Source = Virtuoso L to R: Rebecca Soloff, Director of Sales & Marketing at The Lowell hotel, New York with Fay Cohen, Principal of Sydney-based travel agency TravelPhase World’s Most Prestigious Hotels and Hospitality rofessionals Honored at Virtuoso’s 24th Annual Conference Leading luxury travel network, Virtuoso®, proudly announced this year’s winners of the prestigious “Best of the Best” hotel awards last week at its 2012 ‘Virtuoso Travel Week’ conference, taking place at the Bellagio in Las Vegas from August 12–17. The awards drew a record crowd of 1,450 people, including some of the biggest names in hospitality as well as the travel agency community. On hand to reveal the recipients during the Hotels & Resorts Dinner were Virtuoso Chairman and CEO, Matthew D. Upchurch; Virtuoso President and COO Kristi Jones; and, Virtuoso Vice President of Hotels, Destinations & Tours, Albert Herrera. In addition to being feted for the evening, “Best of the Best” award winners will be featured in the September/October 2012 issue of VIRTUOSO LIFE magazine (www.virtuosolife.com), reaching 200,000 upscale, world travellers. This year marks a significant achievement for Virtuoso, which is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its renowned Hotels & Resorts Program. The first of its kind, this program was created to further serve the needs of Virtuoso’s member agencies and their clientele, now ranking as the most prestigious and longest-running hotel program in the industry. Twenty years later, the group possesses an amazing portfolio of 975 hotels, resorts, villas and private island retreats in 90 countries, all reinforcing its status as an industry trailblazer and trusted innovator. For six years running, Virtuoso has reviewed its collection of world-class properties and hospitality professionals, both continuously setting new standards within the luxury travel industry.“This year celebrates a truly exceptional milestone for Virtuoso’s Hotels & Resorts Program,” said Herrera. “As the network has continued to progress and grow to accommodate the changing needs of the affluent traveler, our Hotel Program has continued to evolve over the past 20 years to better serve our membership and adapt to consumer demand. What started as a means of supporting our cruise products has turned into the industry’s most respected and most experiential hotel program. More than half the hotels in our portfolio consist of 100 rooms or less, ensuring a more intimate feel for travelers, and we have the most robust amenity program in the industry, offering Virtuoso guests up to $450 in value per each stay.”Herrera continued, “With a portfolio this varied and impressive, it creates a highly competitive landscape. Those recognized with a ‘Best of the Best’ award by our talented and well-versed travel advisors represent the finest hotels and professionals within this esteemed group and truly define the highest level of luxury hospitality.”Editors of VIRTUOSO LIFE, the Virtuoso network’s multi-award-winning flagship magazine, initially determined the nominees in ten categories that ranged from most innovative guest experience to top hotel and hotelier of the year. Ultimately, it was the network’s elite travel advisors who carefully selected the winners. Award categories and recipients follow:Best Achievement in Design: Park Hyatt Sydney, AustraliaSetting a new benchmark in contemporary luxury, the iconic Park Hyatt Sydney recently underwent the largest and most comprehensive renovation in its 21-year history. The outcome of this dramatic transformation includes architecturally designed guests rooms that feature floor-to-ceiling glass that open onto private balconies overlooking the property’s coveted harbor-front location, luxurious new interiors and furnishings, designer lighting, as well as the latest technology throughout. The revamped hotel also introduces a variety of renowned Australian artists’ work that was created especially for the space.Best Culinary Experience: Sur Mesure at Mandarin Oriental, Paris, FranceAward-winning chef, Thierry Marx, presents a complete sensory experience for gourmands. White interiors dominate the space and acts as a blank canvas for a true culinary experience involving sight, sound and taste. With each dish he aims for a profound personal response, with menu highlights including soy and oyster black truffle risotto and sweet bento and Ylang-ylang.Best Bar: £10 at Montage Beverly Hills, CaliforniaAt £10, guests will enjoy the finest spirits, complemented