The firm is working with the tourism bureau on a strategic plan, and Lunt said that one of the destination’s hurdles has remained the visitor perception of uneven service quality and friendliness. He said the seal of approval from an organization as stringent as the Forbes Travel Guide should help change that image.
For the two hotels that earned the higher rating, the designation was no accident.
Sase Gjorsovski, general manager at Acqualina Resort & Spa, said the 98-room property has devoted itself to service since it opened six years ago. He said the hotel has acted on reports from previous inspections and focused on “emphasizing small touches and always being ahead of the curve and finding creative ways to wow our guests.”
On Tuesday, he called the honor “overwhelming” and said he hadn’t even been able to keep up with the congratulatory emails.
Jorge Gonzalez, general manager of the Mandarin Oriental, Miami and regional vice president for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, learned of the award about a month ago. He broke the news to staffers recentlyduring a fire drill by having a banner plane fly by as they gathered outside.
Speaking from Beverly Hills, where events are being held for the award, Gonzalez said the hotel put together an internal plan last year looking at the approach to coaching, training and developing all members of the staff. They used the spa, which has earned five stars for five years, as an example, and also learned from quarterly Forbes inspection reports.
“The most important part was to create that ownership, attention to detail and accountability from everybody,” he said.
He said customer satisfaction surveys as well as the Forbes rating show that the work paid off.
Mason Hunt, 34, who runs an entertainment company in New York City, stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, Miami recently when he was putting on a show there. Stopping by on Tuesday to pick up the cellphone he left behind, Hunt had fond memories of the stay, raving about the food, the room, the feng shui, the service.
“It deserves seven stars,” he said.