When Forbes Travel Guide’s expert inspectors visit a property, they anonymously test it against up to 800 rigorous standards. Only the best of the best achieve the coveted Five-Star, our highest rating. With our 2017 Star Award winners announcement on February 22, we give you a peek into what it takes to earn a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star.

Top-notch room service A Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel pampers you during room service. Did the order taker think about all aspects of your meal? Was the food beautifully presented, original and thoughtfully plated? Were there any elements of luxury, such as fresh flowers, a glass of wine poured in the room, petit fours as a gift from the chef? Was the server personable and did he make an effort to create a mini-restaurant in your room?


Claridge’s, Photo Courtesy of Maybourne Hotel Group

Beautiful beds There’s nothing like a great hotel bed. So, what makes a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star bed? The mattress must be of exceptional quality, the linens have to be soft and comfortable, the pillows full and plump and thoughtfully placed on the bed. There also should be decorative elements that make the presentation interesting. Is there a unique pattern on the duvet? Are there throw blankets, bolsters or decorative pillows that add a sense of place?

Distinctive drinks At a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star bar or lounge, you should not only be able to order a cocktail, but also learn how the property wants you to experience its libation. Could a simple gin and tonic come with modified club service, ice cubes with juniper berries frozen inside, housemade tonic water or tonic water that has been specially picked for the type of gin you’ve ordered because it’s the perfect balance of quinine to the botanicals in the spirit?

Supreme service A staff member of a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel not only has to be extremely professional, but also demonstrate intuitive, thoughtful and anticipatory service. Does the staff seem to magically know what you want, even before you ask it? Is the bellman aware you’re there for a work trip, and offer pressing and shoe shine service so you look sharp before a meeting? Does the concierge not only provide dinner reservations and driving directions, but call ahead to ensure you get the restaurant’s best table?


The Umstead’s Herons, Photo Courtesy of The Umstead

Memorable meals It’s not enough for the food at a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star restaurant to be perfectly balanced in flavor and painstakingly plated. Along with numerous aspects of execution, it also has to be memorable. We ask our inspectors to think about their meal a few days after they’ve dined — can they easily recall a dish because it stands out as unique, remarkable and something that they’d have to go to that specific restaurant to get?

Thoughtful turndown At a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel, expect thoughtful turndown service. Is there a sense of magic that the room has changed from day into evening? At a Five-Star property, there’s something very special about returning the room — and forget the chocolate on the pillow (unless it’s a housemade bonbon in your favorite flavor). Instead, you’ll get freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and a pitcher of milk, bedtime stories, eye masks and lavender mists.

Helpful housekeeping At a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel, it’s expected that your room would be beautifully designed and appointed, as well as exceptionally clean. But housekeeping isn’t about simply cleaning — it’s about restoring the space to its original condition with the guest’s items in it. But how are those items handled? Did the housekeeper see your sunglasses and provide a hotel-logoed microfiber cloth? Did she notice you’re a fan of gummy bears and leave a gratis bag? Are cell phone and laptop chargers nicely coiled, and perhaps secured with a ribbon?


The Peninsula Spa Hong Kong, Photo Courtesy of The Peninsula

Genuine interest At a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel, the staff is all caring, gracious and thoughtful, and that stems from a genuine interest in you as a guest. Showing concern isn’t just asking questions; it’s also proving you listened to the answer. Upon departure, does the staff inquire about your stay and then say it was great having you as a guest? Does the front desk thank you and show appreciation during departure, but also seem a little sad that you’re leaving? Does the valet driver extend the seat belt on your rental car, making it easier to buckle in?

Exceeding expectations At a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel, it’s all about going above and beyond a guest’s expectations. Great lengths are taken to record your preferences to create a seamless experience. Have the housekeepers noted you like your accommodations at 68 degrees, and every time you check in your room has been set to that temperature? Did they remember your nut allergy and proactively remove those items from the mini-bar? Do they know your favorite football team and remind you what time and channel the game will be playing?