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Four Seasons a Runaway Favorite - Wins Seven of Eleven Top Hotel Rankings in 2001 Zagat Survey
  • Four Seasons Wins as Top Hotel Chain as well as Best Hotel (New York City) and Resort (Hualalai); 
  • Vermont’s Twin Farms Named Best Small Property, 
  • Miraval in Catalina, Arizona Ranked No. 1 Spa 
  • New York Emerges as Best U.S. City to Visit, though Most Expensive;
  • Room Rates Jump Nationally
  • 19,600 Travelers Choose Favorite Travel Magazine (Conde Nast) and Travel Web Site (Travelocity)
  • Sunbelt Boasts Best Hotel Stock in U.S. -
  • Tucson and Phoenix Properties Draw Top Overall Ratings
NEW YORK -- Nov. 17, 2000 -- Zagat Survey has just published its 2001 edition of Top U.S. Hotels, Resorts and Spas. The new guide, based on the ratings and reviews of nearly 20,000 frequent travelers, makes it easy to find the best lodging choices nationwide:

We Hear America Traveling - This is the sixth time Zagat has surveyed U.S. travelers on the American lodging scene since 1987, then with 4,000 participants. The 2001 edition brought together 19,600 frequent travelers, including 900 travel industry professionals, through the cooperation of the American Society of Travel Agents. Overall, the Survey on which the guide is based, assessed 1,650 hotels and resorts, 184 spas and 73 hotel chains. The just published guide features the 800 highest-rated places. (Note: web-addresses included for all properties this year.)

Room Rates Ratchet Up - As luxury and business-class hotels have flourished in recent years, the price of a night’s stay has risen markedly - the average double-occupancy rate estimated among the 1,650 hotels and resorts covered in the survey is $221, with key markets jumping more than 20% in the last three years. New York City led all markets with an average room rate of $261, followed by Miami ($226) and Los Angeles ($222). The cheapest one-night stand can be had in Las Vegas ($147.35) - but who sleeps in Las Vegas?
A Relative Value - U.S. lodging costs actually stand up well against other major travel regions. In a parallel survey of international hotels and resorts (to be released in early 2001), Zagat found that hotel rates in Asia, the Caribbean and Europe exceeded those in the U.S. Even U.S. cost leader New York falls well below Europe - the average room rate in Paris is $315, and $326 in London.

Four Seasons a Runaway Favorite - The clear winner in American lodging this year was the Four Seasons: surveyors named the Toronto-based hotelier the Number 1 Hotel Chain giving it a combined 29 rating (on the Zagat 30 point scale) for its Rooms, Dining, Service and Public Facilities. Indeed, Four Seasons hotels, led by the I.M. Pei designed Four Seasons New York, won seven of the eleven top hotel rankings. The Four Seasons Hualalai Resort on the Big Island in Hawaii also came in as the Number 1 U.S. resort.  The only chain to come close was the Ritz Carlton. (See pages 12-18 of the new guide for Top Places in each category).

Sunbelt Rules - Overall, U.S. hotels performed extremely well with Zagat travelers - the average property surveyed pulled a combined rating of 21.8 on the 30-point scale, i.e. very good to excellent. Yet not all markets are created equal: the five top markets surveyed are all warm-weather destinations, led by Tucson and Phoenix, which boasted combined ratings of 23.45 and 22.97 respectively.  Orlando (22.75), San Diego (22.68) and Honolulu (22.42) followed.

Hawaii High - In choosing the country’s best resorts, surveyors stuck with the ultimate Sunbelt paradise: Hawaii. Twelve of the Top 25 resorts are in the 50th State, including three with overall scores of 29. Besides the Four Seasons Hulalai with its “oversized rooms”, private beach and open-air spa, the other 29-rated resorts were the Lodge at Koele on Lanai and the Four Seasons Maui.  Aside from Hawaii, other leading destinations were Arizona, California and Florida, more proof of Sunbelt supremacy. Eleven resorts took an impressive 28 score, starting with the Ritz-Carlton Naples. The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, Rancho Mirage and Palm Beach properties also scored 28s, along with such legendary resorts as the Boulders in Carefree, AZ, Halekulani in Oahu, HI, Phoenician in Scottsdale, AZ, and Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WVA.

