News & Reviews News The World’s 50 Best Hotels – my thoughts

As you’ll know from reading this blog, I’m just a river of calm, positive energy.  It’s rare anything bothers me.  Fun fact: this website ranks on Google for both “luxury travel” and “Buddist Monk seeking serenity to gain enlightenment”.  So when I discovered that the World’s 50 Best were sticking their nose into the hotel scene, I was always going to take the news well.  I even had a glimmer of hope it might mean something.  And it did.  It meant that awards are definitely a load of freckled horseshit.

Let’s start with my reaction to the news on Instagram, as it was revealed.

I had a small sense of hope these awards might mean something, but when Soneva is the answer the wrong question was asked to the wrong people.

A Park Hyatt being considered a better hotel than Hotel du Cap or La Reserve is an argument to support voter suppression.

The only way La Mamounia is the best property in Africa is if the voting requirement stated: to vote your surname must be Manounia. And they still lost.

Potato Head – that’s definitely them fucking with us. Ok, guys, good one. You nearly had me there. Really funny. Well done. I await the real results tomorrow. Guy? Guys?

Pure tranquillity.

The list

You can find the list here.  The results were announced Tuesday evening at an awards ceremony in London.  I won’t bore you with reprinting it, as every hotel featured will mention it ad nauseam for years to come.  Instead, here’s some thoughts…

First things first, some of the hotels are brilliant, there is no denying that.  Some even deserve to be on the list.  Yet there are also some absolute turds on the list – not that it makes it any worse than most of these awards.  Some choices are so bizarre, the order so nonsensical, and the absentees so prominent that it starts to show the futility of these awards.

I’ve stayed in 30 of the properties, although to vote, you had to of stayed at the property within the last two years.  That would reduce that number quite considerably because two years ago, I was stuck in my home spraying parcels with disinfectant and using a tape measure to ensure I hugged my family from 6 feet away.  Press trip stays, complimentary room nights, and those achieved through loyalty schemes are valid for votes.  Unfortunately, I count as neither press nor someone deserving complimentary nights, and I’m too much of a snob to stay somewhere with loyalty schemes.  No wonder I wasn’t invited to judge it.

I feel they were very much trying to spread the geography, hence why even Australia got the most surreal of mentions with The Calile, Amangalla, one of Aman’s worst properties, getting in, and New York featured twice. There are four properties in Paris, which seems fair, although four in London, including two which aren’t even in the top 20 in London, let alone the World.  I don’t even know how NoMad could get into a Top 50 of anything unless it was “Name 50 things you don’t care about”.  NoMad?  Clearly, there are ManyMad people out there.  Then there’s the Maldives, home to some of the world’s best resorts, only for the nightmare-inducing Soneva to be included not once but twice.  Imagine Ted Bundy getting featured twice in a World’s Most Eligible Bachelor list.  This is still worse.

Ranking the best is practically impossible, like why is Claridge’s better than The Connaught, so I won’t focus on that.  Ok, I’ll try not to focus on that.  No guarantees.  Ok, I’m talking about it, so may as well continue.  The Upper House is a mighty fine hotel – I’m a big fan.  But to call it the fourth-best hotel in the world is like calling this blog on excess travel the fourth-best literature on sustainability. La Mamounia considered better than Singita; Soneva Jani being considered better than an abandoned, haunted petrol station in Stoke and Switzerland, with all its glorious hotels being represented by Badrutt’s Palace.

The winner

Passalacqua – now, I was actually desperately trying to stay here a few weeks ago, but they had a buyout, and I was relegated to Hotel Il Pellicano instead.  That is like being dumped by Margot Robbie, and having to then date a corpse.

So maybe it is the best hotel in the world.  I really doubt it, but maybe it is.  I have a faint whiff of influence by the fact so much of the press has been invited in the last year.  Which really is the issue with these lists because they weigh so heavily on those who can visit these properties, and so much of the voting panel is the press.

All the same, I was hoping to visit next year and will let you know my thoughts.

Other highlights

Four Seasons Astir Palace – better than Amanzoe?  Me thinks not.  It does have 300 rooms, though, so plenty of room to squeeze all those voters in

La Mamounia – I didn’t love Royal Mansour, but even I can admit it’s fathoms ahead of La Mamounia.  As is Amanjena.  Even Mandarin Oriental.

Maybourne Riviera – no, no, no

Raffles Singapore – I last stayed as the refurb was underway.  It must have finished with aplomb for it to have improved enough to warrant being anywhere near this list.  They must have installed cash machines that inject money directly into your bloodystream as you enter, as nothing else could explain how they could have improved that much.

Hotel Esencia – it’s alright.  It’s not deserving of being on this list, certainly not at #19, but it’s alright

Oberoi Amarvilas – terrible hotel, next to one of the most impressive buildings ever made.

The Savoy – terrible hotel, next to one of the most turd-infested rivers in England

Hoshinoya – just terrible

Capella Singapore – just fuck off

Equinox Hotel – no, really, fuck off

Random thoughts

  • No Ritz-Carltons or St. Regis, hoorah
  • No Peninsula’s, Bulgari or Belmond
  • As many Park Hyatt’s and Six Senses as Mandarin Oriental
  • Capella featured twice.  Twice!
  • Rosewood featured thrice, Four Seasons and Aman both four times.
  • Very surprising to see Four Seasons featured four times, yet George V isn’t one of them.
  • Maybourne have 60% of their hotels featured – only The Berkeley and Beverley Hills didn’t make it.
  • Africa and the Indian Ocean are extremely underrepresented.

Places I’d like to try

There are no properties on the list I was not aware of, nor anything that has made me want to try anywhere I wasn’t previously keen on.  Here’s a list of the properties I’ve yet to try and want to.

  • Passalacqua – I was meant to go the weekend just gone, but a buyout prevented that from happening.  Instead, I chose Hotel Il Pellicano, which now ranks, along with Germany invading Russia during winter, as one of the world’s worst decisions.
  • Eden Rock St. Barths – already booked for next year
  • The Newt – We’ve been trying on and off since 2020 to get in, but it’s always booked unless you want to go outside of the three sunny days we have in England each year.
  • Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc – we have consistently amazing feedback from clients, I need to find the right moment to go.
  • Le Sirenuse – I’ve gotta go.  Nothing more to say.
  • Four Seasons Madrid – I’ve yet to visit Madrid.  With the Mandarin and Rosewood, it’s now a great time to go.  Plus, it’s an easy two-hour flight from London.  But then I remember I have young children, and taking them to cities seems to sap my soul.
  • One&Only Mandarina – we’re still deciding whether to return to Mexico, the Caribbean or the Maldives in February.  If Mexico, here will be one of the stops.

Conclusion

As lists go, this is one of the better.  Yet for so many reasons, it’s hard to take these things seriously.  He who invites the most press is going to win the award.

Let’s remember that the vote is about quantity.  Some of the best properties in the world are on this list, but some are too exclusive that they couldn’t ever gain enough votes because not enough people go there.  Some properties cannot afford to give out endless freebies to the press, especially when they have so few rooms available or are exclusive use.

So do use these as guides, but don’t use them as your guiding star.  For that, just listen to some angry bloke on the internet instead.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 24th Sep '23

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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