Condé Nast Unveils 2016 Reader's Choice Awards

by Richard D’Ambrosio

The main bar at the Virgin Hotels Chicago, Conde Nast's number one U.S. hotel.

They are the destinations, hotels, island getaways and more that travelers will be discussing for weeks and looking to book. Condé Nast Traveler this week unveiled the results of its 29th annual Readers' Choice Awards, and travel agent phones will be ringing.

Overall, Condé Nast found that luxury, all-inclusive resorts are growing a wider audience, moving beyond the traditional couples market.  The magazine also believes the popularity of Caribbean hotels and resorts in this year’s survey indicates that the region hasn’t suffered as much as people might believe due to this year’s Zika virus scare.

In Europe, Italy remains the number-one destination, while back home in the United States, more travelers are finding the smaller, secondary cities a great vacation alternative. Also, Conde Nast affirms the current trend for vacationers seeking more intimate experiences with travel brands—it found that smaller properties have grown share against global hotel chains.

For the second year in a row, New York City was named the most popular large U.S. city, while Charleston, SC, was named the top small U.S. city for the sixth year in a row. Rounding out the top three large cities were Chicago and San Francisco, while in the small city category, Aspen, CO, came in second, and Santa Fe, NM, came in third.

Tokyo, Kyoto and Florence topped the non-U.S. city category, in that order.

Singapore Airlines, always highly rated in surveys, was the favorite world airline, followed by Virgin America (purchased this year by Alaska Airlines).

On the high seas, the top large cruise line is Disney; readers ranked Crystal Cruises the top midsize line. Seabourn Cruise Line was named the best small cruise line, and the top river cruise line was Grand Circle Cruise Line.

The top U.S. hotel was the Virgin Hotels Chicago. Second most popular U.S. hotel was the 247-room boutique property, The Thompson in Chicago, while third place went to the 146-room Hotel Emma in San Antonio, TX. The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, Saratoga, WY, was ranked the number one U.S. resort.

In Europe, Ballyfin, County Laois, Ireland was named top hotel. In Asia, the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo earned the most votes, while the Hotel Unique, São Paulo, was named top South American hotel. Top safari camp was Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sand, South Africa.

Boracay in the Philippines remains extremely popular, grabbing the top island in the world title, joined by the El Dorado Maroma, Playa del Carmen, for top Mexican resort, and Le Sereno, St. Barths, as top Caribbean beach resort.

The survey received votes from more than 300,000 readers, twice as many as in 2015, according to the magazine. These readers cast votes for 7,394 hotels, 606 cities, 500 cruise ships and 236 islands.

Top 20 World Hotels
1.  Ballyfin, County Laois, Ireland
2.  COMO The Treasury, Perth, Australia
3.  Hotel Matilda, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
4.  Umaid Bhawan Palace (Taj), Jodhpur, India
5.  Summer Lodge Country House Hotel, Dorset, England
6.  Virgin Hotels Chicago, IL
7.  Waterford Castle, County Waterford, Ireland
8.  Hotel Unique, São Paolo, Brazil
9.  The Lodge at Ashford Castle, County Mayo, Ireland
10. Hotel Il Pellicano, Tuscany, Italy
11. Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern, Switzerland
12. Canaves Oia Santorini, Greece
13. Ellerman House, Cape Town, South Africa
14. Thompson Chicago, IL
15. Eccleston Square Hotel, London, England
16. Gibb's Farm, Ngorongoro, Tanzania
17. Chromata Hotel, Santorini, Greece
18. The Dolder Grand, Zurich, Switzerland
19. Hotel Emma, San Antonio, TX
20. Kos Aktis Art Hotel, Kos, Greece

The Readers' Choice Awards are featured in the November issue of Condé Nast Traveler, on newsstands Oct. 25.

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