The Cozy Set - Property size can make a major difference in travel plans, which is why Zagat also ranks the Top 50 Small Resorts, Inns & Lodges - those with fewer than 100 rooms. Two Northeast destinations share 29 ratings, led by Twin Farms in Barnard, Vermont, a cozy 14-room getaway that still satisfies clients even at $851 per night. Right behind was The Point, the former Rockefeller compound in the Adirondack Mountains that treats visitors “like private guests at a billionaire’s country lodge” for a mere $811. Eight other small properties enjoy 28 ratings, including the Inn at Little Washington in Washington, VA, Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN, Bel-Air in LA and Little Nell in Aspen.

Spa-Tastic - Fifty-nine stand-alone spas are featured in the new Survey, offering all manner of treatment and coddling. Only one earned an overall rating of 29: Miraval in Catalina, Arizona, a 106-room desert retreat where travelers say “even hardcore Type A’s can’t help but find a ‘sense of calm the minute they arrive.’” Stress management and spiritual awareness are part of the New Age feel at Miraval. Three Spas captured 28 ratings, led by the Japanese accented 1998 winner Golden Door in Esconido, CA (staff outnumber guests by 4:1). Also taking 28s were the Greenhouse in Arlington, TX (“like a sorority for well-pampered women of a certain age) and Canyon Ranch in Tucson (expensive perhaps, but in the long run, “cheaper and better than a therapist”).

They Love NY - In an extraordinary turnaround from early Zagat travel surveys when New York was voted the country’s worst city to visit, this year Rudy G’s New York was named “Best U.S. City” by 33% of surveyors, ahead of 1998 winner San Francisco (30%) and well outpacing such destinations as New Orleans, Chicago, and even Washington and Las Vegas (all at 5% or below). So what if NY can’t compete with the Sunbelt for good weather, surveyors’ most frequently cited travel draws were their variety of sights, activities and restaurants - attributes New York has in abundance.

The Best Reads, Offline and On - For the first time, Zagat asked surveyors to choose the best travel magazines and web sites. On the magazine front, Conde Nast Traveler took top seed, beating its older American Express rival Travel & Leisure by 53% to 33%.  Both books were far ahead of the rest of the pack - National Geographic Traveler, Frommer’s, Gourmet and Travel Holiday, each pulling less than 5% of the vote. Travelocity, owned by Sabre Connected, was named No. 1 travel site by a 38% plurality of surveyors, well ahead of Expedia (25%). No other source of online travel information (Yahoo, Frommer’s, Bestfares) drew more than a 3% vote.

Rise of the Independents - While the survey shows that large operators such as Marriott, Hilton and Sheraton have aggressively upgraded their business-class offerings, the U.S. lodging scene has also spawned a new generation of boutique hotels. Many of the latter come with “quirky character and designer touches” reflecting a travel market that has grown noticeably younger and more sophisticated in recent years. Indeed, 36% of Survey participants were in their 20s and 30s. Among the leaders in small couture hotels are Ian Schrager, owner of the ultra-hip Morgans, Paramount, Royalton and just-opened Hudson in New York, the Delano in Miami and Mondrian in LA; and Bill Kimpton, whose twenty-plus fashionable properties include the Prescott in San Francisco and Alexis in Seattle.
Do Not Disturb - Download in Progress - That more travelers are taking room service these days may be a sign of business, not pleasure, as hotels increasingly appoint their rooms with office-like features such as multiple phone lines, fax machines, meeting alcoves, workstation-sized desks, and especially high-speed Internet access. This year’s guide lists 150 properties offering in-room high-speed connections (there wasn’t even an Internet index in the 1998 Survey).

Ante up the Amenities - Gone are the days when a terrycloth robe and a jacuzzi were the ultimate in guest pampering. At the Peninsula Beverly Hills, regular guests are treated to monogrammed pillowcases, while repeat family check-ins at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples may find new toys waiting in their room - a sign of the industry’s growing use of computerized customer profiling. With women occupying a greater share of the travel market - 51% of the surveyor base were women - hotels have responded not only with fancier bathroom cosmetics and toiletries, but with more security. For some hotels, it’s not what they have that counts, but what they don’t have - see Zagat’s index to “No TVs/Phones.”

