Travel Weekly honored the winners of its fifth annual Readers' Choice Awards at a ceremony at the Pierre New York on Dec. 13. The awards were presented to those suppliers who, in the judgment of our readers, led the way in product and service during the past year. Travel Weekly also honored the recipients of its 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Most travel publications call their annual readers' choice winners "the best of the best." Travel Weekly is able to say that and more.
"This is the industry insiders' award," said Editor in Chief Arnie Weissmann. "Travel Weekly's readership understands what it takes to wow a traveler. Not only are the travel professionals who vote avid travelers themselves, but they also hear firsthand the unvarnished truth -- the compliments and complaints -- from thousands of American consumers. To be voted a winner in any category is confirmation that you've won the hearts of American travel agents and their customers."
Following are the winners in their respective categories:
Top Resort Worldwide
Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas, was voted the Top Resort Worldwide for 2007 by Travel Weekly readers. The flagship resort of Kerzner International marked the completion of a $1 billion, three-phase extension on Dec. 19 with the opening of the 497-room Reef Atlantis. Phase 2, the 600-suite Cove Atlantis, debuted in March. Aquaventure, a 63-acre waterscape, is the centerpiece of the development and positions Atlantis as one of the largest water-themed attractions in the world. The main resort features three interconnected hotel towers -- the Royal Towers, the Coral Towers and the Beach Towers -- with more than 2,300 guest rooms and suites. The towers are built around a 97-acre waterscape.
Five years ago, our readers nominated the best of the best in just 29 categories. In 2007, that number more than doubled, reflective of new growth in the number and mix of accommodations and the global seasoning of today's travel agents and their customers.
Winners in the Hotel Chains category range from Palace Resorts, which will make its first foray outside of Mexico this year, to Marriott International, whose global growth in 2007 was unprecedented in its 80-year history.
In 2007, the U.S. hotel market overall set a record with more than 5,000 construction projects in the pipeline; 1,200 of those hotels are expected to come on line this year, according to the hotel real estate tracking firm Lodging Econometrics.
The new-builds leading domestic growth are luxury, upper-midscale and midscale hotels, according to the Travel Weekly Ultimate Hotel Guide published in December. Among the newest players, according to the UHG, are Starwood's Aloft; Accor's Atria; Hyatt's Andaz and Hyatt Place; Choice Hotels' Cambria Suites; and InterContinental Hotels Group's Indigo.
Europe will see its hotel pipeline peak, with 814 projects announced, more than 400 under construction and a record 292 new hotels set to open this year. The U.K., with 277 projects, has the largest pipeline in the region. Of the 40,441 rooms on tap, nearly a third are in London, which is experiencing its best operating performance since the late '80s.
U.S.-based midmarket brands, such as Hilton Garden Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, Holiday Inn Express and extended-stay brand Staybridge Suites, are finding a home in Europe. The branded hotel sector in London has increased 40% since 2002 and now accounts for three-quarters of the city's hotel market, according to the UHG. More than two-thirds of all new hotels coming into the London market are branded.
The pipeline for the Asia-Pacific region reached record highs in 2007, according to Lodging Econometrics, with China accounting for 50% of all planned projects in the region and 60% of all guest rooms. China's development cycle is planned to unfold in advance of this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing.
The big chains are developing rapidly not only in China but throughout Asia. Much interest also is being shown in emerging destinations, such as Vietnam, as well as in popular destinations like Thailand, Indonesia and Japan. For example, InterContinental Hotels Group, the oldest and leading Western brand in China, opened its first Vietnam property in December, the InterContinental Hanoi Westlake, and is expanding its presence there with another four properties by 2009.
Marriott also has ambitious plans for the Asia/Pacific region, announcing 59 hotels spread over five brands. Wyndham is expanding its Super 8 brand there, and Best Western said it is setting its sights on becoming the "largest hotel chain in Asia."
While new properties changed the hotel landscape here and abroad, there was little difference in how Travel Weekly readers rated hotels this year compared with last. For 2007, the Best in Hotels award changed hands in only three of 12 categories:
" Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts wrested the Best in the South Pacific honor from last year's winner, Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Accepting the plaque for Four Seasons was Christophe Schmidinger, general manager of the Four Seasons New York.
" Ritz-Carlton Hotels & Resorts edged out Four Seasons to take back the Best in Luxury award it had won in 2004 and 2005. Accepting for Ritz-Carlton was Georgia Kirshner, vice president, travel industry sales.
" In the Upscale class, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts outdid both Four Seasons, the 2006 winner, and Ritz-Carlton, which had held the title the previous two years. Accepting for Fairmont was Jeff Senior, executive vice president of marketing and sales.
Here is a list of the hotels that reprised their 2006 wins in 2007:
" Marriott International took Best in Domestic Hotel Chains and Best in Sales & Service for the third consecutive year. Marriott Hotels & Resorts was the Midscale brand of choice, also for the third year. Accepting for Marriott was Fred Miller, vice president, travel industry relations, Marriott International.
" Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group retained the crown for Best in Asia. Accepting for Mandarin Oriental was Kathleen Dickson, vice president of sales for the Americas.
" Sandals Resorts was voted Best in the Caribbean for the fifth year and Best All-Inclusive for the second year. Accepting for Sandals were Warren Cohen, vice president, marketing, and Dwight Johnson, director of marketing.
" Starwood Hotels & Resorts again was voted Best in Europe. Accepting for Starwood was Becky Casey, senior director of travel industry sales for North America.
" Palace Resorts, which added a 10th inclusive resort in Mexico, replayed its 2006 Best in Mexico win. Accepting the award for Palace Resorts was Martin Ruiz, deputy director for Mexico's tourism agency, Sedetur Tourism Promotion.
" Hampton Inn took Best Economy Hotel for the third straight year. Accepting for Hilton/Hampton Inn was Hilton's director of communications, Lisa Hancock-Jasie.