Photo Credit: Lin Pernille Kristensen

Celebrating theReaders Choice Awardswinners


January 21, 2015

Travel Weekly is proud to present the winners of our 12th annual Readers Choice Awards. The awards are presented annually to the industry’s suppliers who led the way in product and service during the past year. The winners, one for each of 67 categories, represent the best of the best of the travel industry, in the categories of airline, car, hospitality, rail, GDS, agent education, tour, cruise, destination and theme park sectors.

The 2014 awards were presented to winners at a black-tie gala dinner and ceremony on Dec. 16 at the Plaza Hotel in New York.

“Travel is on course to become the largest industry in the world, with more than 1 billion people crossing international borders every year,” said Arnie Weissmann, Travel Weekly’s editor in chief. “Somebody has to counsel, transport, entertain, enlighten and house all these travelers, and Readers Choice Awards winners are the very best at doing just that."

Weissmann added that the number of industry voters passed the 9,000 mark for the first time in 2014.

“Among our readers are travel counselors, industry marketing executives and the CEOs of the world’s largest travel companies — a group uniquely qualified to evaluate a very crowded field of potential nominees,” he said.

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The winners

Best airlines

For the fourth year in a row, Delta Air Lines was awarded best Domestic Airline, and also took the trophy for Top Airline Overall in the first year of the category.

Virgin Atlantic took the title in the International carrier category for the seventh straight year, and Emirates Airlines won the Business/First Class category for the third time.

Best car rental

Hertz continued to dominate the category with another clean sweep, taking top honors in both the Domestic and International categories for the 11th and 12th years, respectively.

Best rail vacations

Rocky Mountaineer celebrated its upcoming 25th anniversary with its sixth straight victory in the Best Rail category, for its vacation packages on rail routes throughout British Columbia, Alberta and the Canadian Rockies.

Best GDS

Sabre once again took the award for the best GDS,  for the sixth year running. Sabre is the leading U.S. system by market share and the oldest of the four major GDSs.

From left: Deirdre Copjec of Sabre; David Coombes of Flight Centre USA; Brian Buttigieg of Valerie Wilson Travel; Amy O'Hara; J.D. O'Hara of Tzell Travel Group; Bill Murray; Gerry Moore-Murray of Sabre; Louis Rodriguez of Valerie Wilson Travel; Chip Brooks; and Patricia Davis Brooks of Apple Vacations. Photo Credit: Lin Pernille Kristensen
From left: Deirdre Copjec of Sabre; David Coombes of Flight Centre USA; Brian Buttigieg of Valerie Wilson Travel; Amy O'Hara; J.D. O'Hara of Tzell Travel Group; Bill Murray; Gerry Moore-Murray of Sabre; Louis Rodriguez of Valerie Wilson Travel; Chip Brooks; and Patricia Davis Brooks of Apple Vacations. Photo Credit: Lin Pernille Kristensen

Best travel agent educational program

Princess Cruises’ OneSource Academy took the title in this category for the second year in a row; the academy offers classes on both Princess and Cunard Line through the OneSource Travel Agent Center.

Best hotel chain

Marriott International took the top prize in Hotel Chain: Domestic for the 11th year running, while Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide took the Sales & Service category from Marriott, which had also won that award for 10 straight years.

Marriott, however, took the award for Top Overall Hotel Group from Starwood, which won it last year when the category debuted.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide kept the Asia crown for the second year in a row, and InterContinental Hotels Group stayed on top in Europe, for the seventh time in a row.

Sandals Resorts took both the Hotel Chain: All-Inclusive and Hotel Chain: Caribbean categories, for the ninth and 12th years, respectively.

Secrets Resorts & Spas won in the Hotel Chain: Mexico category, succeeding Dreams Resorts & Spas, which had won the category two years in a row. Mexico-based chain Karisma Hotels & Resorts took first place in the Boutique hotel category for the seventh year in a row.

For the sixth year in a row, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide took the top prize in the Hotel Chain: Hawaii/South Pacific category.

Ritz-Carlton Hotels & Resorts’ winning streak continued in the Hotel Chain: Luxury category, where it took the prize for the fourth year in a row, while Westin Hotels & Resorts continued its domination of the Hotel Chain: Upscale category, winning it for the seventh straight year.

Hampton Inn also held onto the Hotel Chain: Mid-Priced award, winning the honor for the seventh straight year.

Best Las Vegas hotel

12th annual Readers Choice Awards, in pictures

 Photo Credit: Lin Pernille Kristensen
Photo Credit: Lin Pernille Kristensen

For photos from the gala dinner and ceremony, click here.

The Bellagio Las Vegas took the crown for the Best Las Vegas Hotel for the seventh year in a row, or every year since the category was introduced in 2008.

