For decades Forbes Travel Guide has been declaring the best of the best hotels in the world. For many it’s the top honor to be declared a Five-Star property. But for those hotels and restaurants competing for the coveted Five-Star recognition there has always been a bit of a mystery to how the company renders its final judgment.
But now, Forbes has peeled away the layers of mystery and is allowing hoteliers for the first time to see the results of their inspections. And Michael Cascone, President and Chief Operating Officer of Forbes Travel Guide said this is a best of both world’s decision that will help hoteliers position themselves more effectively against their competitive set and give Forbes more marketing muscle.
“This is a partnership with hotel industry and for 54 years we rated and inspected hotel restaurants there was no transparency. We didn’t call them and we just issued star rating. But we thought that wasn’t fair anymore,” said Cascone in an interview with Hotel Interactive this week.
Cascone said that in the modern information age there is so much dissemination of hotel information online he felt it was time for Forbes to be transparent as well. “To have us rate and inspect hotels and us promoting these properties as the finest in the world we thought ‘How can we do it and not be transparent?’,” Cascone added.
Forbes has also modernized the way they score hotels with more than 500 standards centered on the service experience. So hotels need to think about how they are emotionally engaging with customer at the hotel rather than focused entirely on infrastructure. So no need to have that phone in the bathroom, or the multi-million pool, if that is not something that a hotel’s target guests are seeking.
Inspections are still anonymous but Forbes will now provide a summary report sharing their findings with their partner hotels. “It’s as fair as it gets and if you want to improve now you know how,” said Cascone.
Forbes looked to make these significant changes because Cascone said the consumer no longer makes decisions based solely on the hotel itself, they want to have a good experience with personalized service that delights and surprises them. “You can have a 5 star experience at a three star hotel. Meeting consumer expectations are a big opportunity for hotels.”
Forbes Travel Guide has also introduced Startle, a website with content directly related to Forbes inspections. Here there will be nuggets of information the consumer is surely to be unaware of.
“We may have 30 standards related to arrival because it is so critical for a first impression, but all the guest knows is that it was pleasant. What they do not know is there are standards and training involved and as they understand that more they’ll be able to compare arrival experience globally. As consumers researching and planning that is just great content we can tease from inspection reports to provide in a user friendly way,” said Cascone.
So what about those Five-Star and Four-Star ratings for 2013?
Forbes Travel Guide introduced 18 new hotels, five new restaurants and four new spas that achieved the Five-Star Award for 2013.
Among larger destinations, Southern California was a big winner in the Five-Star hotel category with the storied Hotel Bel-Air regaining its Five-Star designation, along with first-time winners Montage Laguna Beach, and The Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Coast.
For the first time ever, Beijing, China received its first Five-Star hotel rating – China World Summit Wing, a Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts property – making it the first and only Five-Star hotel in that market. In the U.S., Forbes Travel Guide named the first Five-Star Rhode Island hotel -- the Ocean House, at Watch Hill.
Here are some cool factoids:
- Miami, Florida now has two Five-Star hotels -- The Mandarin Oriental, Miami, and Acqualina Resort & Spa On The Beach.
- In addition to the Los Angeles, Beijing and Rhode Island awards, notable new Five-Star hotels include Trump Chicago International Hotel & Tower and Canyon Suites at The Phoenician.
- With the addition of Five-Star awards for Encore Macau and the Spa at Encore Macau, Wynn Resorts now holds more Five-Star awards than any other brand in the Las Vegas and Macau markets.
- Hong Kong, China has the most Five-Star hotels in the world -- with the addition of InterContinental Hong Kong and The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong to the existing five Five-Star winners.
- Four new Five-Star restaurants made the list: Mélisse in Santa Monica, California, Naoe in Miami, Florida, Azul in Miami, Florida, and Sixteen in Chicago, Illinois.
- Four new Five-Star spas have been added to the list, including spas in Arizona, California, Florida and Hong Kong.
These additions bring the total number of Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotels to 76, including 12 in California, the most of any state in the United States. There are also seven Five-Star hotels in Hong Kong, five in Macau, three in Singapore, two in Shanghai and one in Beijing. There are now 28 Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star restaurants, all in the U.S., and 35 Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star spas around the globe. The complete 2013 Forbes Travel Guide honor roll includes over 650 hotels, restaurants and spas in the U.S., Canada, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Macau and Singapore.