As Forbes Travel Guide hits its sixth decade in decoding what luxury and service mean in hospitality industry, Travel-Intel spoke with Forbes Travel CEO Jerry Inzerillo to find out just what it takes for a hotel to make the cut.

The secret sauce for a five-star rating starts with service, Inzerillo says, although service alone won’t put a property over the top. That will be up to the five dozen or so inspectors globally that enter hotels for two-night stays and run through a checklist of more than 900 details, marking and rating, sometimes coming back six months later or sometimes sending a separate party with different needs to return to a hotel and mark improvements or declines.

“You cannot stay competitive in a global market if you are only king beds and Olympic pools,” says Inzerillo.

Forbes Travel took over where the Mobile Travel Guide left off. The star rating guides that started in 1958 were rebranded as Forbes Travel Guides in 2009. The company shares nothing with the magazine and content company of the same name. Forbes Travel Guides currently counts 1,609 properties (hotels, restaurants and spas) in 50 countries in its star-rated collection and next year plans to be represented in 60 countries, Inzerillo says.

“We are simply responding to a global cry for transparency,” he says. “In this age of fake news and so many online booking entities, who do you trust?”

Forbes Travel Guide offers itself as a validated source of information that is vetted and revetted annually. “You can’t buy these stars and you can’t influence them,” Inzerillo says.


Luxury Hotel verification


Inspectors are chosen from a large pot of interested prospects but not everyone makes the cut. The position is mostly full time and although inspectors live everywhere in the world, they come to the Guide’s headquarters in Atlanta for six weeks of rigorous training. They are chosen largely from the travel and hospitality industry but carefully monitored for certain biases – or worse: travel fatigue.

Checklists are checked and rechecked and hoteliers that do not make the cut often get angry. “I can’t tell you how often I am on the phone trying to explain the system to some of these GMs,” he said. “They really have a hard time believing anything on their property could be less than perfect.”

But for hotels, there is always next year and another chance. And for those properties that are motivated and serious, Forbes Travel Guide offers a consulting and training service for properties to get them in shape enough to earn their stars.

So where does the man who has stayed everywhere prefer to take his holidays?

The Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice and the Peninsula in Hong Kong are among Inzerillo’s favorites.

Forbes Travel Guide offers three award categories:

Five-Star: Properties that are outstanding, often iconic, with virtually flawless service and amazing facilities.

Four-Star: Exceptional properties offering high levels of service and the quality of facility to match.

Recommended: Excellent properties with consistently good services and facilities.

Of the 2018 properties recently rated, there are:

¶      199 Five-Star hotels

¶      64 Five-Star restaurants

¶      60 Five-Star spas

¶      513 Four-Star hotels

¶      171 Four-Star restaurants

¶      210 Four-Star spas

¶      309 Recommended hotels

¶      83 Recommended restaurants


Forbes Travel Guide: New and Noteworthy

  • The Middle East picked up four Five-Star hotels (Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Dubai; Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi; Four Seasons Hotel Dubai International Financial Centre; Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach). It also tallied 21 Four-Star hotels and six Recommended hotels.
  • South America captured its first Five-Star hotel. Tucked inside Brazil’s Iguacu National Park amid the Iguassu Falls and the jungle, Belmond Hotel das Cataratas leads the region in service excellence.
  • Marrakech launched with two Five-Star hotels (Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech; Royal Mansour Marrakech), a pair of Four-Star properties (Four Seasons Resort Marrakech, La Mamounia) and two Recommended hotels (Amanjena, Selman Marrakech).
  • New York City seized two new Five-Star wins: Baccarat Hotel and Residences and Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown. The last time the city had a new Five-Star hotel was in 2016, with the addition of Park Hyatt New York. A new Four-Star hotel was added, too: Archer Hotel New York.
  • Japan had some significant gains. The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto brought the Japanese city its first Five-Star accolade. Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto and Suiran, A Luxury Collection Hotel snagged Four-Stars awards. Kyoto Hotel Okura earned a Recommended honor. Over in Tokyo, Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo gained a Five-Star rating. The Capitol Hotel Tokyu and The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho picked up Four-Star honors.
  • Independent hotels also made a strong showing. First-time Five-Star awards went to Le Richemond Genève, Magee Homestead in Wyoming, Meadowood Napa Valley, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, Falling Rock in Farmington, Pennsylvania and Williamsburg Inn in Virginia.
  • The new Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills is Hilton’s first Five-Star hotel in the Western Hemisphere. The brand also has Five-Star Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund.
  • Rosewood Beijing achieved a Five-Star rating as Rosewood’s first property in China, opening in 2014. The Peninsula Beijing also scooped up a new Five-Star distinction.
  • The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort earned the Five-Star award, and Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit achieved a Four-Star honor.