By Andrea Bennett| September 13, 2017 |
Wynn Resorts have received a record number of stars from the Forbes Travel Guide, but how are those stars earned? A beautiful hotel is just the beginning.
Encore at Wynn Macau earned a Five Star rating from Forbes Travel Guide once again in 2017.
This year, among the 175 hotels in the world with a five star rating from the Forbes Travel Guide, Wynn Macau set a record: In the city with the most Forbes Five Star hotels (Macau has 10, rivaled only by Paris), Wynn Macau earned eight Five Star ratings, for its hotel, spa, and four restaurants—the only resort on earth to receive so many. Add that number to the 13 Five Star ratings for Wynn Las Vegas, and Wynn Resorts can now say it has more Forbes Five Star awards than any other independent hotel company on the planet. It’s an impressive feat, to be sure, but what does it mean exactly?
For hotels, says Steve Wynn, “It isn’t as simple as just putting up a sign at the front desk that says we have five stars.” Rather, the honor is multidimensional. It requires that a hotel spend more money to offer its guests more luxury (and charge commensurate rates). But it also gets bragging rights, whose value is more difficult to calculate. For travelers trying to navigate a hypercompetitive industry, with online travel sites devising their own ratings to sell rooms, the many different star systems had lost their meaning, says Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of Forbes Travel Guide. “People buy what is advertised to be four- or five- or even seven-star experiences and have been terribly let down.”
Il Teatro at Wynn Macau has been awarded five stars from Forbes Travel Guide for four years running.
To remedy what Inzerillo calls the industry’s “trust problem,” three years ago the guide reconfigured its goal. “We’ve expanded Forbes Travel Guide as a model of a transparent, global meritocracy,” he says. The company now vets hotels in 42 countries by sending anonymous inspectors for two-night stays, during which they assess the hotel against a set of up to 890 standards, which Amanda Frasier, Forbes Travel Guide’s Senior Vice President of Ratings, says are always evolving. The mystery guests then send their reports to corporate headquarters, where a proprietary algorithm—heavily weighted toward service at a surprising 75 percent, with facilities contributing 25 percent—is used to determine the star rating. “Which is not to say that the facility is not important, since the facility is what qualifies you to be evaluated in the first place,” Frasier says. Adds Inzerillo, “Emotional connectivity is not derived by the square footage of a bathroom. What people remember is, Was I looked after? Did I feel comfortable? Was I entertained?”
Though Steve Wynn’s many stars now stretch from Las Vegas to Macau, he might say his operating philosophy was solidified in Reno, Nevada, in 1973. “I made a reservation at the Harrah’s on Virginia Street, a downtown hotel in Reno that’s bare-bones,” he recalls, which was then owned by its founder, Bill Harrah. “And when I pulled up my rental car to the curb, it felt like pulling up to the Plaza.” A young man greeted him immediately, giving him a phone number to call at any time, and a front desk attendant welcomed him by name and told him that his room had been upgraded. Those who have read the hundreds of Forbes checklist items will recognize several points that the hotel would have earned within minutes. And if the carpet didn’t make a lasting imprint, the service did. “I hadn’t even made it to the room yet, but I’m dazzled,” Wynn says. “And I make up my mind that that’s what I want with my employees. What the hell were they feeding these kids? How did they get that warmth? Now there’s luxury.”
Mizumi at Wynn Macau was elevated from a Four Star to a Five Star rating for the first time this year. Shown here: Japanese Yaeyama Wagyu beef from the restaurant's teppanyaki menu.
What separates Forbes Five Star resorts from other merely excellent facilities, Inzerillo says, is their willingness to act on information. As Maurice Wooden, President of Wynn Las Vegas, says, “Forbes gives us a report, and then they sit down with all the people who get those reports and take them through the experiences. We get to recognize employees who scored well for their exemplary service, and develop new ways to train people to make sure that they’re up to discipline.” Frasier notes that Wynn has opted for additional incognito inspections and more frequent reports than other resorts.
Wing Lei at Wynn Las Vegas is the Forbes Travel Guide's only Five Star Chinese restaurant in North America.
“What Steve is doing is doubling down on service,” Inzerillo says. “Even though he’s the market leader in every city, he’s saying, ‘As good as we are, we have to get better.’” But training wouldn’t be enough if employees didn’t believe they belonged there, he says. “People ask me what the common denominator is among the world's 175 Five Stars. What sets them apart is that employees know their contribution is meaningful. Steve believes something I’ve been saying for 30 years: The best hotel is one driven by a service culture and built on the self-esteem of its staff—which translates into keeping its promise to its guests. And that’s why it’s so special.”