Why you should never trust a travel magazine's Reader's Choice Awards
Every year, usually around this time, top travel magazines (many that I write for) and travel websites reveal their Reader's Choice Awards, which is a selection of the best hotels, resorts, cities and airlines, according to the reader. Ever wonder why the most random hotels always make this list? Because the readers vote. If a hotel can get enough people to vote for them, they have better chances of getting on that list.
The system works a little like how American Idol did. The viewers text to vote to determine who goes on to the next round. If a particular, not-so-great singer can get a million people to vote, not only from fans but family/friends and their family/friends who don't even watch the show, they could get past the amazing singer who only got 500,000 votes.
Any hotel can campaign or take the extra step (like sending out an e-mail blast) to get people to vote for them, even if they're definitely not the best hotel in the world. So, when you read a Reader's Choice Awards in a travel magazine, understand it doesn't mean the hotel is luxurious by industry standards and experts, it just managed to get a lot of votes. This also doesn't mean the hotel is NOT luxurious—a lot of these hotels get votes on merit—but it explains why some of the hotels that don't seem to belong get on this list. I am ALL FOR Reader Choice Awards, but it's important to clarify the "behind the scenes." If you're looking for BEST OF THE BEST in luxury travel, go with a "Best of" list, which is usually agreed upon by a panel of experts.
A good example of how this works: in a top travel magazine, Santa Fe was voted as the number one destination of the year because it got 65 percent of votes in an online survey. Only one million people visit Santa Fe a year, compared to, say, Miami, which gets 13 million visitors a year. Do the math. The fact Santa Fe was voted number-one destination is because a good majority of the readers who have visited and liked it coincidentally did the online survey, whereas people who travel to Miami did not do the survey (otherwise, Miami would have been voted number one). This is why voting for a hotel, destination or restaurant is SO important because popularity unfortunately and actually works (see: Trump election).
Also, you'll find many non-luxurious hotels on Reader's Choice Awards because not everyone can afford luxury hotels, therefore they don't stay in them, therefore they don't vote for them.