While the words "hotel chain" may drudge up thoughts of cookie-cutter interiors, dusty bed runners and carpets long overdue for a refresh, the world's best brands are proving that sharing the same proprietary name doesn't mean a property is destined to be bland.
The world's top hotel brands foster loyalty and set reliable standards that rival the best independent restaurants and design that conjures a sense of place.
As part of its annual World's Best list, Travel + Leisure magazine asked readers to vote for their favorite hotel chains.
A stay at any one of these top properties could easily banish your fears of brand-name boredom with a single step through the front door — which will inevitably be held open by a cheerful attendant or a bellhop in full regalia.
All of Oberoi's properties are known for extraordinary service, lavish accommodations and attention to detail. Though the bulk of its properties are in India, it has resorts in Indonesia, Dubai, Mauritius, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The Oberoi Amarvilas Agra (pictured) is just 600 meters from India's Taj Mahal.
It should come as no surprise that the top hotel in the world according to T+L readers, The Oberoi Udaivilas, is from the top hotel brand in the world.
The Indian palace, on the banks of Lake Pichola, is the epitome of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts.
Like Udaivilas, all of this brand's properties are known for extraordinary service, lavish accommodations and an attention to detail.
Self-proclaimed Aman junkies rave about the service and design aesthetic of Aman resorts. Locally sourced materials, breathtaking locations and inspiration from native cultures have become a trademark of this brand. Amanyara (pictured) is located in Turks and Caicos.
Self-proclaimed "Aman junkies" rave about the service and design aesthetic of Aman resorts.
Locally sourced materials, breathtaking locations and inspiration from native cultures have become a trademark of this brand, which began as a single resort in a Thai coconut grove fronting the Andaman Sea.
Now there are 29 properties in the company's portfolio, spanning the globe from Bhutan to Laos and, most recently, the Dominican Republic.
In Rajasthan, domed cupolas and verdant gardens define Amanbagh, while the new Aman Tokyo, perched on the top six floors of the Otemachi Tower, has Zen gardens, ceilings covered in handcrafted washi paper and omotenashi — Japanese hospitality expressed through citrus fruits gifted for aromatic baths.
Founded in 1866, Asia's oldest hotel company set the bar high for faultless hospitality. Last year, the group welcomed its 10th property, the Peninsula Paris. The Peninsula Tokyo (pictured) sits across from the Imperial Palace and Hibiya Park.
Asia's oldest hotel company, founded in 1866, set the standard for hospitality.
Three Peninsula properties made it onto this year's T+L list of the Top 50 Hotels in the World, including the flagship Hong Kong tower, which has been a World's Best winner for 20 years without pause.
Last year, the group welcomed its 10th property, The Peninsula Paris.
The Paris property is a glittering showpiece, located in a 19th-century palace with Belle-Epoque gilding and trompe l'oeil frescoes.
In typical Peninsula fashion, rooms are at the forefront of technological advancements.
Portable tablets control everything from mood lighting to temperature, while television screens have 3D capabilities.
The Rosewood difference, according to T+L voters, is the brand's uncanny ability to anticipate the needs of its guests. The Rosewood Mayakoba (pictured) in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, offers 11 different types of suites.
The Rosewood difference, according to T+L voters, is its uncanny ability to anticipate the needs of its guests.
With help from a designated team of curators (taste makers the brand has tapped to provide insight into a given destination, ranging from former CNN host Piers Morgan on London to songstress Sarah McLachlan) Rosewood creates unique, evocative experiences around the world.
Perhaps the brand's first foray into China, with the Rosewood Beijing, is to thank for the company's ascension to the Top 10.
There, guests are transported with cultural touchstones such as cast-bronze Jiao Tu dragon sculptures and cloisonne, as well as traditional hotpots with ginger, beef tendon, leeks and sweet potato at the signature restaurant Red Bowl, helmed by lamb-swishing master Zhu Qing.
5. Four Seasons
Premium pampering may be the Four Seasons most unifying quality (pool attendants with heated towels, on-demand BMWs), but the brand is also known for being family friendly. This includes the Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo (pictured).
"For as long as Four Seasons continues to delight me the way they do, I will stay a loyal customer," writes one traveler in T+L's World's Best Awards 2015 survey.
The luxe hotel brand had modest beginnings: a 125-room motor hotel in downtown Toronto.
Since then, the brand has expanded exponentially, with 100 properties set to be open by the end of this year.
