Forbes Travel Guide has unveiled its annual star rating awards — this time with a record number of new properties earning the coveted five-star designation.
More than 100 five-star awards — 107, to be exact — have been announced, 70 of which are hotels. Last year the global rating system only added 21 new hotels to the five-star rating list.
In addition to the hotels earning five-star ratings, there are 13 new five-star restaurants and 24 new five-star spas. The company has been evaluating hospitality for 62 years and designated 1,898 star-rated properties this year: 432 hotels, restaurants and spas earned five-star ratings. More than 2,000 were evaluated.
Anonymous professional inspectors hired by Forbes Travel Guide evaluate each location across the world based on 900 objective standards — with exceptional service a key metric. Forbes Travel Guide touts itself as the only independent agency for luxury hotel, restaurant and spa rating.
The agency also recognizes four-star properties and offers a recommended designation, too.
This year, the company expanded, spotlighting international markets including Antigua, the Bahamas, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Zealand and more, with 16 new countries (and 73 in total). Inspectors evaluated more than 200 new properties.
The Four Seasons chain retained its status as the brand with the most five-star hotels; 11 more joined its roster. London had the most top hotels.
"For us, it is all about how does the hotel make the guest feel?" Filip Boyen, CEO of Forbes Travel Guide, told USA TODAY.
At The Peninsula in Hong Kong, for example, all towels, pillowcases and bathrobes were embroidered with his initials, for example. At another hotel, Boyen received a handwritten note mentioning that while unpacking his suitcase, someone noticed his toothpaste was running low and replaced it with the same brand. Evidently, luxury is about more than just the big things.
While being one of these anonymous inspectors may sound like a dream job, Forbes Travel Guide inspectors on average travel 260 days per year, can't have any social media presence and fill out inspection reports that take 12 to 13 hours.
"We need them to not only pay attention to the details after a long flight from one side of the country to the other or one side of the world other, but we need them to submit a really high-quality report," Amanda Frasier, head of ratings, told USA TODAY. The inspectors go through rigorous training and need to understand cultural nuance.
"We know that cultural nuance and geographical location play a part in how service is delivered, and we want to make sure that comes through in the way that we conduct our evaluation and in the reports that these hotels end up reading," Frasier added.
You can check out a complete look at the ratings here.