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The World's Best New Hotels & Resorts

Top-tier brands remain on our travel experts' radar, but boutique properties and South American and Vietnamese destinations are also garnering rave reviews
Larry Olmsted
From the Print Edition:
Tom Selleck, Nov/Dec 2007

The world population has never been wealthier and demand for luxury goods, services and accommodations is at an unprecedented high. Whether today's affluent travelers are traversing the globe on business or vacation, they are demanding the finest places at which to stay, from rustic escapes to modern urban hotels.

But what is luxury? The term has become grossly overused, and describing a hotel or resort as a luxury property means little these days. Countless luxury lodgings are opening around the globe, and it is impossible for anyone not fully immersed in the upscale travel industry to stay on top of which ones deliver excellent accommodations, food, service and amenities, and which are mere pretenders. For this reason, we once again gathered our panel of experts—top travel writers, hoteliers, hotel executives, travel agents and assorted experts in specific travel categories, from spas to golf to skiing—to determine the world's best new hotels and resorts, limited to those that opened, or in special cases, that changed ownership or underwent renovation no earlier than January 1, 2004.

Because of the vast number of new properties around the globe, and the limited time many have been open, we again saw the clear advantage of our poll methodology: using trusted experts who have the knowledge of the marketplace and have actually been to the places they describe. Cigar Aficionado does not trust the reader polls other magazines use because their tiny samples tend to make them statistically unreliable—while the expertise and honesty of their respondents are unquantifiable. Votes in these polls can be cast by those who have never been to the hotels, by friends of hotel owners or perhaps by the hotel staff themselves. By using full-time experts in the hospitality business, and preventing them from voting for properties with which they are affiliated, we present the clearest picture of the best.

It used to be the industry norm for hotels to mature as they aged, typically experiencing growing pains when new, but as we have seen, new properties are now capable of meeting the most discerning standards from the moment they open, and in many cases, the best new hotels and resorts are the best, period.

During the research for this poll, we noticed several recent trends. Top-tier brands such as Ritz-Carlton, Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental, St. Regis and the like are still beloved, but as they open more hotels, it becomes harder for them to stand out, and with the exception of perennial panel favorite Four Seasons, none of these managed to wow our panelists with more than one hotel. Small hotels that are either stand-alone properties or a part of small conglomerates fared much better. From Ireland to New York City to remote Easter Island, these boutique properties prove that travelers increasingly value distinctiveness and originality. Design is becoming a greater factor in making the best hotels stand out, whether they are in carefully renovated antique buildings or cutting-edge construction, with carefully chosen touches from sheets to faucets to electronics increasingly catching the eye of discerning guests.

Two fast-growing destinations caught our attention. One is South America, which placed a couple of winners on our list, as well as receiving votes in a myriad of surprising categories such as Best Golf Resort. In the travel industry, South America has been on the verge of emerging as a star for years, and its long overdue success did not surprise us. Vietnam is a different story. As the world's top hotel brands fall over one another to open grand palaces throughout Asia, specifically in China, Macao and Japan, it was sleepy Vietnam that stood out, garnering votes for a number of properties, in multiple categories, from spas to beach resorts to city hotels. Hal Phillips, a golf travel panelist who lived in Asia for years and owns a media and Web development company in Vietnam, tells us "the [Vietnamese] economy is absolutely booming, and after 20 years as an essentially closed society, luxury properties are emerging in quantity. They're quickly making up for lost time. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a superb tropical climate, an educated workforce and a thousand miles of undeveloped coastline. The influence of French colonial legacy is another factor: the Vietnamese luxury and quality. I can think of a dozen historic properties that have been restored to their original, colonial-era grandeur." This reflects a lesson we saw around the world: sometimes everything old really is new again.

With votes cast around the world, the United States and Europe reigned supreme in this category. From New York to Paris to Dublin to San Francisco, the old world and new world were accounted for.

Large hotel—U.S.
St. Regis San Francisco
Our panelists raved about this Bay Area newcomer, and the only thing they could not agree on was whether this new hotel in a historic old building was small or large. Many considered it a boutique property, a testament to its large rooms and intimate feel, but with 260 rooms spread across more than 15 stories, it definitely meets the "best large" criteria. Elegant Bride travel editor Drew Limsky says, "This stellar hotel represents the next generation of urban accommodations, with rich design materials and state-of-the-art technology," while travel agent Anne Scully calls it "a fine example of how to combine history with modern touches, offering unforgettable style with grace at a great location." None of this was lost on the editors behind Mobil Guide either, who gave the St. Regis their rare five-star rating.

Notable: Another new luxury hotel set within a larger urban tower, the Mandarin Oriental New York wowed Small Luxury Hotels Joint Managing Director Paul Kerr, but for the most part our experts championed unique new hotels over brand-named ones, casting votes for an array of different addresses in this category, from Conrad Miami to Chicago's Amalfi Hotel to Boston's Liberty Hotel to Seattle's Hotel 1000.

Large hotel—International
Fouquet's Barriere, Paris
Few hotels in this year's survey swept our poll so convincingly, wowing gourmands, hoteliers, journalists and travel agents alike. While many famous hotels give birth to top restaurants, the reverse is the case here. A posh extension of Paris's famed eatery, Le Fouquet's, the hotel is ideally located on the corner of George V and the Champs-Elysées and is a stunning combination of modern technology and classic elegance. Ruthanne Terrero, editorial director of high-end trade bible Luxury Travel Advisor, rhetorically asked after a stay, "What else is needed?" while Limsky pronounced it the city's best hotel, bar none, with Paris's best spa as well.

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