On January 22, Forbes Travel Guide released its annual list of Four and Five Star award-winning hotels. This year's list includes the most Five Star award-winning hotels in the star ratings' nearly 60-year history, with 97 hotels in the United States, Canada, China, Singapore and the United Kingdom making the cut. In addition, 296 total properties earned Four Star distinction.

To determine each property's rating, Forbes Travel Guide deploys a team of experts to evaluate hotels based on a set of nearly 800 criteria. The inspectors contribute recommendations for ratings by considering findings like impeccable service, engaging staff, high-quality amenities and superior comfort. 

A total of 15 hotels made it onto the Five Star list for the first time this year. Among these newly recognized Five Star properties are several U.S. hotels, including Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford, Calif., El Encanto in Santa Barbara, Calif., Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, Mandarin Oriental in San Francisco, Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort in Miami and The Pierre, A Taj Hotel in New York City.

The Ranch at Rock Creek in Phillipsburg, Mont., also earned Five Star distinction this year, marking the first time a Montana hotel has been awarded the high rating. Multiple new Five Star winners in California helped up the state's total number of Five Star properties to 17 — more Five Star winners than any other state in the U.S.

Neither the United Kingdom nor Singapore saw any new hotels added to their Five Star roster in 2014, but Canada gained three new Five Star rated hotels and China's Five Star total grew by four properties. "This year's growing number of Five Star recipients comes at a time when the outlook for luxury travel remains strong," said Michael Cascone, president of Forbes Travel Guide. "At the core of what we do is recognizing and advocating for properties delivering the best in guest service."

Excellent service and new renovations contributed to the recognition of luxury brands. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has more than tripled its number of Five Star recipients over the past 10 years: Eighteen Four Seasons properties in 11 destinations worldwide earned a spot on the Five Star list. Meanwhile, 10 Mandarin Oriental properties received the Five Star distinction.

Though not quite as illustrious as Five Star ratings, Four Star designations are also reserved for high-quality, well-designed and detail-oriented hotels. In 2014, 27 hotels in the U.S. earned the notable Four Star award for the first time, including The Biltmore in Coral Gables, Fla., Hyatt Union Square in New York City, Sanderling Resort in Duck, N.C., Market Pavilion Hotel in Charleston, S.C., and Hotel Ella in Austin, Texas.

One new Canada hotel — The Magnolia Hotel & Spa in Victoria, British Columbia — was added to the Forbes Four Star list. But Asia's presence on the list grew more significantly, with China earning 11 new nods and Singapore earning three.

In addition to hotels, Forbes Travel Guide assigns star ratings to restaurants and spas in the U.S. Canada, China, Singapore and the U.K. To learn more about the star ratings and to see a complete list of winners, visit the Forbes Travel Guide website.

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