The Peninsula Manila earned its fifth star this year, pushing the Peninsula Hotels to become the world’s first all Five-Star hotel company. Other outstanding 5-star award-winning properties in Manila include Marco Polo Ortigas Manila, Nüwa Manila, and Sky Tower at Solaire Resort & Casino.
In an e-mail interview with Filip Boyen, Chief Executive Officer of Forbes Travel Guide, he explained what standards made The Peninsula Manila stood out among the list and these are a very high level of courtesy and manners as well as high levels of overall luxury, such as quality of linens and fixtures.
“The Peninsula Manila achieved a composite score over 90 percent, which qualified it for a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award—Four-Star award winners earn 80 percent or higher, while Recommended winners must score 70 percent or higher,” said Boyen.
Forbes Travel Guide uses a set of globally designed standards for its evaluations. A hotel evaluation tests up to 501 standards, which rotate methodically through various guest experiences, including arrival, guest room, and hotel dining, to name a few.
“Our inspector remains incognito during the entire process, from making reservations to departure, never revealing his or her identity. The results of the evaluation are applied to an algorithm, which is set at 75 percent service and 25 percent facility,” he added.
Defining a true sense of ‘luxury’
Luxury goes beyond the physical elements – such as fine linens, high-quality glassware, and attention to design – according to Boyen.
“We also look closely at how the staff members dress, behave, and interact with the guest. We assess if they use the guest name, are thoughtfully institutive in a wat that it is not robotic or forced. We also look at the efficiency and, of course, overall convenience. Food quality is another important element,” said Boyen.
“When you combine all these factors together and a hotel trains its staff to work harmoniously — the takeaway for the guest is a true sense of luxury that is comfortable and completely personalized,” he added.
How luxury is different for everyone
Boyen revealed that the 12 award-winning hotels included in Forbes’ list are quite diverse. But what’s wonderful about the list is that it captures today’s trend that luxury means something different to everyone.
“For some, luxury is having quick access to world-class entertainment, gambling, and sleek modern design. We look at Sky Tower at Solaire Resort and Nüwa Manila for this experience. For others, classic luxury in hotels such as The Peninsula Manila and Raffles Makati make perfect options for the business traveler,” he explained.
Business travelers are driven by the predictability of brands. They want to exactly what they are going to get in order to help their productivity; while high-end tourists are curious and like to discover a destination. They enjoy an element of surprise. They love interacting with local employees and want the hotel to help them discover the best destination has to offer.
Leaving school at the age of 18, Boyen took a job as a commis chef. He immediately knew that hospitality was what he wanted to do. His experience of working his way up through the ranks proved invaluable in his development. He stayed in the food and beverage side of the business for 10 years.
“It taught me to treat everybody with dignity and respect. Each and every employee plays a key role in delivery memorable guest experience. At Forbes Travel Guide, ‘We verify luxury’ and that means we champion, support, and celebrate all those with a passion for extraordinary service. I feel I have the best job in the world,” Boyen shared.
Before joining Forbes Travel Guide in 2018, Boyen served as CEO of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, where he oversaw a portfolio of more than 520 exceptional independent hotels in 80 countries.
Prior to that post, the Belgium native spent 18 years with Orient-Express, the famed precursor to the Belmond brand. First joining the hospitality company as general manager of Bora Bora Lagoon Resort in Tahiti, he rose through the ranks to become executive vice president and chief operating officer of Orient-Express. In between, his various roles included Group Vice President Operations; Regional Vice President, Africa, Australia & Latin America; and Managing Director, Hotels & Trains.
He also worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in Belgium, France, and England. He even did a stint under French master chef Joel Robuchon.
His extensive background in food and beverage, experience managing complex operations—including trains and ships—and luxury hospitality expertise all harmoniously combines at Forbes Travel Guide.
Forbes Travel Guide rates properties in 76 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East. Newly added destinations for 2019 include Anguilla, Bahrain, Belize, Danang, Doha, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Istanbul, Oman, Perth, the Swiss Alps, Tel Aviv, and Uruguay.
The 2019 award recipients include 21 new Five-Star hotels, 49 new Four-Star hotels, and 62 new hotels in the Recommended category. Other first-time recipients include six Five-Star restaurants, eight Five-Star spas, and 21 Four-Star spas.
The winners were honored at Verified, The Forbes Travel Guide Luxury Summit at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills on February 26 and 27, 2019. The two-day lineup included a celebratory dinner hosted by Brooke Shields.
Travel Guide awards three categories for hotels: the entry-level in Recommended, which denotes the property is excellent, one of the best in its destination; Four-Star honors are for hotels that are not only excellent but offer a particularly high level of overall luxury, convenience, and upgraded amenities; while Five-Star accolades are reserved for properties that consistently offer outstanding facilities and service that often will go above and beyond for its guests.
The process for an evaluation begins with the Rating department, which pre-selects properties that could potentially achieve at least a Recommended award, based on its research. Since Forbes Travel Guide pays for all its own inspections, it is very discerning about which countries/destinations it enters, and subsequently the hotels they schedule for an inspection.
“The system is not paid to play, and every award is earned through an objective incognito inspection—the award is based off how the staff performs, a rating cannot be bought or voted upon,” explained Boyen.
“When a property appears in the Forbes Travel Guide list, it affirms that not only we visited it but that the property was assessed against the same criteria as all award winners,” he added.
See the complete list of winners here.