Premium pampering may be the Four Seasons' most unifying quality (pool attendants with heated towels, on-demand BMWs), but the brand is also known for being family friendly and accessible.
Take the new five-star Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Disney World.
On-site character breakfasts spoil youngsters, while parents can enjoy the spa's exclusive touch treatment with birchwood massage sticks and hot basalt stones.
T+L's only qualm?
There's no Four Seasons loyalty program.
6. St. Regis
St. Regis properties dazzle with touches like fresh flowers in the rooms and live jazz performances.
The hallmark St. Regis Butler Service has been in place since Colonel Astor IV debuted the first St. Regis hotel in New York in 1904.
Today's butlers are not unlike a fleet of attentive, refined, generous personal assistants.
They'll unpack and repack your suitcase, deliver your afternoon tea and press your garments.
In Aspen, specialized Ski Butlers will meet you at the gondolas with your equipment and warmed boots.
Auberge Resorts offerers some of the world's best service, food, design and locations, according to T+L readers. The French-inspired, adults-only Auberge du Soleil (pictured) is set in California's Napa Valley.
Even without a loyalty program, family-owned Auberge Resorts' collection of properties easily entices guests back.
The service, food, design and locations are among the best in the world.
Auberge du Soleil in the Napa Valley, which opened in 1981, is the brand's flagship property.
Today, it has nine properties in its collection.
This summer, the brand announced it would expand to South America with Hacienda AltaGracia, a series of 50 casitas in the mountains of Costa Rica.
Rejuvenation is a key part of the Auberge experience.
All the properties have five-star spas with such amenities as complimentary yoga classes, hot springs, soaking pools and couples' suites.
Orient-Express re-branded last year and is now known as Belmond. Whether at a Belmond resort such as Lima, Peru's Belmond Miraflores Park (pictured) or sailing on one of its river cruises, the company is revered by T+L readers for its attention to detail.
After a major rebranding last year, Orient-Express became Belmond (derived from the Latin for "beautiful" and "world").
Part hotelier, part travel operator, Belmond has attracted luxury-seeking travelers by being the authority in all realms of the travel-sphere.
The company is revered for its diversity and attention to detail.
Belmond's properties in Italy, Peru, Mexico, South Africa and Cambodia all snagged spots on T+L's Overall and Regional World's Best lists this year, including the Belmond Hotel Caruso, which is housed in an 11th-century palazzo.
Belmond Hotel Caruso | Piazza San Giovanni del Toro 2, 84010 Ravello Italy
9. Mandarin Oriental
The Mandarin Oriental's first property, which debuted in Hong Kong in 1963, set a standard by being the tallest skyscraper in the city. The historic Mandarin Oriental Bangkok (pictured) has hosted guests such as Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson and Sophia Loren.
The Mandarin Oriental's first property, which debuted in Hong Kong in 1963, set a standard for greatness by being the tallest skyscraper in the city, a masterpiece of black marble, polished wood and plush velvet.
The local landmark remains a popular destination for locals and luxury travelers.
Today, fans of the Mandarin Oriental group can experience that world-famous service beyond Chinese borders.
Later this year, Mandarin Oriental will debut new properties in Milan and Marrakech.
Ritz-Carlton made its debut as one of the world's top hotel brands on Travel + Leisure's 2015 World's Best list. Part of the brand's appeal? Location. Whether it's New York or Montreal (pictured), booking a reservation with Ritz-Carlton usually means you'll be staying in a great location. For more of Travel + Leisure's 2015 World's Best Awards, which cover everything from hotels to airports,
Despite regular Ritz-Carlton guests noting that some of the brand's older properties are beginning to show their age, this luxury franchise made its debut as one of the world's top hotel brands among T+L readers this year.
Booking a reservation with the brand ensures a stay in an unbeatable location.
In Manhattan, the Ritz rises from the southern edge of Central Park.
In Kyoto, voted World's Best City by T+L, the deferential debut of the modern-day ryokan (the first true luxury property in an ancient capital known for preserving tradition) places 134 guest rooms on the banks of the Kamo River.
More than anything, Ritz-Carlton is committed to preserving its brand and local legacies.
Guests at the aforementioned New York City property are greeted by carriage horses, while many tables at properties around the world are still set with signature cobalt-blue crystal goblets: a nod to the blue Czechoslovakian chandeliers in the original Ritz's dining hall.