by handcrafted cocktails composed of the freshest ingredients. Tucked discreetly above the property’s restaurant, Scarpetta, £10 welcomes experienced connoisseurs to an intimate but convivial social atmosphere. The lounge specializes in the world’s most precious whiskey, The Macallan Single Malt, and offers its guests an authentic and charming bar experience with its dark woods, fine art and one of the most extensive collections of Lalique crystal.Best Family Program: Four Seasons Resort, Punta Mita, MexicoAn ideal destination for families of all sizes and generations, Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita offers many experiences that will make the vacation truly memorable for the whole crew. In addition to boasting some of the best snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, surfing and golf in the world, the resort also offers activities that range everywhere from horseback riding, tie-dye and t-shirt painting, to salsa dancing. Little ones will be entertained for hours at the ‘Kids for All Seasons’ program facilities, which include a playroom as well as an outdoor playground.Best Spa: Spa My Blend by Clarins, Le Royal Monceau – Raffles Paris, France The Spa My Blend by Clarins at Le Royal Monceau is a unique site of luxury and well-being, spread over a 16,145-square-foot space that was conceived by well-known French designer, Philippe Starck. Rest areas include a hammam, laconium room and sauna, all creating a temple of individualized luxury and well-being.Most Innovative Guest Experience: Las Ventanas al Paraiso, a Rosewood Resort, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico With a wide assortment of activities, Las Ventanas al Paraiso can tailor an itinerary fit for any traveler. For cooking enthusiasts, the resort’s ‘Challenge the Chef’ culinary program gives guests the opportunity to prepare an original dish for Executive Chef Fabrice Guisset, who then judges their talent. If the meal is a success, the winner is honored by having his or her dish added to the resort menu – with full credit as the star chef.Most Socially Responsible: Lefay Resort and SPA Lago di Garda, Gargnano, Italy Lefay Resort and SPA Lago di Garda is the flagship property of the Lefay Resorts Collection. Located in Gargnano, Northern Italy, one of the most picturesque villages on Lake Garda, the property’s philosophy is that personal wellness is strictly connected to environmental wellness. The resort has been designed and created in order to implement environmentally sustainable practices using the latest technologies and renewable alternative energies.One to Watch: Amanruya, Bodrum, TurkeyLocated in Turkey on the Aegean coast, Amanruya is inspired by the region’s traditional architecture and creates the intimate ambience of a village while still providing a sense of space and luxury. The property offers a true escape with its 36 elegant Pool Terrace Cottages, each with a private garden and pool.Hotelier of the Year: Danilo Zucchetti, Villa d’Este, Cernobbio, ItalyDanilo Zucchetti brings many decades of experience in hospitality, both in Italy and internationally. Prior to joining Villa d’Este, he was Director of the Hotel Bauer and Il Palazzo in Venice. He also collaborated in the openings of Four Seasons’ Berlin and Tokyo properties. Danilo’s professional philosophy as a hotelier is to always see the property from the perspective of the guest in order to meet and exceed their expectations. Hotel of the Year: The Beverly Hills Hotel, The Dorchester Collection, California Beloved by entertainment royalty, a haven for the world’s famous, and now a century-old landmark, Dorchester Collection’s Beverly Hills Hotel opened before the city of Beverly Hills was officially incorporated and signaled the birth of the community. From the iconic Polo Lounge, recognized as the place to see-and-be-seen by the city’s power dining elite, to the historic bungalows that have welcomed Hollywood royalty, the “Pink Palace” has become a cherished second home to generations of entertainment elite.Virtuoso Travel Week brings together more than 1,800 travel advisors from Virtuoso’s elite travel agency members in 20 countries, as well as executives from the network’s more than 1,250 preferred travel providers – hotels/resorts/spas, private islands, villas, cruise lines & private yacht companies, tour operators, airlines and private jet companies, tourism boards and many specialty operators. Approximately 4,000 of the most prominent players in luxury travel attend.