2024 Forbes Travel Guide: Dubai, Middle East score big, secondary cities see surge in rankings

Forbes Travel Guide, the independent global rating system for luxury hotels, spas, restaurants and cruises, has unveiled its newest annual list of awards.

This year, the 2024 Star Awards has expanded to include new destinations: Baku, Azerbaijan; Curacao; Iceland; Sardinia, Italy; Kenya; Algarve; Madeira, Portugal; Rwanda; Koh Samui, Thailand; Rabat, Morocco; Makkah, Saudi Arabia; and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Currently in its 66th year, the list includes more than 2,000 properties globally and features 340 Five-Star, 600 Four-Star and 503 Recommended hotels. The list also featured 78 Five-Star, 121 Four-Star and 59 Recommended restaurants, along with 126 Five-Star and 201 Four-Star spas and seven Four-Star and five Recommended cruise ships.

Travel was expected to post a solid performance in 2023, and this year’s winners demonstrate how hotels are putting in increased efforts to enhance guest experiences, said Amanda Frasier, president of Ratings for Forbes Travel Guide. “This year’s list demonstrates the evolving focus the discerning traveler has on well-being and the desire for authentic destination-centric itineraries.”

The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman earned the first triple Five-Star ranking in the Caribbean.

Winners were selected on more than 900 criteria. The list includes 340 Five-Star, 600 Four-Star and 503 Recommended Hotels; 78 Five-Star, 121 Four-Star and 59 Recommended Restaurants; 126 Five-Star and 201 Four-Star Spas; and seven Four-Star and five Recommended Cruise Ships.

Here are some of the notable winners this year:

  • Dubai added five more Five-Star hotels (Address Beach Resort; Armani Hotel Dubai; Atlantis, The Royal; The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai; and The St. Regis Dubai, The Palm) and now has a total of 12 Five-Star hotels.
  • The Middle East also emerged at the top of the list and saw more top-rated winners in Doha (Four Seasons Hotel Doha and Raffles Doha) and Kuwait (Waldorf Astoria Kuwait), making it the region with the highest number of new Five-Star Awards.
  • With Montage Big Sky in Southwestern Montana earning a Five-Star rating, Montage Hotels & Resorts became the only Five-Star hotel brand.
  • Luxury adventure travel is becoming popular. With two Five-Star winners (One&Only Gorilla’s Nest and One&Only Nyungwe House), Rwanda made its first appearance on this list. Kenya also made it to the list for the first time, featuring animal-centric experiences at Nairobi’s Four-Star Giraffe Manor and Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club.
  • Macau retained its title with the highest number of Five-Star hotels (22) for the second consecutive year. This year, Paiza Lofts at The Parisian Macao was added to the list.
  • Three hotels earned exclusive triple Five-Star status, which meant these properties received the highest ratings for their hotel, restaurant and spa. Salamander Middleburg in Middleburg, Va., achieved the trifecta with Harrimans Grill and Salamander Spa. Rosewood Miramar Beach in Montecito, California, won the Five-Star honors along with its Sense, A Rosewood Spa at Miramar Beach and Caruso’s restaurant. The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman earned the first triple Five-Star ranking in the Caribbean, with Blue by Eric Ripert restaurant and The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Grand Cayman. There are only 15 triple Five-Star winners globally.
  • There’s a resurgence of travel in secondary cities, like Nashville (with Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Conrad Nashville and JW Marriott Nashville), Charleston (Forbes Travel Guide Recommended The Charleston Place) and New Orleans (Four-Star properties Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans and The Ritz-Carlton Spa, New Orleans).
  • Five-star restaurants made their first appearance in Grand Cayman (Blue by Eric Ripert) and Tokyo (Nouvelle Epoque). Restaurant ratings also debuted in Dubai (Four-Star winners Armani/Ristorante Dubai and Stay by Yannick Alléno at One&Only The Palm) and Los Cabos (Four-Star Cocina de Autor at Grand Velas Los Cabos).

The hotels, restaurants and spas on the list are derived from assessments by anonymous professional inspectors, who evaluate the properties based on several standards, with a particular focus on services. All the properties featured in the list have earned their ratings through an inspection process.