Hurricane Sandy couldn't stop it. Even a nor'easter didn't keep people at home. During an interlude when Mother Nature tried to show everyone who's boss, Premier Traveler magazine's Best of 2012 Gala, hosted by Editor-in-Chief Ally Miola and Publisher Linda Vaughan, carried on in style last night at the stunning Sofitel Los Angeles.
More than 10,000 Premier Traveler magazine readers, some of the world's most demanding travelers, selected the airlines, hotels and services that add a touch of glamour, efficiency, even bliss to their time on the road. Last night honored these top performers, with Air Canada,Andaz, Park Hyatt, South African Airways and Priority Club Rewards among the year's biggest winners.
In addition to celebrating the year's victors, the event kicked off Premier Traveler's annual fundraising efforts to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of New York, with actor Chad Michael Murray speaking to the audience about the organization's work. Calli Kalman and her father Frank Kalman also addressed the audience, sharing their personal experience at the RMDH. Calli has battled cancer for half of her life, since the age of 12, but Frank proudly told the audience that because of the treatment they were able to receive in New York, his daughter has thrived and recently married the "love of her life." Patrick Khoury, Senior Director of U.S. Sales at Air Canada, was so moved by this that shortly after the evening's event wrapped up, he offered Calli and her new husband two tickets to anywhere the airline flies.
Air Canada also hits the high note in other ways, according to our readers, as the Best North American Airline for Business-Class Service and the Best North American Airline for International Travel, supported by the Best Flight Attendants in North America. This airline takes an optimistic stance on the future by dedicating resources to customers' comfort. The airline is making "a concerted investment in the international product, with an emphasis on business travel and on-board services," maintains Ben Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, adding lie-flat Executive First® Suites, expanding the selection of seat-back movies and entertainment, as well as placing 37 Boeing 787 Dreamliners on order to maintain top standards for tomorrow.
The unrivaled choice for flying to Africa is South African Airways, voted Best Airline to Africa and Best Airline in Africa. "We know it's a long flight to South Africa," admits Todd Neuman, Executive Vice President, North America, "on which business travelers need to be both comfortable and productive." That's why South African Airways continues to refine its inflight offerings with lie-flat seats, award-winning South African wines, sumptuous meals and extensive entertainment options, delivered, Neuman states, with "our unique brand of South African hospitality."
Now that intimate, well-appointed boutique hotels have become a most agreeable way of life for business travelers on the go, readers chose Andaz as the Best Boutique Hotel Brand."We are incredibly passionate about showing each and every guest who walks through our doors what Andaz and its neighborhoods are all about," avows Tristan Dowell, Director of Brands for Andaz parent company, Hyatt. "Our guests can create the kind of hotel stay they actually want since we include simple things such as Wi-Fi, wine in the Lounge and locally sourced snacks in the minibars." Yet at heart Andaz is about creating experiences that inspire, Dowell maintains, with cultural events like the Andaz Salon series -- evenings with local artists and tastemakers -- running with a trainer through the Hollywood Hills, or a list of 'don't miss' vendors at vibrant Spitalfields market near their London hotel. "As the brand continues to grow in new places like Amsterdam, Maui and Delhi, we look forward to finding ways to enhance the travel experience of our customers who are globally oriented and locally focused."
Andaz's sister brand, Park Hyatt, takes two titles: Hotel Chain with the Best Overall Customer Service and Best Hotel Chain in the World, in large part due to efforts of their staff. "Guests tell us our associates in every corner of the globe 'get it,'" says Dowell. "While every luxury brand offers gorgeous linens, fantastic pillows, beautiful décor, exceptional restaurants and bespoke service, our associates also engage and listen to guests, to understand their personal needs and support them during their stay. We train them to anticipate but not be overbearing; to be thoughtful and approachable. They understand what it means to create a memorable stay and are willing to go to any length to deliver: a chef, for example, taking time to write out a recipe so a guest can share a favorite dish with her children. We are humbled by the commitment of our Park Hyatt teams around the world," Dowell confesses.
And how many hotel loyalty programs include complimentary stays with the competition? InterContinental Hotels Group's Priority Club Rewards, voted Best Hotel Loyalty Program,offers revolutionary plans like Hotels Anywhere, where members may use Priority Club Rewards points at other hotels; flexible features such as Flights Anywhere, NoPoints Expiration and No Blackout Dates; or use points to purchase hundreds of products in the Rewards Catalog. "As the first, largest and fastest-growing hotel loyalty program we are constantly innovating," says Don Berg, Vice President, Loyalty Programs & Partnerships, IHG, "to offer more choices for redeeming points than any other hotel loyalty program in the world."
The November/December issue of Premier Traveler, which highlights the Best of 2012 winners, is available now.