Every year when the big travel magazines publish their readers’ polls, I feel even better about the service we’re providing here at Luxury Latin America. Not because sometimes our picks are on their lists, but because I see how laughably out of whack these polls can be.
I know they’re a joke for two reasons.
1) If you’ve ever actually gone in and tried to fill out one of these polls from Travel & Leisure or Conde Nast Traveler, you know that’s two hours of your life you’ll never get back. So the people who travel enough to really know what’s best – the ones who have really stayed at five or six hotels in the same city to evaluate them in comparison to each other – are not going to take their valuable time to do these surveys.
2) There’s a huge amount of ballot stuffing going on. The people who DO take all that time to fill these out often have a vested interest in the outcome. Whoever can assemble the biggest team of voters will win, or at least rank highly. That explains why so many resort are rated close to perfect. Not even counting all the “Please vote for us” pleading I get in my e-mail box each year, I’ve gotten the dirt from close friends who used to do PR for hotels. In many PR firms and hotel chains, every employee gets a subscription to the magazines at their house so they can vote for their clients in the annual polls. Sure, some famous places can rank highly without this help, but it’s much harder: the equivalent of an indie rock darling band winning at the Grammys. (Yes, music companies ballot-stuff too: I spent seven years as one of the stuffers.)
Many of this year’s top hotels in the Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards are just simply baffling. The “top hotels in Mexico” is a list that most of my well-traveled writers would take one look at and laugh. Las Mañanitas in Cuernavaca is nice, and sometime in the next few months we’ll finally get around to reviewing it, but there are at least 30 better city hotels in Mexico than that. Many guests consider it overpriced and overhyped for what you really get. Villa Premiere in Puerto Vallarta #2? J.W. Marriott in Mexico City #3? No way. Hats off to their get out the vote campaigns.
The resort choices are not as baffling though, so here are the top 5 with links to our reviews. In my view you could shuffle the order of these five and it would still be a good list: all of them are top-notch places to stay, with great service and facilities. The list starts falling apart when you get down further though, so I’m stopping here.
I’m not going to go into the Central and South America results—there are fewer head-scratchers on those lists, especially for resorts. If you want to see all the results from every part of the world, follow this link.
Take a look at a few places you know well. How do these match up to your experience?