It seems as if there's an award for just about everything these days, and the hospitality industry is no exception. You've seen the lists: Zagat's Top U.S. Hotels & Resorts, Conde Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards, Travel & Leisure World's Best Hotels, The Robb Report's Best Luxury Hotels. And here at Corporate Meetings & Incentives, the Paragon Awards.
How subjective are these lists? What are the criteria? Most important, how do these luxury properties deliver when it comes to companies' meetings and events? We went looking for the answers.
To choose our "Best of the Best," we selected those properties with the highest ratings in the greatest number of the above surveys. For example, our top two properties were prominently placed on four out of five lists. To see exactly who won what (including our Paragon Awards), refer to the chart on page 51.
1) The Peninsula, Hong Kong Since 1928, savvy travelers have referred to it simply as "The Pen." The Peninsula is on every Hong Kong visitor's itinerary, even if it's just for tea. Groups lucky enough to stay here will enjoy amenities including twin helipads and the hotel's fleet of chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce limousines, not to mention the Peninsula Spa. All this and location, too: The Peninsula is in the heart of the Kowloon shopping and entertainment district, just across Salisbury Road from the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. The hotel has an Executive Meeting Package specifically designed for corporate groups; it includes all-day use of a meeting room, the latest audiovisual presentation equipment, and a three-course luncheon. The business center is considered state-of-the-art, though small. (Many Peninsula guests are CEOs and thus unlikely to use the center.) All rooms have dataports for laptops, and Internet access is on the horizon.
2) The Lodge at Koele, Lanai, Hawaii Since its opening in 1990, the Lodge at Koele has earned accolades from even the most jaded travelers. Of the properties we've listed, the Lodge is the only one to host a majority of corporate meeting business, estimated at 70 percent. The atmosphere here is more that of an old-style plantation estate than a Hawaiian resort. Its four meeting rooms are small but well-appointed. The world-famous "Experience at Koele" golf course, a croquet lawn, and horseback riding reinforce the exclusive country manor house feeling. New this year are a fitness center and a sporting clay (skeet) shooting range.
3) Hotel de Crillon, Paris The grande dame on our list, the Hotel de Crillon was built in 1775 by architect Louis Francois Trouard and was an immediate sensation. In 1788, the hotel was purchased for use as a private mansion by the Count of Crillon, a friend of the king, only to have it seized during the French Revolution. It was subsequently returned to the Crillon family, which owned it until 1907, when work began to once again turn it into a premier luxury hotel. The doors re-opened to the public in 1909. On the Place de la Concorde, steps from the Champs Elysees and Rue Faubourg St-Honore, the property is literally in the center of everything, close to the Louvre and other landmarks.
4) The Oriental, Bangkok The classic Oriental, with its dramatic riverside location in the middle of Bangkok, appeals to lovers of both old and new. Groups receive their first taste of Thai hospitality from the minute hotel representatives greet them at the airport. The property is close to the central business district and just a half hour away from the Royal Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The new Meetings by Mandarin Oriental program was developed specifically to assist companies bringing their meetings and incentives to the property. It offers a list of "promises," including one that the hotel will respond to inquiries within 24 hours. Companies are assigned a single contact during the planning stages of the meeting and a dedicated host to assist throughout the meeting. The business center rents computers, fax machines, and portable telephones, and offers translation, Internet access, and other services.
5) Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, Dana Point, Calif. According to Director of Marketing Chuck Harper, the focus at this magnificent property "is to make sure every guest, whether meeting attendee or leisure guest, receives personalized service." The hotel allows groups to avoid the front desk entirely by setting aside a special group check-in desk, in some cases even prechecking guests. It also has its own in-house transportation company,, and AV company. The property's newest ballroom, the Pacific Promenade, will open in May, offering 5,400 square feet with views of the Pacific. A complete computer system upgrade for all guest and meeting rooms will soon be finished.
6) Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles, Calif. The Mission-style main building, with its distinctive bell tower, was built in 1922 to house the sales offices of Alfonzo Bell, developer of the exclusive Bel-Air subdivision. In 1940, architect Burton Schutt converted the offices and stables into an intimate, secluded hotel property, leaving intact such Mission touches as courtyards, arcades and picturesque ironwork, all complemented by lush fountains and nostalgic chimneys. The stables and riding ring were sacrificed in favor of a swimming pool. The goal, says management, was to create the feeling of staying at an estate's guest house, rather than at a five-star hotel. As Director of Catering Deanna Maddalena puts it: "You feel like you're in the French countryside." The Hotel Bel-Air caters primarily to social activities (including its share of Hollywood celebrities), but estimates meetings business to be approximately 30 percent. Last year, the main restaurant was remodeled, including adding a terrace with a heated floor so guests can dine in comfort while overlooking the aptly named Swan Lake.
7) The Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas, Texas Back in the days of King Cotton, the Mansion was built as the private home for one of Texas' prominent growers, and the hotel reflects the gracious hospitality of that era. However, it's very much in the 21st century, with amenities such as T-1 Internet access lines in all guest and meeting rooms. There's also an in-house AV company and a 24-hour, self-serve business center.
8) Ritz-Carlton Millenia, Singapore The first thing you'll notice about this hotel is the architecture: It practically hovers 120 feet above ground, its 32 stories dramatically balanced on just four pillars. Located in the heart of Singapore's Marina Centre, the property is within walking distance of the Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre, and it is often used for convention business. The Ritz-Carlton Millenia offers a private VIP entrance, a fax machine in every suite, executive business services, limousine pickup from the airport, and a unique service that routes calls to guests' mobile phones. The Grand Ballroom's permanent stage comes equipped with state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment.
9) Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii For groups, Kapalua boasts Hawaii's largest outdoor pavilion (luaus come to mind), as well as Maui's only hotel amphitheater, perfect for an outdoor general session. The Kapalua has managed to effortlessly accommodate leisure guests and honeymooners, as well as groups gathering for business or incentive programs. In fact, the property's meeting and corporate business is estimated at 50 percent, exactly half its clientele. Generous indoor meeting facilities join impressive outdoor facilities, the newest of which is the 19,200-square-foot Aloha Garden Pavilion, a permanent, carpeted, concert-ready pavilion structure equipped with sound and lighting. The grounds and private beach double as meeting and function space, with the beach serving as a popular setting for corporate sporting andevents as well as games.
10) Halekulani Hotel, Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii It's no secret that this hotel was designed for vacationers, and in past years, vacationers were its main focus. But with the opening of the new convention center in Honolulu, Waikiki hotels are gearing up for a new era of corporate business by updating and expanding their facilities to accommodate the anticipated groups. At the Halekulani, we were told, the property has "moved into the next millennium" by updating its computer capabilities and systems in guest and meeting rooms, with more upgrades to come. The Halekulani has five versatile function rooms that can accommodate most groups, and the beachfront location is ideal, especially for first-time visitors to Hawaii who want a taste of Waikiki.