VIRTUOSO LIFE Publisher, Terrie Hansen, and Virtuoso Hotels, Destinations & Tours Vice President, Albert Herrera, revealed the award winners during the August 19th Hotels & Resorts dinner at Virtuoso's annual Travel Mart conference -- the largest event dedicated to luxury travel -- held at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, NV, August 16-21, 2009.
Virtuoso's elite agency members, who are renowned for providing their upscale clientele with expertly crafted travels, helped determine those who took top honors this year. Herrera added, "Our travel agency members are well traveled and very particular; they have to be when servicing the world's most exclusive travelers. If they deem these hotels as the best, you can be assured they are."
VIRTUOSO LIFE editors, in collaboration with Virtuoso's member travel advisors, selected nominees representing the pinnacle of service, design and luxury in the industry. The 10 award categories ranged from "architecture and design" to "most innovative guest experience." Winners were selected above other nominees as they were regarded as the very best in their category demonstrating innovation, dedication, social conscience and even courage. Best of the Best award winners will be featured in the September/October 2009 issue of VIRTUOSO LIFE magazine (www.virtuosolife.com), reaching 250,000 upscale, world travelers.
The 2009 Best of Best winners are as follows:
Best Achievement in Design: SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, U.S. A collaboration between Philippe Starck and film producer Sam Nazarian, SLS - Style, Luxury, and Service appeals to today's sophisticated urban traveler. The hotel's personalization is exemplified on a grand scale in two distinguished lobbies. The private lobby is an intimate dining and lounge space reserved exclusively for guests. The other lobby, known simply as the "Bazaar" is a modern-day indoor "piazza" where guests and locals can enjoy José Andrés' pioneering culinary creations and innovative libations. With unrivalled views across Beverly Hills, the exclusive Altitude pool deck resides on the sixth floor, where seven private cabanas flank an elegant reflecting pool and revitalizing plunge pool. The ground-breaking spa Ciel at SLS is an unmatched journey to complete bliss.
Best Culinary Experience: Rossellinis, Palazzo Sasso, Ravello, Italy. Pino Lavarra, Executive Chef at Rossellinis located inside the 43-room villa at Palazzo Sasso, strives for the very best using the freshest local ingredients, many of which are from Rossellinis very own kitchen garden. Looming above the Mediterranean, the intimate Rossellinis offers a sophisticated yet unpretentious dining experience with unrivalled water-side views. Specialties include Agnolotti Stuffed with Free-range Chicken and Buffalo Taleggio, and Langoustine Carpaccio with Stewed Artichokes and Porcini Mushrooms.
Best Bar: MO Bar, Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, China. MO Bar, located on the ground level of the 113-room Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong's Central District exudes an aura of uber style. MO Bar serves sumptuous breakfasts including dim sum and American classics, followed by an a la carte lunch menu enticing its stylish guests with delicacies such as Raw Yellow Fin Tuna, Singapore Seafood Laksa, and for the adventurous, the legendary MO Cheese Cake. Each afternoon, MO Bar serves a luxury afternoon tea with a twist. As night time falls, MO Bar mixes exquisite evening cocktails - the MO-tox & Rose Petal is a staple. Every Friday and Saturday, MO Bar serves strawberries and chocolate desserts with Veuve Clicquot Rosé Champagne as Hong Kong's hottest DJ's polish off their vinyl.
Best Family Program: Half Moon, Montego Bay, Jamaica. Nestled among 400 acres of tropical landscape on Jamaica's northern coast, the colonial-style Half Moon has been welcoming distinguished guests for over 50 years. Its fun filled activities for children of all ages provides a range of experiences including its new natural Dolphin Lagoon experience. Parents seeking some alone time will appreciate the warm and caring Children's Village, which is guaranteed to enliven the senses of young visitors. Children have the time of their lives as they create puppet shows or listen to captivating stories in Tacoomah Hut, enjoy cold refreshments in Patoo's Lookout or get creative in Artsy Kraftsy. The Anancy Children's Village at Half Moon includes shaded play areas, activity rooms, a wading pool, sand box, expansive outdoor play area with each activity supervised by a well-trained coordinator.