Worth Dining In - Food service may be the most improved area of the lodging industry in recent years, as many hotels have invested heavily in branding stand-alone dining rooms with major league chefs. Not by chance that Zagat’s just-published 2001 America’s Top Restaurants features a number of winning hotel restaurants, including Campton Place in San Francisco (Campton Place Hotel), Jean-Georges in New York (Trump International), the Belvedere in Los Angeles (Peninsula Hotel), Aqua in Las Vegas (Bellagio), the Fountain in Philadelphia (Four Seasons), the Ritz-Carlton Dining Room in Boston, and the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, to name a few.

Best by Region - The Survey breaks out top-rated properties across 13 major regions, from Mid-Atlantic States to individual states with heavy resort traffic such as Florida, California, Hawaii and Texas. Regional coverage includes the U.S. Caribbean, led by two 27 rated winners: the Horned Dorset in Rincon, Puerto Rico (“light years away from San Juan” on the island’s quiet West Coast), and Caneel Bay on St. John in the Virgin Islands (166 well-appointed cottages set among seven “pristine”, “never-crowded” beaches).

Name Your Treatment - Not all spa-seekers are going for a holistic experience, which is why Zagat offers 14 separate indexes helping travelers decide which aspects of mind, body, soul and appetite they choose to work on. See recommendations for Aerobics, Beauty, Diet/Nutrition, Dining Excellence, Hiking/Walking, Hydrotherapy, Mineral Springs, Meditation, Yoga, and yes, places for Women Only (Golden Door included).

Relax Here Now — As the average U.S. trip itinerary shortens and travelers pack in greater doses of work and fun, many large hotels have expanded their spa and fitness facilities, offering everything from personal trainers to in-room massages. The Survey cites on-site spas at properties around the country, from the Huntington in San Francisco to the Biltmore in Miami and even the Hilton in Short Hills, NJ. It is no coincidence that the Top Hotel Spa in the U.S. is at the Four Seasons, Hualalai, while the best at a business hotel is at the Four Seasons, NY, the two winners in their categories.

Any Travelers’ Desire - As always, Zagat offers extensive cross-indexing to help travelers target hotels according to their special needs and interests, from All-Inclusive Pricing to Water Sports, as well as Beautiful Settings, Business Oriented, Casinos, Golf and Tennis, Romantic, Child Friendly (and Children Not Recommended), Condos, Scuba Diving, even Pet Friendly. There are also recommendations for those in search of Remote - from secluded Canoe Bay in Chetek, Wisconsin to the Mt. McKinley Lodge in Denali, Alaska.

Rent-A-Favorites - As it has in every edition of the Travel Survey, Hertz drove away as the favorite rental car agency, trouncing perennial No. 2 -ranked Avis by a margin of 48% to 22%. National was named third best with 10% of the vote, followed by Alamo (6%), Budget (6%), Enterprise (5%), Dollar (2%), and Thrifty. Zagat’s comprehensive Survey coverage of international airlines will be published in December.

Whither Travel Agents? - Surveyors tend to control their own travel destinies: 65% say they book their flights and hotels directly, either by phone (46%) or online (19%). Only 35% currently make their bookings through travel agents. As online reservations systems evolve, travel agents have their work cut out in maintaining market share.

Zagat Survey is the world’s premier provider of consumer survey-based dining, lodging and leisure information. Over 150,000 voters currently participate in Zagat’s annual Surveys. Zagat offers content in book form, on the Internet at, on Palm Pilot OS and on mobile phones at Besides restaurant guides available in 45 major markets, Zagat offers surveys covering hotels, resorts, spas, nightclubs, and a host of other entertainment and shopping resources. Zagat Survey is a privately held corporation founded by Tim and Nina Zagat in 1979. 

The Zagat 2001 Survey of Top U.S. Hotels, Resorts & Spas retails for $12.95 and is available at bookstores and newsstands nationally or may be ordered either from Zagat at 888-371-5440 or The 2001 U.S. Hotels, Resorts & Spas guide and the new 2001 America’s Tops ($12.95) are packaged together for $21.95 at 888-371-5440. Zagat’s first Survey of International Hotels, Resorts & Spas will be published in early 2001.

Michelle Lehmann
[email protected]

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