Editor’s Note | August 2009
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Editor’s Note | August 2009

Richard Phibbs

Okay, so here’s the scoop on Travel + Leisure’s annual
World’s Best Awards, a survey fielded during the roiling weeks from
mid-January to the end of March 2009. And the winners are: value, intimacy,
service, and discovery—tracing the outlines of T+L readers’ travel
interests in this challenging economic reality. An unprecedented number of new
names and places made their debuts on this year’s list, sometimes
unseating longtime favorites: When the highest-rated properties in the U.S. and
Canada are the Inn at Manitou, in Ontario, the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, in South
Carolina, and the diminutive Eliot Hotel, in Boston, surely something is afoot.
As for that so-last-August-sounding word, luxury, it’s all about
enclaves that shelter stealth wealth (from Amankora Paro in Bhutan to San
Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, California), where casual and laid-back are the
names of the game. Dramatically sited outposts like Jade Mountain, in St.
Lucia, and Blancaneaux Lodge, in Belize, top the Caribbean and Central and
South America categories, and an adventurous spirit also prevails when it comes
to the No. 1 property in the world, Bushmans Kloof, in the Cedar Mountains of
South Africa, and No. 2, Oberoi Vanyavilas, near India’s Ranthambhore
Tiger Reserve. As for the Best City, it’s also in India—Udaipur.
Like its top-ranked confrères—Cape Town, Bangkok, Buenos Aires,
Chiang Mai, and Luang Prabang—value ratings were sky-high. Though such
far-flung metropolises made a strong showing, it comes as good news to many of
us that they did not entirely steal the show; old favorites, like T+L’s
hometown, New York City (hooray!), as well as Florence, Rome, and San Francisco
remain in the top 10.

For the past three years, the announcement of the World’s Best Awards winners has been
preceded by the release of findings from “The Survey of Affluence and
Wealth in America,” created by Travel + Leisure’s parent
company, American Express Publishing, and Harrison Group, a strategic-marketing
research firm. This year in particular, I was struck by the consistency of the
insights into the minds of American consumers that these very different surveys
provide, touching as they do on a high regard for value and service, brand
loyalty (hence the success of numerous Four Seasons and Oberoi properties), and
small rewards (so-called micro-pleasures in the Amex/Harrison Group study),
which can easily define the more modest price and scale of many of the hotels
T+L readers have selected in 2009. In spite of it all, the majority of
Affluence and Wealth respondents admitted to having a higher level of
happiness, as a result of their newfound sense of control and resourcefulness,
and they continued to express an enthusiasm for travel (weekend getaways and
vacations still matter). How very handy it is that the T+L World’s Best
Awards provide a generous supply of options through the excellent choices that
you, our readers, have made.

Where to Find Me

E-Mail: nancytravelandleisure@aexp.com

Twitter: @nnovogro

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