Forbes Travel Guide eyes growing ANZ ‘Ratings’ presence

Luxury assessor keen to expand endorsed-travel agency partners down under

The Ritz-Carlton Melbourne

Luxury hotels, restaurants, spas and cruises in Australia, New Zealand and the wider surrounding region are on the watch-list of Forbes Travel Guide as the global authority on ‘genuine Five-Star service’ mulls its next move in this space. Furthermore, new travel agency partners here are already being considered, LATTE can exclusively reveal.

Last week, Forbes Travel Guide released its prestigious 2024 Star Ratings list which distinguishes the best-of-the-best hotels, restaurants, spas and cruise ships around the world. In Australia, that list continues to be dominated at the top by Crown Resorts which was awarded all three ‘Five Star’ awards in this market out of the 16 announced. Other award categories were for ‘Four Star’ and ‘Recommended’ properties and spas.

Addressing the limited number of properties rated by FTG on the list in Australia, Amanda Frasier, President of Standards & Ratings at Forbes Travel Guide says a strategy to elevate the presence is in the works.

Crown Towers Sydney

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“We’re very much paying attention to the area as it exits the tail end of the pandemic,” Frasier told LATTE from her woodside residence in North Georgia, outside Atlanta.

“We need to spread our arms back around Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania, which to your point is fairly light in our coverage,” she said.

“Australia took a little longer to come out of the pandemic,” she said, also acknowledging the challenges the region’s hospitality segment has faced with quality staffing since COVID.

“Yes we do talk to the hotels, but I see that in the data as well, when I see how hotels are performing compared to where they were and the kind of trajectory it tells us how they’re doing.”

Quizzed if that data was based on hotel Average Daily Rates (ADRs), the nearly 20-year FTG veteran explained: “What ADRs tell you is what the market is willing to bear, it doesn’t tell you how the property is performing.”

“My big focus right now is if a hotel is charging five-star pricing it better be delivering five-star service. That’s the biggest matter that consumers are starting to talk about more and more and more. Nobody is putting up with paying more but not getting the service to match.”

Amanda Frasier, President, Standards & Ratings, Forbes Travel Guide

“In 2024 I introduced a new standard that asks guests do they feel as though they got value for money. It doesn’t matter what you charge, but make sure you are meeting if not exceeding expectations. Broadley in line with the trends that we’ve been talking about lately, is that people are more willing to invest in experiences,” she said.

The Darling Sydney Suites

“Yes, there are a lot of hotels that we can still add to our list, but I’m not interested in just adding more hotels.

“I’m interested in adding properties, whether its hotels, restaurants, bars or cruise ships, that are coming into the region that deliver an Australian experience.”

Frasier explained: “A guest can stay anywhere when they travel for business, but when we talk about luxury travellers, our list is really about the best immersion you can find. You might be able to find that at a Ritz-Carlton or a Four Seasons or a very traditional hotel brand, and that’s why 14 of them appear on our list in Australia still for this year.”

“But what I’m interested in looking at a little deeper, and we’ve been watching this, in Ratings. There are thousands of hotels [around the world] on our list that are eligible to be scheduled for an inspection to be rated, based off our own research…

However, what I’m interested in doing is filling in Australia and New Zealand – and that region in general – with more experiences.

“I think we’ve done a good job in other parts of the world. In other parts of the world, such as the Middle East, they’re heavily investing in staffing to keep their service levels high, but I think there’s a lot more to explore in Australia that I would like to see on our list.”

“People are very much interested in figuring out what it means to have a well-being experience when they’re travelling, so there’s a lot of destinations that are providing a lot of immersion now.”

Frasier used an example of a luxurious ranch or working cattle station which are available in the United States.

“The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana is a great example of complete destination immersion because their itineraries push well beyond the boundaries of what an average city hotel can do.”

Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley would be an obvious addition to Forbes Travel Guide' Star Awards, but has remained closed since June 2023

“Forbes Travel Guide is very well-penetrated in all the cities, which is where the guide began. A lot of the properties that are covered, a lot of the cities that are on our list in various parts of the world are what I would refer to as ‘legacy properties’ – The Peninsula Chicago, The St. Regis New York, they’ve been on the list for years and should remain on the list – but now people’s tastes are evolving and they’re looking for more from our list, where it can be a full destination immersion as well.”

Frasier says Crown Hotels would be considered a ‘legacy’ property in this market.

“That is a brand that is very enthusiastic, with lots of energy around their rating and recognise the significance of it.”

“Yes, it’s a rating and everyone wants to win awards, but it is more than just awards. It’s a mark of excellence, and it says to the person making a selection ‘I can stay anywhere but if I stay here, I’m really going to get the value’.

Frasier likened the Australian market, in terms of coverage, to Africa where up until a year ago, Ratings was “fairly light”. That position changed with Frasier purposely making an effort to ensure some of the very best safari experiences were captured. This year, One&Only Nyungwe House and One&Only Gorilla’s Nest in Rwanda are on the list with Five-Star ratings, and Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya a Four-Star rating.

Capella Sydney, main entrance from Farrer Place | Credit: Timothy Kaye

Expanding FTG’s Ratings into Australia and New Zealand would likely also simultaneously include a broadening in the South Pacific to ensure guests travelling long-haul from North America could break their trip, for example in French Polynesia, and choose other Forbes Travel Guide verified accommodation en route.

FTG has a limited presence of rated properties in the South Pacific, with three hotels in Fiji (Dolphin Island as Five-Star, and Kokomo Private Island and Six Senses Fiji, both Recommended).

“[Fiji] was a light touch and there’s a couple of properties that are significant on their own little private islands, so I would ultimately want to get to.”

Frasier anticipates being in Australia later this year as FTG begins to prepare for its 2025 evaluations. Any new local additions would most likely be reflected in the 2026 Awards.

She also explained that the desire for discerning travellers, “the type of people that use our list” is to work with verified travel professionals. Last April, FBI Travel in Melbourne was named as the first Forbes Travel Guide-endorsed travel agency in Australia.

The Ritz-Carlton Melbourne, King Room - another potential hotel addition to Forbes Travel Guide's 2026 Star-Awards ratings

“As we start to expand that network and our relationships with travel advisors, and people’s desire for more exciting trips, naturally Australia is going to be in our sights.”

So does that mean Forbes Travel Guide is considering adding additional endorsed travel agencies down under?

“Yes we are,” Frasier confirmed to LATTE. “We need experts that understand that region.”

“They don’t necessarily work directly with Ratings but what we’re doing is making sure that we’re working with advisors that understand the power of our list and why you should look to our list for guidance on where to recommend to your client.”

“But likewise, so the market has some coverage and we can push bookings the way of the hotels,” she concluded.

Frasier also provided LATTE feedback on Forbes Travel Guide’s relatively new cruise vertical. Read about that here.

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