The Travel Week conference sponsored by Virtuoso every year is well known as one of the luxury industry's foremost networking events. But it's also an opportunity to gather intelligence on everything from the hottest luxury destinations to the world's top hotels as identified by some of the industry's toughest critics: its network of globe-trotting elite travel advisers.
During its recent 28th annual conference in Las Vegas, Virtuoso unveiled the winners of its 10th annual Best of the Best Awards, recognizing the standout properties and professionals in its Hotels and Resorts program.
This year, the standouts included the Borgo Egnazia, Savelletri di Fasano in Italy, which won the coveted Hotel of the Year honor.
"Borgo Egnazia and the area of Puglia is one of the [most] exciting new destinations in Italy that one could ever encounter," Annette Sordoni of Protravel International said of the property. "The hotel has an amazing ambiance, warm and friendly people, incredible food and a spiritual spa."
The winners were identified from a survey of more than 11,400 advisers at Virtuoso's nearly 400 member agencies, with categories ranging from most innovative experience to best achievement in design.
"Naming any hotel as the Best of the Best from among the world's finest properties in our renowned Hotels and Resorts program is always a challenge," said Albert Herrera, senior vice president of Global Product Partnerships for Virtuoso. "This year's winners surpassed our expectations and the exacting standards we and more importantly, our clients demand from our partner hotels. At Virtuoso, we recognize we are defined by the company we keep. And we are especially proud to count hotels and hoteliers of this caliber as our partners."
The Faena Hotel Miami Beach in Florida won for Best Achievement in Design, and was described by Judy Stein of Ovation Vacations as a "visual fantasy land, which has sophistication and style that is unparalleled. not to mention the world-class art collection!"
Other winners included The Farmhouse Restaurant at the Farmhouse Inn in California for Best Culinary Experience; The New York Edition for Best Bar; the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende in Mexico for Best Family Program; Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Lake Como, Italy, for Best Spa; Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil, for Most Innovative Guest Experience; and andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, for Sustainable Tourism Leadership.
"AndBeyond Phinda has been a conservation leader since breaking ground in the early 1990s," said Costas Christ, Virtuoso's director of sustainability. "Today, Phinda remains one of the world's most successful ecotourism projects. Ongoing conservation successes include being home to the fourth largest cheetah population in South Africa and helping relocate 14 rhinos to other safe havens."
The Hotel Eden Rome, a Dorchester Collection property in Italy, was named One to Watch, while Jos Silva, manager of the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris, was named Hotelier of the Year.
"[Silva] is all about the guest experience and exceeding expectations," said Phoebe Weinberg of Greatways Travel.
Other research released by Virtuoso last week shows that Europe remains a top travel destination, with Italy, France and the United Kingdom taking the top three spots, respectively, in the Top 10 fall and holiday destinations, as identified by booking data from its member agencies.
African safari destinations lead its Hot 10, with a 28% increase in year-over-year bookings.