While the pandemic forced many hotels to close for much or part of 2021, it didn't stop the Forbes Travel Guide from moving ahead with its annual Star Awards that recognize what it considers the best of the best in luxury hotels.
It also prompted them to add some categories of recognition for luxury hotels, including one for outstanding pandemic-related health and safety responses and one for philanthropy.
"In this unprecedented time for the travel industry, every persisting staff member at a hotel, restaurant and spa is a winner," said Filip Boyen, CEO of Forbes Travel Guide. "But we also wanted to honor those hospitality workers who went above and beyond during the pandemic to aid their guests and colleagues."
Like most travel companies, luxury hotels across the board moved quickly in response to enact comprehensive health and safety protocols. So who did it best? According to Forbes, the winner is Hilton Luxury Brands' Conrad and Waldorf Astoria properties in the Americas.
Forbes said the brands won its new Health and Security Star for moving quickly to develop luxury service manuals with detailed videos and illustrations to "to thoroughly describe the modified guest experience with safety in mind. The brand also created a robust cleanliness and disinfection program."
The guide said it received hundreds of nominations, which were narrowed to five finalists. An executive committee then chose the winner.
Other finalists in the health category were Acqualina Resort & Residences on the Beach in Florida, Hotel Nikko San Francisco, the Murray in Hong Kong and Wynn Resorts Las Vegas.
The Berkeley, London, was honored with Forbes Travel Guide's new Philanthropic Star, which Forbes said "salutes a property that helped others who faced adversity in 2020, whether through an international campaign or a community-based effort.
"When Covid-19 forced the Berkeley to close, the hotel created the Berkeley 999 Drive Thru, serving 500 meals daily during the first lockdown to emergency service," FTG said. "An additional 250 meals a day were given to the elderly and more vulnerable in the community, in partnership with Westminster Council. In total, more than 50,000 meals were provided. Staff members, many of whom were furloughed, volunteered to serve food and were a beacon of positivity."
Other finalists were the Drake Bay Getaway Resort in Costa Rica; Ocean House Management Collection in Rhode Island; SingleThread Farms in Healdsburg, Calif.; and the Venetian Resort Las Vegas.