1. The Maldives – This is the third year running that the Maldives has been number one in this category, but just when you think the destination can’t get any more luxurious, hoteliers prove you wrong. A clutch of resorts opening late last year took exclusivity up another notch. These range from the St Regis Vommuli Resort, with its manta ray-shaped lagoon villas, and Soneva Jani, where villas have waterslides and retractable roofs so guests can sleep under the stars, to Four Seasons Private Island Maldives at Voavah – the World’s first exclusive-use hideaway with Unesco Biosphere designation.
2. Seychelles – Having been stuck in fourth place for the past 2 years, the Seychelles, unlike one of its giant tortoises, has had a burst of speed and jumped up to two this year. Perhaps that’s something to do with the publicity surrounding the opening of Six Senses Zil Passion on private island Felicite. The resort – nine years in the making, and with just 47 villas – promises ultimate luxury with impeccable eco credentials, so there’s no guilt about treading too heavily on paradise.
3. Dubai – “Everything about Dubai spells luxury” says Medpace’s Lesley Fish. And if seven-star hotels, top-class service and designer shopping is your thing, the emirate is your oyster. Luxury brands clamour to be involved in its hotels, from fashion labels at Palazzo Versace to entertainment franchises at Nikki Beach Resort & Spa.
The plethora of high-end options by the beaches and downtown means there’s a hotel to suit all sorts of clients, from couples and families to young groups and business travellers.
4. Mauritius – Mauritian hotels and service are renowned the world over, and have earned the destination a place in many a luxury lover’s heart.
But recent years have seen a shift from purely hotel-based holiday experiences such as spa treatments and private dining to something a little more Mauritian. Accommodation providers have made concerted efforts to introduce the luxury of authenticity for their guests, with cooking classes, market visits and cultural tours from the likes of Attitude Hotels and Shanti Maurice.
5. Saint Lucia – This Caribbean queen’s natural good looks and surfeit of hotels with beauty and character have helped it hold on to the number-five spot for three years. Some clients fall for sleek and chic beachside properties such as Cap Maison and Calabash Cove, but when it comes to personal choice, Explorer Travel’s Chrissi Knights knows where her own heart lies. “I like a different sort of luxury, so I choose Bucan by Hotel Chocolat, deep in the rainforest”, she says.