Best Spa: Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, Tahiti, French Polynesia. Four Seasons elevates the excitement to redefine the South Seas escape. Exotic over-water suites, and beachfront villas with private pools, immerse guests in an ultramodern comfort showcasing the spirit of French Polynesia. Culinary art embraces operatic sunsets over the island's primeval peaks and with four exquisite dining experiences, gourmets are well catered for in paradise. Guests can seek out local Turtles, Kite-surf across the impossibly blue lagoon, spirit themselves away at the spa by the rolling Pacific surf and most importantly, surrender to the liberating service of a luxury resort unmatched on Bora Bora.
Most Innovative Guest Experience: Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay, Musandam Peninsula, Oman. Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay is located on the northern Musandam Peninsula in the Sultanate of Oman, with the Hajar Mountains to one side and the sandy beach at Zighy Bay to the other. Its 79 pool villas, plus The Private Reserve and two Retreats are a blend of Omani, indigenous style with modern amenities, providing the utmost in luxury with a spacious, 'rustic-chic' décor. An award winning Six Senses Spa offers guests a four-hand signature Sensory Journey, two Arabian Hamam's a private gym instructor and a Barber Shop. With the option of arriving into the resort by paraglide, the resort certainly aims to exhilarate all of the senses.
Most Socially Responsible: Fairmont Hotels & Resort. Spearheading the environmental cause globally, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts can truly attest to being the one of the very first to focus on being 'green' and has been implementing projects such as: offsetting greenhouse gas emissions; irrigating its grounds with wastewater; recycling and transforming kitchen oil into bio-diesel fuel to power equipment; and purchasing sustainable foods for the past 20 years. From sea-turtle saving campaigns to building homes for the homeless in Winnipeg, Fairmont is now set on reducing gas emissions globally.
One to Watch: John Reed of Amankora, Bhutan. This 45 year old gentleman hails from New Orleans and has taken the guest experience to new levels with his unfaltering energy and commitment to improving the surrounding communities to Amankora, Amanresorts' spiritual property in Bhutan. As General Manager, John feels a connection to community service projects helping local schools, hospitals, ancient monasteries and monuments. In engaging guests with the merits of assisting ageing potato farmers or local school children seeking English classes, he believes that they gain unique experiences that money simply can't buy. Amankora's staff alone has contributed to over 11,000 hours in support of these projects which in turn ensures that Amankora's guests are widely accepted in the community.
Hotelier of the Year: Karambir Singh Kang, Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Mumbai, India. Karambir Singh Kang has always been known to his employees as someone who motivates. During his two years as general manager of the 565-room flagship hotel, Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Mr Kang focused on keeping his employees happy so that they in turn would work hard and make guests happy. That leadership was put to the ultimate test during the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008, when the hotel was under siege. Putting their own lives at risk, Mr Kang and his dedi¬cated staff courageously helped guests flee danger an extraordinary act despite the fact that his wife and two sons perished in the attack.
Hotel of the Year: Park Hyatt Shanghai, China. One of the tallest buildings in the world, the Park Hyatt Shanghai is a sophisticated modern Chinese residence occupying the 79th to 93rd floors of the Shanghai World Financial Center. Designed by Toni Chi, who sought to create a calm haven in the middle of a frenetic city, the property embraces towering ceilings, sweeping views, minimalist decor, and calming influences such as a Tai Chi courtyard on the 85th floor where guests take classes daily beside an infinity pool. The world's highest restaurant, 100 Century Avenue, boasts unparalleled views of Shanghai. With 750 staff for 174 guest rooms, the visitor experience is paramount. Guests can participate in any number of unique experiences including escorting General Manager Christophe Sadones on his weekly trip to the local flower market; taking part in a Ballroom Dancing class which timelessly revives Old Shanghai glamour; or participating in a Friday night masquerade party with DJs and costumed dancers.