Forget what you've heard about "chains." The top hotels in the world are proving there is strength in numbers.
By Melanie Lieberman, Travel + Leisure
While the words “hotel chain” may drudge up thoughts of cookie-cutter interiors, dusty bed runners and carpet long overdue for a refresh, the world’s best brands are proving that sharing the same proprietary name doesn’t mean a property is destined to be bland or mediocre.
In fact, the top hotels in the world are proving that there may very well be strength in numbers.
Shared management provides, if nothing else, consistency. Our favorite hotel brands foster loyalty and set reliable standards: guests know they can count on exceptional service, food and beverage programs that will rival the best independent restaurants, and design that conjures a sense of place. You should know exactly where you are just by drifting along the Rosewood Mayakobá’s mangrove-fronted lagoon or lounging in the Four Seasons Hotel Miami’s Art Deco lobby.
A stay at any one of these hotel chains, from the first trademarked Ritz-Carlton property in Boston, launched in 1927, to the hotly-anticipated grand openings set for later this year, could easily banish your fears of brand-name boredom with a single step through the front door, which will inevitably be held open by a cheerful attendant or a bellhop in full regalia.
Oberoi Hotels & Resorts
It should come as no surprise that the No. 1 hotel in the world, The Oberoi Udaivilas, is from the top hotel brand in the world. The Indian palace, situated on the banks of Lake Pichola, is the epitome of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts. Like Udaivilas, all of this brand’s properties are known for extraordinary service, lavish accommodations, and an attention to detail that makes every guest feel like a maharajah. Readers are quick to proclaim, “[I’ve] never met an Oberoi I didn’t just love,” which is probably why the Oberoi Rajvilas and Amarvilas also secured spots as two of the best hotels in the world this year.
Self-proclaimed “Aman junkies” rave about the service and design aesthetic of Aman resorts. Locally sourced materials, breathtaking locations, and inspiration from native cultures have become the trademark of this brand, which began as a single resort in a Thai coconut grove fronting the Andaman Sea. Now there are 29 properties in the company’s portfolio, spanning the globe from Bhutan to Laos and, most recently, the Dominican Republic. In Rajasthan, domed cupolas and verdant gardens define Amanbagh, while the new Aman Tokyo, perched on the top six floors of the Otemachi Tower, boasts zen gardens, ceilings covered in handcrafted washi paper, and omotenashi: Japanese hospitality expressed through citrus fruits gifted for aromatic baths.
The Peninsula Hotels
Asia’s oldest hotel company, dating back to 1866, set the standard for faultless hospitality. Three Peninsula properties made it onto this year’s list of Top 50 Hotels in the World, including the flagship Hong Kong tower, which has been a World’s Best winner for 20 years without pause. Last year, the group welcomed its 10th property, The Peninsula Paris. The City of Light’s newest jewel is a glittering showpiece, located in a 19th-century palace with Belle-Époque gilding and trompe l’oeil frescoes. In typical Peninsula fashion, rooms are at the forefront of technological advancements. Portable tablets control everything from mood lighting to temperature, while television screens have 3D-capabilities.
Rosewood Hotels & Resorts
The Rosewood difference, according to voters, is their uncanny ability to anticipate the needs of its guests. With help from a designated team of Curators (tastemakers the brand has tapped to provide insight into a given destination, ranging from CNN’s Piers Morgan on London to Canada’s own songstress Sarah McLachlan) Rosewood creates unique, evocative experiences around the world. Perhaps the brand’s first foray into China, with the It List-awarded Rosewood Beijing, is to thank for the company’s ascension to the Top 10. There, guests are transported with cultural touchstones such as cast-bronze Jiao Tu dragon sculptures and cloisonné, as well as traditional hotpots with ginger, beef tendon, leeks, and sweet potato at the signature restaurant Red Bowl, helmed by lamb-swishing master Mr. Zhu Qing.
“For as long as Four Seasons continues to delight me the way they do, I will stay a loyal customer,” writes one traveler in our World’s Best Awards 2015 survey. The luxe hotel brand had modest beginnings: a 125-room motor hotel in downtown Toronto. Since then, the brand has expanded exponentially, with 100 properties set to be open by the end of this year. Spoil-worthy service may be the Four Seasons’ most unifying quality (pool attendants with heated towels, on-demand BMWs), but the brand is also known for being family-friendly and accessible. Take the new five-star Four Seasons Resort Orlando, for example. On-site character breakfasts spoil youngsters, while parents can indulge in the spa’s exclusive touch treatment with birchwood massage sticks and hot basalt stones. Our only qualm? There is no Four Seasons loyalty program with which devout guests can express their affection.
St. Regis properties dazzle with thoughtful touches, like fresh flowers in the rooms and live jazz performances. The hallmark St. Regis Butler Service has been in place since Colonel Astor IV debuted the first St. Regis hotel in New York in 1904. Today’s butlers are not unlike a fleet of attentive, refined, generous personal assistants. They’ll unpack and repack your suitcase, deliver your afternoon tea, and press your garments. In Aspen, specialized Ski Butlers will meet you at the gondolas with you equipment and warmed boots.
Even without a loyalty program, family-owned Auberge Resorts’ collection of properties easily entices back guests. The service, food, design, and locations are among the best in the world. This summer, the brand announced it would expand to South America with Hacienda AltaGracia, a series of 50 casitas in the mountains of Costa Rica. Rejuvenation is a key part of the Auberge experience: all the properties possess five-star spas with such amenities as complimentary yoga classes, hot springs, soaking pools, and couples suites. Be sure to book a seasonal treatment featuring indigenous ingredients (Caribbean rum and sugarcane in Anguilla, Cabernet and crushed grapeseeds in Napa) during your stay.
After a major rebranding last year, Orient-Express became Belmond (derived from the Latin for beautiful and world)—to some admitted dismay and confusion from company loyalists. Part hotelier, part travel operator, Belmond has attracted adventurous and luxury-seeking travelers by being the authority in all realms of the travel-sphere. Whether you’re staying in a Belmond resort, sailing on one of their river cruises, or photographing exotic wildlife on a safari, the company is revered for their diversity and attention to detail. Their properties in Italy, Peru, Mexico, South Africa, and Cambodia all snagged spots on Overall and Regional World’s Best lists this year, including the 11th-century palazzo housing Belmond Hotel Caruso.
For more than half a century, this brand has been treating guests like royalty. The Mandarin Oriental’s first property, which debuted in Hong Kong in 1963, set the standard for greatness by being the tallest skyscraper in the city, a masterpiece of black marble, polished wood, and plush velvet. The local landmark remains one of the most adored destinations for locals and luxury travelers alike. Today, fans of the Mandarin Oriental group can experience that world-famous service well beyond Chinese borders. Later this year, Mandarin Oriental will debut new properties in Milan and Marrakech.
Despite reviews from regular Ritz-Carlton guests that some older properties are beginning to show their age, this luxury franchise still made its debut as one of the top hotel brands on Earth. Discerning readers know booking a reservation with the brand ensures a stay in an unbeatable location. In Manhattan, the Ritz rises from the southern edge of Central Park. In the World’s Best City, Kyto, the deferential debut of the modern-day ryokan (the first true luxury property in an ancient capital known for preserving tradition) places 134 guest rooms on the banks of the Kamo River. More than anything, Ritz-Carlton is committed to preserving brand and local legacies. Guests at the aforementioned New York City property are greeted by carriage horses, while many tables at properties around the world are still set with signature cobalt-blue crystal goblets: a nod to the blue Czechoslovakian chandeliers in the original Ritz’s dining hall.
This article was previously published on Travel + Leisure. T+L is a content partner of Fortune.com.