The best hotels in the world offer something beyond a comfy bed, crisp sheets and a spotless bathroom mirror. They are places that transport you into a world of new sensations – the shuddering tingle of an icy plunge pool after meditating in a 200-degree sauna; the sight of ephemeral sea spray against the pinkish morning light during a silent sea-kayak trip with seals; the feeling of total blissful half-sleep as you lie in a sound bath in a small candlelit room. Such moments are what make a hotel good, and they are what a traveler remembers for the rest of their life.
In the era of anything-goes hotel reviews, it’s easy to get a false sense of how good a place might be. Some of this misinformation comes from reputation management operatives, who work for hotels and restaurants and boost their ratings while savaging their competitors’; some of it is the result of disgruntled former employees; and much of it is just the inevitable result of the fact that even real guests can have an agenda when it comes to writing about their experiences.
To help travelers navigate the confusing world of star-ratings and diamonds and pearls, we took five of the most influential hotel review sites and pulled apart their rating systems to see what really matters when choosing a stay. We also consulted industry experts and hotel managers to find out what the most exceptional hotels really have to offer.
The results show that there’s a place for big chains on the list of best hotels in the world, too. In fact, some of the top 10 hotels on our list are all part of major hotel brands. However, it’s worth noting that the chains on our list of the best hotels in the world all have a very clear brand identity and are able to distinguish themselves from the competition. That’s because they take the time to listen to their customers and respond to their feedback in a meaningful way. They also have an established infrastructure for ensuring that their properties are consistently up to date with the latest technology and design trends. It’s an approach that pays off in terms of quality, consistency and, most importantly, customer satisfaction. For these reasons, we recommend staying at hotels from well-known chains if you want to be sure you’re getting a great hotel experience.