For the first time in Forbes Travel Guide’s history, two hotels achieved an impressive feat: They won quintuple Five-Stars. Our 2015 Star Rating announcement revealed that Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong and Wynn Macau each scored five of our most prestigious awards—for the hotel, spa and three restaurants—establishing themselves as the utmost luxury destinations. We spoke to the top hotels to find out how they achieved this unprecedented distinction and what’s next for the properties.
Quintuple Five-Star City Hotel: Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
For Jonas Schuermann, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong’s general manager/area vice president, operations, nabbing quintuple Five-Star awards was the plan all along. “We strive for nothing but the best,” he says. “Achieving the Five-Stars is a validation and confirmation that the relentless quest for perfection is correct. It is tremendous and something to be very proud of to be recognized by our clients, guests and the industry.”
Indeed it is. Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong is the first city hotel to win the quintuple Five-Stars. In 2014, it earned Five-Stars for the hotel, Pierre, Mandarin Grill + Bar and The Mandarin Spa. The Krug Room added the final jewel in the Five-Star crown this year. And it is a hidden jewel at that; the exclusive 12-seat space sits deep inside the Hong Kong hotel, behind an inconspicuous doorway in the heart of the kitchen. Redesigned in 2013 for the hotel’s 50th anniversary, the recreated train carriage of a dining room provides an appropriately playful setting for chef Uwe Opocensky, who spent time in El Bulli’s kitchen. Opocensky creates a whimsical 10- to 14-course epicurean experience that will surprise you (take the framed painting of a tree that tastes like mushrooms and sweet corn). And of course, Krug champagne is available at every turn.
The commonality among Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong’s award winners is the seamless, unobtrusive and individual service, Schuermann says. “We understand that not every guest’s expectations are equal, therefore we have to be ready and anticipate what guests might need or want ahead of them. Five-Star service needs to be authentic and not trained—it has to come from the heart.”
The iconic hotel also succeeds by staying ahead of the curve. “It is vital to never stop being curious and make sure to never be too comfortable with what you have,” he says. “Our drive to continuously improve comes from all sides, whether from our colleagues, guests and the industry itself.”
Up next for Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong is Art Basel in March. As the official hotel for the event, it is planning a variety of offerings, including an art-inspired menu in Mandarin Grill + Bar and a special Art of Pierre Gagnaire menu from the legendary French chef at his namesake Pierre restaurant.
Quintuple Five-Star Resort: Wynn Macau
Wynn Macau is the first resort to become a quintuple Five-Star winner. In 2014, the property collected a quartet of Five-Stars with the resort; The Spa at Wynn Macau; Wing Lei, a newly refurbished Cantonese restaurant; and Golden Flower, which serves Tan cuisine, a rare blend of southern and northern Chinese flavors. This year, Il Teatro makes it a quintet. The upscale Italian restaurant provides a night of entertainment with a spot overlooking the water, fire and light shows at Performance Lake. Or watch chef Anthony Alaimo and his team execute their own kind of show in the open kitchen, as they whip up grilled lobster sausage with roasted artichokes and black garlic aioli or handmade black angel hair pasta with Sicilian red prawns, baby squid and clams.
Even with quintuple Five-Stars, it can be hard to stand out in Macau, which is home to 23 Five-Star hotels, restaurants and spas, the most of any single city in the world. But a Wynn Macau spokesperson says the dedication of its team members sets it apart. “[Steve] Wynn is famous for saying, ‘The building is just a building; it is the people inside that give it life.’ Wynn Macau, therefore, actively recruits the best and has earned the reputation as Macau’s premier hospitality employer. We train and promote individuals who demonstrate a strong commitment toward the pursuit of excellence at Wynn Macau.”
The resort also tries to reward good service in other ways. Last year, it introduced Wynn Stories, which has profoundly changed the resort, the spokesperson says. “Wynn Stories is a very powerful way for our team members to share stories about how they have engaged with our guests and with each other in a very personal way. By encouraging them to do small acts of kindness for one another and to our guests, team members are inspired and we are creating a service culture that goes above and beyond.”
This year will be a busy one for Wynn Macau, as it prepares for the opening of Wynn Palace in early 2016. As the brand’s first Cotai Strip resort, Wynn Palace will feature 1,700 rooms, an eight-acre Performance Lake, gaming space, a spa and salon, luxury shops and fine dining.