For the 10th consecutive year, Global Traveler recognizes the best of the best in the industry, naming 2020’s Airline of the Year and Hotel of the Year.
Technology and the travel industry constantly evolve, and every travel provider adjusts and strives to keep up to be the best to satisfy travelers’ needs and wishes.
With everything going on this past year, travel paused for a couple of months but is picking back up with new precautions and protocols in place. Now, travelers look for places and companies that handled the pandemic promptly, instilled the best cleaning procedures and continue to follow the ever-changing rules and regulations during this uncertain time.
This year United Airlines and Hilton Hotels exceeded these expectations to stand out among other brands in the industry. Both brands go above and beyond in order to ensure a safe and clean environment for their customers. United and Hilton listened to guests’ and passengers’ concerns, adapting and making changes in order to instill confidence in returning to travel.
To award the prestigious honor each year, a select group of Global Traveler staff and Advisory Board members choose the winners through a series of considerations and factors. They look at each nominee’s financial information, performance records, loading and boarding time, safety procedures, onboard menus and overall image as a brand.
AIRLINE OF THE YEAR 2020
In 1926 Walter T. Varney started Varney Airlines, which soon became United Airlines. On April 6, 1926, Leon Cuddeback piloted United’s first flight from Pasco, Washington, to Boise, Idaho, in a Swallow biplane.
In 1984 United Airlines became the first to fly to all 50 states with the addition of new routes to Wyoming and Mississippi. United Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Canada, SAS and Thai International founded Star Alliance in 1997, the first global airline alliance.
United continued as one of the top airlines, dedicated to updating its services and customer experience throughout the changing industry. In 2016 United introduced its most significant update in years, United Polaris. The premium service features a reimagined pre-flight lounge experience, spacious onboard seating with abundant storage, new amenities and dining options, privacy for a restful sleep and more.
United Airlines is currently focused on its policies and cleaning techniques to make sure it’s safe for passengers to fly. In May United announced United CleanPlus, its partnership with Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic, bringing together the most trusted brand in surface disinfection, Clorox, and the country’s top medical professionals to help guide its new cleaning, safety and social distancing protocols.
These days, the only constant in our lives is change. In recognition of that reality, United Airlines recently announced it permanently eliminated change fees on all economy and premium cabin tickets for travel within the United States. “Change is inevitable these days — but it’s how we respond to it that matters most. When we hear from customers about where we can improve, getting rid of this fee is often the top request,” said Scott Kirby, CEO, United Airlines.
United Airlines responded to the current pandemic, from changing cleaning policies and adding a mandatory onboard mask policy to eliminating fees and offering rapid COVID-19 testing to passengers on select flights. In recognition of this dedication, we are pleased to name United Airlines Airline of the Year 2020.
HOTEL OF THE YEAR 2020
It all started in 1919, when Conrad Hilton bought his first hotel. Since then, Hilton led the industry with an innovative approach to products, amenities and service. Hilton stands as the stylish, forward-thinking global leader of hospitality, working hard to create the best overall experience for guests.
Since its inception, Hilton incorporated innovation into its properties. In 1927 Hilton opened Hilton Waco, the first Hilton hotel with running water and air-conditioning. In 1947 the Roosevelt Hilton in New York was the first hotel to put televisions in guestrooms. Hilton was the first brand to introduce a multi-hotel reservation system, in 1948, jump-starting the modern- day reservation system. And in 2008 Hilton Vancouver Washington made history as the first hotel to earn both LEED and Green Seal certification. These are just a few of Hilton’s many firsts and reasons it has stood at the top of the industry for years.
Operating properties in more than 100 countries and territories, the Hilton portfolio includes 18 distinct brands offering a variety of ideal experiences for all types of travelers and occasions.
With COVID-19 threatening the travel industry for most of the year, Hilton has worked hard, listening to customers’ needs in order to make them feel safe and comfortable while staying at any of its properties. All properties increased the frequency of cleaning public areas, use hospital-grade disinfectant and set up hand sanitizer dispensers around the properties. Hilton teamed with RB, the maker of Lysol and Dettol, for its new Hilton CleanStay program. Guests can expect contactless check-in and check-out, guestroom access with a digital key using the Hilton Honors app, disinfecting wipes in all guestrooms and more.