Best resort worldwide

St. Regis Bora Bora, a Starwood resort, was voted Best Resort Worldwide by readers for the seventh straight year. The property features the largest overwater and beach bungalow villas in the South Pacific.

There were two new categories for tour operators to vie for this year: Globus won the Escorted Overall category, while Travel Impressions walked away with the award for Packaged Overall.

Best tour operator

Delta Vacations took the top prize in the Domestic Packaged category, after Gogo Worldwide Vacations had won the category for four straight years.

Tauck World Discovery continued its dominance of the Domestic Escorted category, winning for a fifth straight year. Tauck also claimed its fifth title in the Tour Operator: Canada category.

Travel Impressions took the Tour Operator: Sales & Service category for the 10th straight year, but it lost the top spot in the Tour Operator: Caribbean category to Gogo Worldwide.

Globus took the top spot for Tour Operator: International for the third year in a row and held onto the No. 1 slot in the Tour Operator: Asia-Pacific category. Globus gave the Tour Operator: Europe title back to Trafalgar, which also won it in 2012.

For the 10th year in a row, Abercrombie & Kent won in both Tour Operator: Africa and Tour Operator: Luxury

For the 11th straight year, Pleasant Holidays took the prize in the Tour Operator: Hawaii category, while Apple Vacations held onto the Tour Operator: Mexico award, also for the 11th consecutive year.

Best cruise

Royal Caribbean International and sister company Celebrity Cruises continued to dominate the cruise category, winning five and three awards, respectively.

Royal Caribbean took the titles once again for Cruise Line: Overall; Cruise Line: Domestic; Cruise Line: Caribbean; and Sales & Service. The line’s 5,400-passenger Allure of the Seas also won the Cruise Ship: Overall Individual category.

Royal Caribbean has held the Overall and Caribbean crowns since the first Readers Choice Awards in 2003 and has held the Sales & Service title every year since 2008.

Celebrity picked up prizes for Cruise Line: Premium for the seventh year in a row and Cruise Line: Europe for the fifth consecutive year. It also won Cruise Ship: Premium with the Celebrity Reflection, winning that category for the fifth straight year.

Princess Cruises was again voted best Cruise Line: Alaska, a title it’s lost only once, in 2006. Princess’ sister company Cunard Line won Cruise Ship: Luxury with the Queen Mary 2, for the 11th consecutive year.

Crystal Cruises took the Cruise Line: Under 1,000 award, while Seabourn took top honors in the Cruise Line: Luxury category for the fourth year in a row.

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Norwegian Cruise Line took the top prize in the Cruise Ship: New category for the second year in a row, this time with the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Getaway; its sister ship the Norwegian Breakaway won the category last year.

There were three new awards in the cruise category this year; Holland America Line took the prize for the Best World Cruise Itinerary, Disney Cruise Line took the first award for Best Family Experience and Norwegian nabbed the inaugural award for Cruise Line: Hawaii/Pacific.

Among river cruise lines, Viking River Cruises won the Cruise Line: River Cruising category for the ninth year in a row, and its Viking Longship Magni took the award in the best Cruise Ship: River Cruising category.

Best destinations

Ireland took the Destination: Europe crown for the first time, besting neighboring England, which had won for two years straight.

Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg of Valerie Wilson Travel and Mike Rea of Tourism Cares. Photo Credit: Andrei Jackamets
Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg of Valerie Wilson Travel and Mike Rea of Tourism Cares. Photo Credit: Andrei Jackamets

In the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic took the top honor for the Destination: Caribbean from St. Lucia, which had won for three years running.

Costa Rica continued to dominate the Central/South America category, nabbing top honors for the 10th straight year. There were also no surprises in the Destination: Mexico category, which the Riviera Maya won for the 11th consecutive year, nor in Canada, where Vancouver took the Destination: Canada category again, as it has every year since 2003.

South Africa once again held onto the top prize in Africa, a category it has not lost since it was introduced in 2008, and Tahiti took the title for the Asia/Pacific region for the second year in a row.

Stateside, Hawaii won the Destination: U.S. State category for the 11th time in a row, and Maui took the top honor among the Hawaiian Islands, also for the 11th year running. Las Vegas kept the crown in the Destination: U.S. City category, taking the prize for the 10th consecutive year.

Best theme park

Walt Disney World was once again victorious among theme parks, winning the category for the 12th straight year, or every year since the inception of the Readers Choice Awards in 2003.

 

Methodology

The nominees and award recipients were chosen in two rounds of voting by Travel Weekly’s readers, a group composed of expert travel professionals.

The open ballot phase of the voting was conducted during the summer. Readers were invited to write in the names of any company they believed best exemplified that particular category. The leading vote recipients were identified as finalists, and voting on finalists took place through November 2014.