The Forbes Travel Guide, the only independent global rating system for luxury hotels, restaurants and spas, will feature South African properties for the first time in its 2020 edition.


Ten luxury hotels (eight in Cape Town and two in Johannesburg) will be assessed by a team of incognito inspectors this year, with the results revealed when the 2020 Forbes Travel Guide is published in Las Vegas in February. "South Africa is filled with amazing properties, so it's about time that we are here," comments Houston-based Senior VP Learning & Development, Jeff Wielgopolan


The company has opened an office in Cape Town and has appointed Fedhasa Cape Chairman Jeff Rosenberg as VP Partner Services in Africa, tasked with educating the local market about the benefits of the Forbes Travel Guide. He says the plan is to expand regionally in sub-Saharan Africa. Forbes' Dubai office will also assess luxury Indian Ocean properties for the first time this year.


"What makes the Forbes Travel Guide special is that we are the only global authority on luxury service. Our ratings create a sense of trust amongst luxury consumers as they know what to expect," says Wielgopolan. In 2019, Forbes inspected more than 2 500 hotels, restaurants and spas in 60 countries in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. Of these, 1 600 properties were star-rated, including 210 five-star hotels and 534 four-star hotels, while 362 properties were recommended.


Hotels cannot apply to be rated. Instead, Forbes identifies suitable properties and informs them of their shortlisting, and evaluators conduct an anonymous inspection according to 520 set standards. Explains Rosenberg: "We evaluate 75% on service and 25% on facilities, so the big emphasis is on a gracious, anticipatory, intangible level of service." Once the rating is announced, successful properties are listed free on the Forbes Travel Guide website. Properties can then choose to become a global partner, which gives them access to the details of their score rating.


The Forbes Travel Guide, in partnership with, has also launched a training programme in South Africa with the aim of raising the bar on luxury service standards in the country. Master classes for hoteliers were held in Cape Town and Johannesburg recently. Forbes offers on-site training, supported by 40 videos developed with to offer continuous training covering all aspects of the guest experience. "A unique aspect of our training is that there is no set module when we work with a property. It's a very bespoke programme. Our goal is to never turn a hotel into a carbon copy. We work together to extract the unique personality of a property," says Wielogopolan. 


He shares the following insider tips on service excellence:

* Always be the first to greet/acknowledge a guest - you have the power to make them feel important

* Smile and be engaged: You can learn a lot about a guest by being observant

* Show appreciation

* Show genuine interest

* Be thoughtful and intuitive - anticipate your guests' needs

* Make the guest experience personal - make people feel connected

* Know your job and be confident - you are the expert.