The problem with generic luxury

Jet Set Lara, the blog of an international escort, offers some observations on the generic sameness of many Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons hotels.

    I have a recurring nightmare. In it, I wake up in a hotel room. The bed is perfect with four down pillows, 400 thread count linens, and a 2000 coil pillow top mattress. The clock radio is blaring classical music having been left on as some sort of primitive turf marking by the housekeeping staff. Oh – there is the green/gold bedspread rolled up behind the pale yellow armchair, along with the two overstuffed decorative pillows that will be placed back on the bed when it is made up. Ah yes, there are the faux-tique writing desk and armoire. Rubbing my eyes, I trudge to the bathroom – as I thought – green/brown marble with gold colored fixtures with Federalist era flourishes, a toilet stuffed in its own separate closet, and a glass shower stall with 2 ½ walls of the same marble and lemon verbena amenities by L’Occitane. At this point, I scream “Where am I?”

    The answer is both obvious and illusive. Clearly this is a Four Seasons, but which one? In their zeal to determine what Thomas Jefferson’s bedroom might have looked like if he had had electricity and modern plumbing, Four Seasons has stumbled into the sort of routinized design philosophy embraced by mid-market chains with out the wherewithal to spend tens of millions building a hotel. I can only assume that the Four Seasons interior design team was let go in a corporate downsizing and their last cruel act was to commit the company to a 20 year supply of fake chesterfield TV cabinets fitted with mini-bars.

The author prefers Park Hyatts, which are generally nice. But contra this post, the Park Hyatt isn’t the best hotel in Sydney. It has a great location on the water but otherwise isn’t special. And goodness, if you get a room on the back side of the property? (The best property in Sydney would likely be the Observatory. Honestly I like the Sydney Westin just as much as the Park Hyatt.)

And while the Park Hyatt in Chicago is excellent, it isn’t the best property there.. by a long shot. The Peninsula has the Park Hyatt beat, and the Chicago Pen is probably the worst of the chain.

Still, the author’s taste in Hyatt notwithstanding, luxury does not begin and end with Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton. (On average, I’d say that Four Seasons is superior to the Ritz, but that’s only an average. The Georgetown Ritz is certainly better than the Four Seasons nearby.)

There ARE some wonderful Four Seasons properties. The Four Seasons in Jimbaran Bay and Chiang Mai are amazing. And probably the best City hotel in the world is the Four Seasons George V in Paris.

But it’s true that you have to get beyond these brands if you want real luxury.

For city hotels, check out the Peninsula Bangkok, the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, Grande Bretagne in Athens… in its pre-St. Regis days, the Lanesborough in London.

And for resorts, Aman probably operates the best chain. One and Only has some nice properties. So does Banyan Tree.

Still, there’s a place for the Ritz. They have the best LAX airport hotel, after all 😉 (Marina del Rey.. but only if you have a suite).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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