The kickoff, a lavish black-tie gala for Five-Star honorees, drew the hospitality industry’s top players, who represented more than 60 countries, along with some surprise A-list guests. TV host and celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz and actor and hotelier Robert De Niro (of Nobu Hospitality) were among those in attendance in The Pierre’s Grand Ballroom on March 1.
De Niro charmed the crowd of more than 350 people when he took to the glass lectern to share funny anecdotes and introduce Forbes Travel Guide CEO Gerard J. Inzerillo, the evening’s host.
There was plenty of other star power in the room that evening. Hospitality icons Steve Wynn (fresh off of a big win with his brand-new Wynn Macau nabbing six Five-Star awards for its hotel, four restaurants and spa) and Horst Schulze (founder of the Ritz-Carlton brand and chairman and CEO of Capella Hotel Group) were featured speakers.
Then there was the cadre of Five-Star chefs, including Daniel Boulud; William Bradley of Addison Restaurant in San Diego; Patrick O’Connell of The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia; and Erna Kubin-Clanin of Erna’s Elderberry House Restaurant in Oakhurst, California.
As guests dined on butter-poached Maine lobster, roasted tournedo and braised short rib, and a dessert trio of lemon olive oil cake, baked Alaska and Valrhona dark chocolate parfait pops, the ebullient Inzerillo brought the new Five-Star winners to the stage to recognize their efforts. There are only 175 Five-Star recipients worldwide.
“To attend this prestigious event in such a vibrant city with superb venues and surrounded by industry heroes was incredibly exciting and emotional,” says John Autelitano, general manager of The Darling, a first-time Five-Star hotel in Sydney.
“It really brought it home to me that we are a close, albeit global, community. I treasured the opportunity to be in the esteemed company of several friends and colleagues I had worked with — and indeed learned from — around the world,” Autelitano says. “To be able to listen to and mix with inspirational industry leaders such as Horst Schulze, Steve Wynn, Jerry Inzerillo and [Indian Hotels Company Limited CEO] Rakesh Sarna was an immense personal and professional honor for me.”
The celebration also was a memorable one for The Pierre team, which got to showcase its Five-Star offerings to peers from around the globe. “I would like to express my sincere gratitude on behalf of the entire team at The Pierre for giving us the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host the Forbes 2017 Global Star Awards,” says hotel manager Christian Hommerich. “The whole experience from planning to execution was very special for us and a tremendous source of motivation for our entire team.”
The March 2 events began with the annual Symposium, where Five-Star, Four-Star and Recommended winners came to the Grand Ballroom to get the inside scoop on developments at Forbes Travel Guide. They saw a demonstration on Star Coach, our new groundbreaking training app; learned how to showcase a property’s unique personality with Jeff Wielgopolan, our vice president of Learning & Development; had a sneak peek of the new redesign for ForbesTravelGuide.com; and found out the areas we will rate in 2018 (the list includes Jamaica, Panama, Vienna, Amsterdam, Madrid, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Marrakech and Chengdu).
Microsoft Hospitality also discussed the hotel room of the future, Autism Speaks shared ways hotels can be more accommodating to families with autistic children and PressReader touched on digital content at hotels.
That evening, the festivities moved over to The St. Regis New York, where guests were able to mingle in a more intimate setting for the All-Star Celebration. The cocktail party stretched across a series of rooms, which were lined with stations from Jose Garces’ Amada; Christian Pratsch’s Asiate; Daniel Boulud’s Daniel; Mario Batali and Joe and Lidia Bastianich’s Del Posto; Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Jean-Georges; Geoffrey Zakarian’s The Lambs Club; and Michael White’s Vaucluse. The delectable gourmet bites ranged from indulgent pastrami sandwiches to tender crab dumplings.
Many gravitated to the room with the live band, dance floor and a striking seafood bar made of carved ice blocks that was teeming with lobster, shrimp and more. They also found their way to the dessert room, which Valrhona filled with chocolate treats, from Five-Star-logoed truffles to oversized chocolate sculptures.
After the two-day celebration, guests left feeling energized.
“The recognition by a professional and serious organization such as Forbes means a lot to me as well as to the team at the hotel. It feels a little bit like going to the Oscars,” says Christoph Schmidinger, regional vice president and general manager of Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, which picked up four Five-Star awards for its hotel, two restaurants and spa. “It is always very nice to meet hoteliers from around the world.”
Being among fellow innkeepers was also a high point for Clive Edwards, general manager of The Villas at Ayana Resort Bali, which made its Five-Star debut. “The actual event was goose-bump-inducing to have the icons of the industry and your peers in excellence from across the globe in truly amazing resorts producing life-changing guest experiences,” Edwards says. “However, it was the feeling, the feeling of camaraderie and family during the nights’ proceedings that tied everything together.”
“A first-time win feels good and we are inspired to remain one,” Edwards says. “That opportunity lights our fire because of what Forbes represents: the ultimate benchmark of excellence.”