Here’s a fun topic I’ll share my thoughts on and then I’m excited to see how OMAAT readers feel – What are the best luxury hotel brands in the world? It goes without saying that there is no one correct answer to what the best hotel groups are as it really depends on the property in question and your preferences.
In the following, I have decided to share my overall impressions of large luxury hotel groups and to divide them into two categories:
- Hotels that you can easily book with points as they are among the top hotel loyalty programs
- Hotels that you cannot book with points; I’ll be adding brands like Shangri-La to this category – yes, Shangri-La has a points program, but there is no easy way to earn the points outside of staying at Shangri-La hotels. So for most people, the point affiliation is not. t particularly useful
Let me also emphasize that I am going to limit my list to hotel groups with more than 10 hotels – yes, this is arbitrary, but this is to streamline things as otherwise there are all kinds of high class hotel collections with only a few hotels.
Hotel brand consistency is an issue
The challenge in ranking the world’s best luxury hotel groups is that the quality of properties varies widely. Generally speaking:
- A city hotel may offer a completely different experience than a remote resort
- Geography can have a strong influence on hotel quality – hotels in Asia, for example, are better than in the USA
- A hotel can vary significantly depending on whether it is a converted hotel of a different brand or a new building
- The competitiveness of a hotel market also affects how much some hotels choose to do it
Just to take one example, while the Four Seasons Denver is a perfect city hotel …
Four Seasons Denver
… It would give you a completely different impression of the brand than, for example, the Four Seasons Surfside.
Surfside four seasons
The best luxury hotel brands you can book with points
I have six favorite luxury hotel brands that can be booked with points. Given the point angle here, I think it’s only fair to factor in elite recognition and loyalty perks as it can play an important role. With that in mind, here is my ranking:
1. Park Hyatt
To me, it’s not much better than the Park Hyatt for luxury hotels. Not only do I like the (typically) minimalist decor of the Park Hyatt properties, but thanks to World of Hyatt, you get the best of both worlds. As a Globalist member, you can use a Suite Upgrade Award to confirm an upgrade and advance payment, receive free breakfast, etc.
I’m always excited when I see that there is a Park Hyatt in the destination I’m traveling to.
The value of redeeming at Park Hyatt Paris cannot be beat
Alila is one of Hyatt’s newer hotel brands and focuses on the outdoors. So far, Alila only has three properties in the U.S. (all in California) but I’ve had great experiences so far, especially given the World of Hyatt connection. Alila’s largest market is Asia and I look forward to reopening more Alilas locations in Asia.
Alila Ventana Big Sur is one of my favorite properties in the US
3. St. Regis
St. Regis is my favorite Marriott Bonvoy luxury hotel brand. For the most part, I’ve had excellent experiences at St. Regis hotels, from resorts to locations in the city. Best of all, St. Regis is the only “true” luxury brand from Marriott that offers Marriott Bonvoy Platinum members perks like free breakfast, suite upgrades (including the ability to take advantage of suite night awards) and more .
For example, I always look for a St. Regis over a Ritz-Carlton.
The St. Regis Maldives is beautiful
4. Waldorf Astoria
Waldorf Astoria is Hilton’s premium brand and is growing rapidly. From city hotels to resorts, what impressed me most was the Waldorf Astoria hotels I have stayed at. Best of all, as a Hilton Honors Diamond or Hilton Honors Gold member, all elite perks will be honored at these hotels.
The Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills is one of my favorite hotels in the US
EDITION is still a fairly new brand for Marriott and is essentially meant to be a younger version of the Ritz-Carlton. For the most part, I love the EDITION properties that I’ve stayed in. Why doesn’t EDITION rank higher for me?
Well, because EDITION Hotels only offer limited discounts to Bonvoy members. I’ll stick with EDITION if I love them, but I won’t bother staying with them otherwise.
The Bodrum EDITION is one of my favorite hotels
For me, Ritz-Carlton is a brand that has almost no standards. A lot of the Ritz-Carlton outside of the US are phenomenal (like Hong Kong and Tokyo), though there are also a lot that I don’t like about the Ritz-Carlton:
- The Ritz-Carltons don’t honor most of Marriott Bonvoy’s elite perks, like free breakfast
- I find the Ritz-Carltons in the US have borderline scripting service and just feel like luxury resort factories in terms of the experience
- Suffice it to say, there is a difference between the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong and the Ritz-Carlton Aruba
The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo is phenomenal
Best non-point luxury hotel brands
I have six favorite luxury hotel brands that cannot be booked with major point currencies. With that in mind, this list is less about value than about which ones provide the best all round experiences and deliver on their promises.
With that in mind, here are my favorite luxury hotel groups:
I’m not giving Aman this place on the list because of the brand’s direction, but because of its origin. In the past I absolutely loved Aman. Although the hotels are expensive, they really tried to provide a special experience with boutique hotels that are different from anything you can find elsewhere.
These properties still exist, although unfortunately the brand has taken a much less inspiring direction under new ownership. Rather than opening great hotels in the middle of nowhere, Aman is now capitalizing on its name, opening hotels in places like Bangkok, Miami and New York that the brand was barely founded for.
So yeah, this is a reluctant ranking on my part, but I still think Aman is the best … for now.
Aman Sveti Stefan in Montenegro, one of my favorite Amans
2. Four seasons
Four Seasons is a brand that has grown a lot over the past few years. It’s like a better version of the Ritz-Carlton – sure, not all Four Seasons properties are physically amazing, but:
- The service is exceptional throughout and you are not dealing with the annoyances you might encounter with other hotel groups
- Four Seasons is not nickel and dime; For example, there are no resort fees at Four Seasons Hawaii hotels. In the Four Seasons hotels, free morning coffee is often offered in the lobby.
- Four Seasons has some really cool new hotels in the pipeline, from Sicily to Mallorca
The Four Seasons Desroches Island is beautiful
Rosewood is a brand to watch as it grows extremely quickly. Not only is Rosewood doing a great job with its new city hotels, it’s also opening some great resorts. I would say Rosewood is fast becoming Four Seasons’s biggest competitor.
Las Ventanas al Paraiso, a rosewood resort
4. Six senses
Six Senses was acquired by IHG some time ago, although it is still not possible to redeem points on the properties. On the surface, I love Six Senses – it’s about secluded nature, and in general, that’s something I love.
If the brand has one downside, it’s that I personally don’t love the decor. It feels a little too flint-like to me. But that’s a small price to pay for the places Six Senses owns real estate.
A Six Senses opens in Israel this summer
5. Mandarin Oriental
There are huge differences in the quality of Mandarin Oriental real estate – I think some of the new properties are great, while some of the older properties are fine. The brand is known for its great service and unique style. Personally, however, I consider the brand a notch below Four Seasons and Rosewood in terms of consistency (although this may just be my bias).
Mandarin Oriental has some great city hotels like those in Barcelona
Shangri-La has some phenomenal flagship properties, while the brand also has plenty of mid-size properties, many of which retail for well under $ 200 a night. It’s hard to say that the chain as a whole can rival some other brands, but there are some great traits out there.
I got engaged at the Shangri-La Paris years ago
There is no right or wrong answer to what the best hotel chain in the world is, although the above are some of my favorites. This is of course very subjective as it is based on the properties I have stayed in and there are significant differences in terms of the quality of the properties.
There are some fantastic hotel brands that are either smaller or that I haven’t stayed in like Cheval Blanc, One & Only, and Peninsula. For those who have stayed at these hotels, I would love to hear what you think.
What are your favorite luxury hotel groups?