventure vacations and a resurgence of people looking to unwind. "The desire for relaxation and recovery tops the list right now," he says. "You see a real increase in the predictability and comfort of the experience."

But even regulars to never-say-die destinations are looking for bargains once they arrive. According to the Annual Survey of Affluence and Wealth in America, published in April by Harrison Group and American Express Publishing, 27 percent of respondents said they planned to decrease their vacation spending this year. People who would not normally flinch at spending $700 a night for a room are looking for deals, says TripAdvisor's Luke Fredberg. "People are saying, 'I can still afford it, but I am going to see if there is a better option out there for a similar level of luxury'." So hotels and tourism boards are looking for creative ways to sustain their edge. For the first time, St-Tropez has teamed up with nearby Cannes to promote both Riviera towns. "The campaign is to remind people that we are still here, crisis or not," says Maniscalco. "And what we offer in St-Tropez is the dream." The dream that money can buy.