The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Sparkling secrets of five-star luxury


EVERY week our Holiday Hero

NEIL SIMPSON takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: How five-star hotels earn their stripes.

THE managers of the world’s most glamorous hotels have a nervous few days ahead, waiting to discover if they will retain their status when the ‘Oscars’ of the hotel industry are announced this week.

Winners will be on the latest five-star luxury list from Forbes Travel Guides, the rebranded internatio­nal version of the Mobil Oil Guide that began rating America’s roadside lodges back in 1958.

Collect a five-star rating and hotels can anticipate a big boost in bookings. But what can guests expect from a five-star hotel stay?

FIVE-STAR FACT: There’s no set definition and standards vary around the world. If a hotel decides to call itself five-star (or sevenstar, as Dubai’s Burj Al Arab does), there’s no global organisati­on that can stop it. But, in general, you should clearly expect a five-star hotel to offer over-sized, luxury rooms, 24-hour concierge and housekeepi­ng services, restaurant­s with big-name chefs and extras such as cutting-edge bars and spas.

FIVE-STAR FACT: The best way to find a genuinely five-star hotel experience is to focus on the independen­t ratings issued by firms such as Forbes. Its undercover hotel inspectors book and pay for a minimum of two nights in each hotel they assess, and they write reports based on an incredible 900 different criteria, from the quality of the drinks in the bar to the availabili­ty of local advice at the front desk. A big focus is on service rather than the facilities on offer. Gone are the days when a hotel could claim five-star status just for having a pool or spa. Today the pool and spa staff must also be the best trained and most welcoming in the business.

One hotel that’s passed secret inspection­s by the Forbes teams since opening in 2015 is the ultraindul­gent Faena Miami Beach hotel in Florida. The hotel turned its back on recent trends for minimalist design and instead placed a golden skeleton by Damien Hirst amid opulent interiors overseen by film director Baz Luhrmann and his costume designer wife Catherine Martin. Forbes calls it ‘over the top glamour in Miami’ (which is saying something) and gave it a five-star review in its first year of operation.

The latest lists will be revealed this Wednesday at forbestrav­el

FIVE-STAR FACT: In the UK the most numerous incognito hotel inspectors are those sent out by the AA. It’s been rating hotels since 1912 and judges the facilities, service and style in rooms, restaurant­s and all public areas.

Inspectors pay for their stays before identifyin­g themselves to hotel managers, and start by awarding traditiona­l one- to fivestar ratings. A five-star hotel must offer excellence in every area – and if its standards are particular­ly high, it can see its five stars turned red in the new ‘Inspectors’ Choice’ awards the AA hands out every September.

One of eight hotels to be selected as best-in-class and win five red stars for the current year is Foxhill Manor in Worcesters­hire. It’s described as ‘a country house full of friendly faces and flashes of colour and style’.

See the AA’s full list of five-star and five-red-star hotels at its new site,

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