Here’s a fun topic that I’ll share my thoughts on, and then I’m curious to hear how OMAAT readers feel — what are the best luxury hotel brands in the world? It goes without saying that there’s no right answer as to what the best hotel groups are, given that it really is dependent on the specific property and what you’re into.
Below I figured I’d share my overall impressions of major luxury hotel groups, and I’ll put them into two categories:
- Hotels you can easily book with points because they belong to major hotel loyalty programs
- Hotels you can’t book with points; I’ll include brands like Shangri-La in this category — yes, Shangri-La has a points program, but there’s no easy way to earn the points outside of staying at Shangri-La properties, so for most people the points affiliation isn’t particularly useful
Let me also emphasize that I’ll limit my list to hotel groups that have more than 10 properties — yes, that’s arbitrary, but this is intended to streamline things, since otherwise there are all kinds of top notch hotel collections with just a few hotels.
Hotel brand consistency is a problem
The challenge with ranking the world’s best luxury hotel groups is that there’s huge variance in terms of quality between properties. Generally speaking:
- A city hotel may offer a totally different experience than a secluded resort
- Geography can greatly impact hotel quality — hotels are better in Asia than in the United States, for example
- A hotel may be significantly different based on whether it’s a converted property from another brand, or a new build
- The competitiveness of a hotel market also impacts how hard some hotels choose to try
Just to give an example, while the Four Seasons Denver is a perfectly nice city hotel…
Four Seasons Denver
…it would give you a very different impression of the brand than the Four Seasons Surfside, for example.
Four Seasons Surfside
Best luxury hotel brands you can book with points
I have six favorite luxury hotel brands that can be booked with points. Given the points angle here, I think it’s only fair to consider elite recognition and loyalty perks, since this can play a major role. With that in mind, here’s my ranking:
1. Park Hyatt
For me it doesn’t get much better than Park Hyatt for luxury points hotels. Not only do I love the (typically) minimalist decor of Park Hyatt properties, but you really get the best of both worlds thanks to World of Hyatt — as a Globalist member you can use a suite upgrade award to confirm an upgrade an advance, you receive complimentary breakfast, etc.
I’m always excited when I see there’s a Park Hyatt at the destination I’m traveling to.
You can’t beat the value of redeeming at the Park Hyatt Paris
Alila is one of Hyatt’s newer hotel brands, and it has a focus on nature. So far Alila only has three properties in the US (all in California), but I’ve had great experiences so far, especially given the World of Hyatt connection. Alila’s biggest market is Asia, and I look forward to checking out more Alilas once more places in Asia reopen.
3. St. Regis
St. Regis is my favorite luxury hotel brand belonging to Marriott Bonvoy. For the most part I’ve had excellent experiences at St. Regis hotels, from resorts to city locations. Best of all, St. Regis is the only “true” luxury Marriott brand where Marriott Bonvoy Platinum members receive perks like complimentary breakfast, suite upgrades (including the ability to use suite night awards), and more.
So I’ll always seek out a St. Regis over a Ritz-Carlton, for example.
The St. Regis Maldives is gorgeous
4. Waldorf Astoria
Waldorf Astoria is Hilton’s most premium brand, and it’s growing at a fast pace. From city hotels to resorts, the Waldorf Astoria properties that I’ve stayed at have mostly impressed me. Best of all, as a Hilton Honors Diamond or Hilton Honors Gold member, all elite perks are honored at these properties.
The Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills is one of my favorite US city hotels
EDITION is still a fairly new brand for Marriott, and it’s essentially intended to be a younger version of Ritz-Carlton. For the most part I love the EDITION properties I’ve stayed at, so why isn’t EDITION ranking higher for me?
Well, because EDITION hotels only offer limited perks to Bonvoy members. I’ll stay at EDITION properties if I love them, but I don’t otherwise go out of my way to stay at them.
The Bodrum EDITION is one of my favorite hotels
To me Ritz-Carlton is a brand that has almost no standards. Many Ritz-Carltons outside the US are phenomenal (like Hong Kong and Tokyo), though there’s also a lot I don’t like about Ritz-Carlton:
- Ritz-Carltons don’t honor most Marriott Bonvoy elite perks, like complimentary breakfast
- I find that Ritz-Carltons in the US have borderline scripted service, and simply feel like luxury resort factories in terms of the experience
- Suffice to say there’s a difference between the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong and the Ritz-Carlton Aruba
The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo is phenomenal
Best non-points luxury hotel brands
I have six favorite luxury hotel brands that aren’t bookable with major points currencies. Given that, this list will be less about value, and more about which offer the all around best experiences, and deliver on their promises.
With that in mind, here are my favorite luxury hotel groups:
I’m giving Aman this place on the list not because of where the brand is headed, but because of where it’s coming from. In the past I absolutely adored Aman. While the hotels are expensive, they really tried to deliver a special experience with boutique properties that were unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere.
Those properties still exist, though unfortunately under new ownership the brand has taken a much less inspiring direction. Rather than opening awesome hotels in the middle of nowhere, Aman is now cashing on its name, opening hotels in places like Bangkok, Miami, and New York, which is hardly what the brand was initially founded for.
So yeah, this is a reluctant ranking on my part, but I still think Aman is best… for now.
Aman Sveti Stefan in Montenegro, one of my favorite Amans
2. Four Seasons
Four Seasons is brand that has grown on me a lot in recent years. It’s like a better version of Ritz-Carlton — sure, not all Four Seasons properties are amazing physically, but:
- Service is consistently exceptional, and you don’t deal with the annoyances you might experience at other hotel groups
- Four Seasons doesn’t nickel-and-dime; for example, Four Seasons’ Hawaii properties don’t have resort fees, Four Seasons properties often have complimentary coffee in the lobby in the morning, etc.
- Four Seasons has some really cool new hotels in the pipeline, from Sicily to Mallorca to Belize
Rosewood is a brand to watch, as it’s growing at an extremely fast pace. Rosewood is not only doing an amazing job with its new city hotels, but it’s also opening some awesome resorts. I’d say Rosewood is quickly becoming Four Seasons’ biggest competitor.
Las Ventanas al Paraiso, a Rosewood resort
4. Six Senses
Six Senses was acquired by IHG a while back, though it’s still not possible to redeem points at the properties. On the surface I love Six Senses — they’re all about secluded nature, and in general that’s something I love.
If there were a downside to the brand, it’s that I personally don’t love the decor. It feels a bit too Flintstones-esque to me. But that’s a small price to pay for the places Six Senses has properties.
A Six Senses is opening in Israel this summer
5. Mandarin Oriental
There’s a huge variance in terms of the quality of Mandarin Oriental properties — I find some of the new properties to be gorgeous, while some of the older properties are just okay. The brand is known for its great service and unique style. However, personally I view the brand as being a notch below Four Seasons and Rosewood purely in terms of consistency (though that might just be my bias).
Mandarin Oriental has some great city hotels, like in Barcelona
Shangri-La has some phenomenal flagship properties, while the brand also has a lot of mid-tier properties, many of which retail for well under $200 per night. So it’s hard to say that the chain on the whole can compete with some of other brands, but there are some great properties.
I got engaged at the Shangri-La Paris years ago
There’s no right or wrong answer as to what the world’s best hotel chain is, though the above are some of my favorites. Of course this is highly subjective, since it’s based on the properties I’ve stayed at, and there are significant differences in terms of the quality of properties.
There are some fantastic hotel brands that are either smaller or that I haven’t stayed at, like Cheval Blanc, One&Only, and Peninsula, so for those who have stayed at those properties, I’d love to hear what you think.
What are your favorite luxury hotel groups?