When Forbes Travel Guide’s expert inspectors visit a property, they anonymously test it based on hundreds of exacting standards, with an emphasis on exceptional service. Only the best of the best achieve the coveted Five Star, our highest rating. In anticipation of our 2023 Star Award winners announcement on February 15, we give you a peek into what it takes to earn a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award.
Authentic guest experience
Wowing a guest or elevating the guest experience is not a new concept in luxury — FTG has been measuring it for decades — but it sits at the forefront of travel-making decisions as guests’ expectations of what they want out of their trip evolve.
There is never a need to overthink the guest experience — often the most memorable moments can be simple and unplanned gestures. A staff of genuine individuals with a passion for service will ensure natural and authentic experiences. Guests value their time more than ever before, and knowing their time was well spent and feeling organically cared for in a way that was not scripted or overplanned is the most important evolution. FTG has recently introduced a new evaluation touchpoint to measure this authenticity.
Evolution of well-being
Well-being goes beyond the spa and reaches into the daily touchpoints of the guest’s stay, including noise reduction, sleep quality, access to high-quality water, light, scent, better use of outdoor space and moving away from traditional communal fitness facilities to more in-room fitness experiences. There are more solutions than ever before to help guests leave a property feeling better than when they arrived.
Sustainability and luxury
It’s not about how many sustainability measures a hotel adopts, but about the property doing what it can really well in a genuine manner and without disrupting or removing the sense of luxury. The ability for a guest to maintain sustainability commitments when traveling is a new evolving luxury and one to watch.
Equal to the guest experience, the choice to participate in sustainability efforts is not a “perhaps” but a non-negotiable for today’s guests. This factor helps them determine where to stay and dine. Travel professionals will turn to tools such as FTG’s soon-to-launch Responsible Tourism program, which will award a VERIFIED™ badge to hotels that meet expert criteria for protecting the environment and supporting the well-being of employees, guests and the community — creating a global standard for the world’s finest hotels and a trusted third-party verification for guests and travel advisors.
We are in the midst of a major travel resurgence, and while it’s been going on for some time in the United States and Europe, China is just starting to experience this, and the hospitality industry is booming.
Hotels should be prepared for staffing against high demand for quality that sees no slowdown in the foreseeable future — guests’ expectations are on the rise. This aligns with FTG’s own data, which recently saw an increase in the achievement scores for properties earning a Five-Star rating. Hotels are doing away with pandemic-related flexibilities, which further correlates with guest expectations of automatic daily housekeeping service (not every three days or only on request), automatic evening service and the ability to have a room service meal fully set up in your room and then cleared away.
While there is always a place for the finest, most traditional service, the evolution of luxury is continually broadening. Today, service should suit the guest’s interpretation of luxury. While this may be traditional and formal, it may also be approachable and free of pomp. For example, FTG removed the specific requirement for an amuse-bouche in our independent restaurant inspections. The requirement still says to deliver the guest something meaningful but in the style of the venue and appropriate to the cuisine.
Visit ForbesTravelGuide.com on February 15 to see the list of 2023 Forbes Travel Guide Star Award recipients.