When it comes to luxury hotels, it seems we’re no longer all that impressed with thread counts, spa sizes, plate-sized shower heads, and other things the hotel marketing people obsess about. It’s more intangible than that – service matters most.

That’s the finding of a new hotel satisfaction survey from J.D. Power and Associates. This quote from spokesperson Linda Hirneise says it all.

“With the hotel industry rapidly approaching product and price parity, the key differentiator between a good hotel experience and a truly outstanding experience is the quality of service delivered by the hotel staff,” said Hirneise. “Staff-related problems are controllable, and significant problems with staff make it difficult, if not impossible, to deliver great service and high levels of satisfaction. Hotels have dedicated tremendous resources for renovations and improvements of their properties in efforts to improve satisfaction, but all of this may be for naught if service excellence is remiss.”

That’s what our experienced travel writers are looking at most closely when they review hotels for Luxury Latin America. A hotel can bombard you with an amenity list that’s 10 pages long, but that hotel can still be shown up by a 10-room B&B down the street if the service is lax.

In other key findings, Ritz-Carlton was cited as the top luxury chain and younger guests are clamoring to stay at hotels that are trying to reduce their impact on the environment.