Passalacqua, a family-owned hotel housed in an 18th century villa on the shores of Lake Como in Italy, has taken the top position in the inaugural World’s 50 Best Hotels awards, which took place in a glittering ceremony in London’s spectacular 15th century Guildhall last night. The awards are the latest list launched by the 50 Best brand, which is owned by British data and events company William Reed.
Valentina de Santis, owner of the newly crowned World’s Best Hotel, said she could never have expected to win this prestigious title.
“It feels unreal, beyond a dream – a dream could not be so incredible. Especially because we are a small hotel, independent and family owned, and opened just a year ago. This goes beyond every wildest dream,” she said at the press conference after the awards.
“What I have felt tonight is that the word competitor doesn’t exist in our industry. There has been such a sense of belonging and happiness. I’m happy especially for all my friends in Italy also here at the awards – we’re a big family and these awards make this even stronger.”
18 hotels from Asia on the list
Coming in at second position, and winning award for best hotel in Asia, is the Rosewood Hong Kong, which opened in 2019 and set a new bar for hospitality in the city.
Asia continued strong, taking the next three positions in the top five: in third place is the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River; at No. 4 The Upper House in Hong Kong; and in fifth position, Japan’s Aman Tokyo.
Singapore featured twice on the list, with the storied grande dame of the Lion City’s hotels, Raffles Singapore, placing at No.17, and the much-loved Capella Singapore coming in at No.28.
Overall, 17 of the 50 hotels that made the ranking are in Asia. Only Europe topped this figure, with 21 properties listed; six of these are located in France.
The World’s 50 Best Hotels ranking is collated from 580 voters, who are selected by industry-leading Academy Chairs across nine regions globally, and comprise hoteliers, travel journalists, educators, hospitality professionals and seasoned luxury travellers.
Recognising special hotel experiences
Along with the top 50 ranking, seven special awards were given out. Capella Bangkok won the award for Best New Hotel (for a property that opened in the two-year window May 2021 – May 2023) and placed 11th.
The Best Beach Hotel award was picked up by Soneva Fushi Maldives (No.7), while the Eco Hotel award, which rates establishments that self-nominate for the prize based on a wide range of criteria, including environmental and social responsibility, and is independently audited, went to Singita Kruger National Park in South Africa (No.15).
The Best Boutique Hotel (fewer than 50 rooms and not being part of a large chain or group) was won by The Newt in Bruton, England, while the Icon Award, which recognises an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the hotel industry over the course of their career, went Sonu Shivdasani, who founded the Soneva and Six Senses hotel brands.
Two awards were given out in advance of awards night. Firstly the Art of Hospitality Award, which went to Gleneagles, a luxury resort set in Scotland’s Southern Highlands.
Secondly, the One To Watch award, which is given to a rising-star venue with the potential to break into the World’s 50 Best Hotels list in future years and is the only award that is selected by the 50 Best team. This award went to The Lodge at Blue Sky, an Auberge Resorts Collection mountain retreat in Utah, USA.
While the list featured properties from large luxury hotel groups, from the Four Seasons to Raffles (owned by the French Accor group), that the top hotel is an independent shows the soul at the heart of the hospitality industry, according to De Santis.
“That this industry recognises the value of a family putting their heart into a hotel is a very positive thing,” she says. “As long as hospitality is a matter of love and people and relationships, that is what matters.”
Along with the camaraderie, the prestigious address – Guildhall has hosted the annual Lord Mayor’s Banquet since 1502 and remains the centre of government in the City of London today – with its Gothic grandeur of soaring arched ceilings, stained glass windows and ornate statues added glamour to the event.
50 Best no doubt hopes to make the World’s 50 Best Hotels list, which enters an already crowded field of hotel “best of” awards, as influential as its World’s 50 Best Restaurants and Bars lists, which launched in 2002 and 2009 respectively.