Published on Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Luxury travel boom leads to record five-diamond awards

What’s behind a record 100 hotels and resorts earning the top five-diamond rating in the 2008 AAA awards?

This reflects "a boom in the luxury market," says Michael Petrone of AAA.

The non-profit travel organization, which selected 93 five-diamond lodgings last year, conducts annual unannounced inspections of properties. Hotels and resorts are rated on a scale of one to five diamonds based on a checklist of hundreds of criteria, including public areas, rooms, amenities and service.

Four US lodgings are new on the five-diamond list this year: The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas; The Canyon Suites at the Phoenician, Scottsdale, Ariz.; St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach, Dana Point, Calif.; and The Umstead Hotel and Spa near Raleigh, N.C.

Four resorts in Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean ascended to five-diamond status: Four Seasons Resort Whistler in British Columbia; The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman; JW Marriott Resort & Spa, Cancun; and the 1½-year-old Fairmont Mayakoba near Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Two lodgings lost five-diamond status: The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas in Nevada and the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel in British Columbia. The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun, was reinstated to five-diamond status after completing renovations in the wake of Hurricane Wilma.

Ritz-Carltons (24) and Four Seasons (22) accounted for nearly half the list of five-diamond lodgings, which is heavy on luxury chain hotels and grande-dame resorts.

Three grande dames have maintained a five-diamond ranking for 32 straight years: The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs; The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.; and Marriott's Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Ariz. This year, The Broadmoor's Penrose Room became the first Colorado restaurant to achieve five-diamond status.

Report by David WIlkening

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