Throughout the pandemic, Hilton has shown commitment not only to its guests but also its employees by connecting displaced team members to short-term jobs created by the pandemic.
Hilton realizes travelers are eager to get back to exploring the world and recently joined the “Let’s Go There” campaign. This campaign encourages travelers to plan for a future vacation and lets them know the travel industry will be there for them when they are ready to come back. Over the next couple of months, Hilton commits to helping travelers plan their dream future vacation and make memories of a lifetime.
We are delighted to recognize Hilton’s commitment to service with the designation of Hotel of the Year 2020.
I imagine that when writer Hans Christian Andersen mused, “Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale,” he was standing at the edge of Copenhagen’s historic Tivoli Gardens, one of his favorite haunts, enlivened by the swirl of human happiness that surrounded him: children laughing; carousels spinning; games of chance played for prizes; lovers holding hands; hungry people whispering over sweets, hot drinks, beer and towering, open-faced smørrebrød, Denmark’s quintessential sandwich. That fairy tale lives on today at the second-oldest amusement park in the world, a spectacle of folly architecture, bakeries, gardens, rides, restaurants, puppet shows and joy ... and which also happens to be one of the city’s most storied places to convene for business.
The Global Business Travel Association’s (GBTA) Convention 2021 will be unlike any other convention before it, as we come together in person for the first time since the business travel industry drastically changed and look forward to rebuilding and reshaping the future. GBTA Convention 2021 will bring all of us together to learn from experts and each other, in-person at Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, Nov. 17–19. The safety of our attendees is our top priority. View health and safety protocols.
The restored Park Hyatt Toronto reopened its doors, bringing luxury, sophistication and glamour alongside a nod to the hotel’s Canadian heritage. Alessandro Munge of Studio Munge collaborated on the hotel’s refresh, drawing inspiration from Canada’s seasons and natural landscapes.
I recently dined at Irwin’s in Philadelphia. The restaurant is located on the rooftop of the Bok Building, a former school turned collective of small businesses, non-profits, artist workshops, a bar and restaurant. I previously visited Bok for the bar and yoga classes, and I was excited to experience the restaurant.
Without a doubt, the pandemic changed the role of airports in the travel industry. Hamad International Airport’s role evolved in many ways since the pandemic hit. Now, more than ever, airports are responsible for creating a secure passenger experience. As the gateway to Qatar and the world, the safety and wellbeing of staff and passengers has always been at the core of Hamad International Airport’s strategy.
The Global Business Travel Association, the world’s largest business travel and meetings trade organization, recently released a statement from GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang regarding the Biden administration’s recent announcement that the U.S. travel ban will be relaxed in November for vaccinated travelers from 26 Schengen countries, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Arriving early afternoon in Puerto Rico, we jumped in an Uber and took a short, 15-minute drive from the airport to La Concha. As it was Tuesday, the streets were not too busy and the hotel lobby was calm. During the weekend, the scene likely would have been more bustling. We were greeted by a staff member who requested proof of vaccination and government-issued ID, and were given a wristband to indicate we were fully vaccinated. All guests are required to be vaccinated and wear masks at all times while moving around the hotel. Hand sanitizer stations were placed around the lobby, in elevators and in each common area.
Since its prestige for attracting the world elite grew in the 1960s, Greece remains the go-to destination for glittering holidays. Each step of the journey is enrobed in luxury, from culinary traditions with the highest standard of execution and name-brand, high-end shopping to first-rate wellness locales and elite accommodations, like 5-star hotels, private villas and yachts.
The Rittenhouse has long stood out as one of Philadelphia’s finest hotels, centrally located in one of the city’s poshest neighborhoods. Needless to say, I knew I was in for an afternoon of luxurious pampering when I hopped in my car and headed down I-95 from my suburban home to the heart of the City of Brotherly Love. As I drove through the seemingly endless roadwork on the highway, I realized just how long it had been since I’d driven this once-familiar route into the city as a result of the pandemic. Of course I was eager for the relaxation and bliss that was in my future, but it was also a welcome feeling to head back into Philadelphia for a moment of normalcy.