How to Get on Travel + Leisure’s It List

In the U.S. travel media, winning a spot on one of two hotel awards lists — the Travel+Leisure It List and the Condé Nast Traveler Hot List — matters more than any other. T+L just published its 14th list. CNT has been publishing the Hot List for 23 years.

Getting on one of these lists is a big deal for two reason. First, the space is valuable. A single page of advertising in Travel + Leisure, for example, retails for US $170,000. Getting your picture and a glowing review of your hotel, some of which claim a full page, is valuable real estate.

Second, these two lists ranks as the the top two lists in the American media. They’re credible. You can’t buy your way onto the list the way you can so many others. Everyone in the travel industry pays attention to them— travelers, who’re keen to experience something fresh, travel agents and tour operators who want to get their guests into some place singular. Other travel media care about them, too. These two magazines are heavyweights, not only in the US but the world over.

So what’s it take to get on one of these lists? I’ve just read through descriptions of all 19 hotels that made the grade with the T+L editors. Here are my takeaways:

  • Size matters. The smaller, the better. The average number of keys in hotels recognized by the magazine is 83.
  • Make it new. You don’t have to be new construction to be on the It List. Nine of the top 19 hotels are redesigns of old hotels or repurposed buildings.
  • Nostalgia sells. If the building was once a former church, schoolhouse, rectory or hospital, you’re connected to something deeper and more profound than a mere way station for travelers. Something may have happened there, and people want to be part of that.
  • Invoke famous people. The likes of Stanley Kubrick, Merchant & Ivory and Wes Anderson elevate a property’s appeal. Use the people who’ve stayed in the building to elevate the building.
  • Numbers matter. If you spent a lot of money, you’ll impress the editors if you say so. They spent $121 million on a redesign at Belmond Cap Juluca in Anguilla. They spent 17,000 hours restoring a fresco in the Lutetia in Paris.
  • Know what you got. That the walls of your building are clad in bulletwood (whatever that is). That your bannisters are mahogany. That the moldings are made of cypress wood. God lives in the details.
  • Follow the money. The average night’s stay at one of the hotels on this year’s It List was US $816.

What isn’t all that interesting to hotel reviewers are your great ocean views and your great service. They’ll expect you have that.



Jim Sullivan Managing Director
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