The T+L World's Best Awards Methodology: How We Conducted the 2021 Survey

A survey developed by the editors of Travel + Leisure, in association with research firm M&RR, was made available at from January 11 through May 10, 2021. Readers were invited to participate through Travel + Leisure magazine, T+L tablet editions, newsletters, social media, and M&RR maintained, monitored, and kept the survey website secure, and also collected and tabulated the responses. To protect the integrity of the data, after the survey closed, Travel + Leisure and M&RR screened the responses to identify fraudulent votes, which were eliminated from the final tallies.

Respondents were asked to rate airlines, airports, car-rental agencies, cities, cruise ships, destination spas, hotels, hotel brands, islands, tour operators, safari outfitters, and U.S. national parks on a number of characteristics (below). For each characteristic, respondents could choose a rating of excellent, above average, average, below average, or poor. The final scores are averages of these responses. Scores shown have been rounded to the nearest hundredth of a point; in the event of a true tie, winners share the same ranking. In most categories, respondents could also rate optional characteristics; these ratings are not included in the overall scores.

Hotels were categorized as City or Resort based on their locations and amenities. For resort hotels, the U.S. was divided into 16 states and regions: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Greater Miami Beach, Hawaii, New York, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, the Mid-Atlantic (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania), the West (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming), the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin), New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont), and the South (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia).

For the cruise category, respondents were asked to rate individual ships; the results were combined to generate scores for cruise lines in different categories. The categories are: mega-ship ocean cruise lines (capacity of 2,200 passengers or more), large-ship ocean cruise lines (600 to 2,199 passengers), midsize-ship ocean cruise lines (250 to 599 passengers), small-ship ocean cruise lines (249 or fewer passengers), and river cruise lines. Some cruise lines may appear in multiple categories depending on the makeup of their fleet.

A minimum number of responses was necessary for a candidate to be eligible for inclusion in the World's Best Awards rankings. Some companies were eligible to be rated in multiple categories; they were scored independently for each category.

Categories and Characteristics

Airlines: Cabin comfort, in-flight service, customer service, value.

Airports: Access, check-in/security, restaurants/bars, shopping, design.

Car-rental agencies: Vehicle selection, vehicle availability, car-rental location, service, value.

Cities: Sights/landmarks, culture, food, friendliness, shopping, value.

Cruise ships: Cabins/facilities, food, service, itineraries/destinations, excursions/activities, value.

Destination spas: Accommodations/facilities, treatments, service, food, value.

Hotels: Rooms/facilities, location, service, food, value.

Hotel brands: Locations, rooms/facilities, food, service, value.

Islands: Natural attractions/beaches, activities/sights, restaurants/food, people/friendliness, value.

Tour operators and safari outfitters: Staff/guides, itineraries/destinations, activities, accommodations, food, value.

U.S. national parks: Natural attractions, activities, lodging, wildlife, accessibility, cleanliness.

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