This year marks a special anniversary for Virtuoso, which is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its renowned Hotels & Resorts Program. Established in 1992 as a means of complementing Virtuoso's core cruise business, Virtuoso was the first travel group to develop a standalone hotel program to serve the needs of its member agencies and their clientele. Twenty years later, Virtuoso's is the longest-running hotel program, with more five-star properties than any other program and the highest valued amenities in the industry at up to $450 per stay. Twenty-one of the founding hotels still remain in the program, which now boasts an amazing portfolio of 975 hotels, resorts, villas and private island retreats in 95 countries that cements its reputation as being an industry powerhouse and trusted source.
The status and strength of the collection only enhances the level of competition within this year's Best of the Best awards, reinforcing the outstanding achievements of the 2012 nominees. VIRTUOSO LIFE magazine's editorial director, Elaine Srnka, and Virtuoso's vice president of hotels, destinations & tours, Albert Herrera, announced the nominees, which represent the highest standards in their given category and are considered some of the world's finest properties. Only 50 properties are under consideration for the awards that range from "Best Achievement in Design" to "Most Socially Responsible" and the ultimate "Hotel of the Year."
Editors of VIRTUOSO LIFE magazine, the network's exclusive award-winning publication, reviewed numerous submissions and researched hundreds of properties to select the award nominees. The network's elite travel advisors are now given the difficult task of establishing which hotels within this selection of elite contenders best represent the 10 categories.
Winners will be revealed on August 15, 2012, at the Hotels & Resorts dinner during Virtuoso's 24th annual conference, recently renamed 'Virtuoso Travel Week.' Taking place at the Bellagio in Las Vegas from August 12-17, Virtuoso Travel Week brings together thousands of Virtuoso's member travel advisors - considered the leaders in creating luxury experiences - and the world's best travel providers to participate in the industry's preeminent networking event. VIRTUOSO LIFE magazine will feature the Best of the Best winners in its September/October 2012 issue. For more information, visit www.virtuoso.com.
Award categories and nominees follow:
Hotel of the Year - Nominees: The Beverly Hills Hotel, The Dorchester Collection, Beverly Hills, California; Kauri Cliffs, Northland, New Zealand; One&Only Ocean Club, Bahamas, Paradise Island, Bahamas; Hotel Sacher Wien, Vienna, Austria.
One to Watch - Nominees: The Alpina Gstaad, Switzerland; Amanruya, Bodrum, Turkey; The Conservatorium Hotel Amsterdam (pictured above), The Netherlands; The Leela Palace New Delhi, India; The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, Bal Harbour, Florida.
Best Achievement in Design - Nominees: Four Seasons Resort Marrakech, Morocco; Hotel Bel-Air, The Dorchester Collection, Los Angeles, California; InterContinental Porto-Palacio das Cardosas, Oporto, Portugal; Park Hyatt Sydney, Australia; The St. Regis, Bangkok, Thailand.
Best Culinary Experience - Nominees: The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia; Hinokizaka, The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo, Japan; Sur Mesur, Mandarin Oriental, Paris, France; Tereze, Hotel Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Labeille, Shangri-La Hotel, Paris, France.
Best Bar - Nominees: Le Bar, Beau Rivage Palace, Lausanne, Switzerland; Hyde, The Bellagio, Las Vegas, Nevada; Lobby Bar, Grand Hotel Europe, an Orient-Express Hotel, St. Petersburg, Russia; 10 pounds Sterling at Montage Beverly Hills, California; Flair, The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, China.
Best Family Program - Nominees: Borgo Egnazia Hotel Ville Spa Golf, Savelletri di Fasano, Italy; Four Seasons Resort, Punta Mita, Mexico; Marbella Club Hotel - Golf Resort & Spa, Marbella, Spain; The Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach, Florida; Trump Chicago, Illinois.
Best Spa - Nominees: Akasha Wellbeing Center, Mamilla Hotel, Jerusalem, Israel; Miraval Resort & Spa, Tucson, Arizona; Oberoi Spa, The Oberoi Gurgaon, New Delhi Capital Region, India; Atarmia Spa, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas, Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.; Spa My Blend by Clarins, Le Royal Monceau - Raffles Paris, France.
Most Innovative Guest Experience - Nominees: Tartan Butler, Rocco Forte The Balmoral, Edinburgh, Scotland; Treehouse Suites, Chewton Glen, Hampshire, England; Vespa tours with picnics, La Residencia, An Orient-Express Hotel, Mallorca, Spain; Kickboxing school, The Siam, Bangkok, Thailand; "Challenge the Chef" Competition, Las Ventanas al Paraiso, a Rosewood Resort, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico.
Most Socially Responsible - Nominees: Inn by the Sea, Cape Elizabeth, Maine; Lefay Resort and SPA Lago di Garda, Gargnano, Italy; Round Hill Hotel & Villas, Montego Bay, Jamaica; Singita Game Reserves, Kruger National Park, South Africa; The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Mumbai, India.
Hotelier of the Year - Nominees: Rebecca Selley, Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires, Argentina; Thomas Voss, The Grand Del Mar, San Diego, California; Jean Claude Messant, Hotel Metropole Monte Carlo, Monaco; Malcolm Thompson, The Peninsula Tokyo, Japan; Danilo Zucchetti, Villa d'Este, Cernobbio, Italy.