There is no such thing as a six star rating… But, you know, what if there was?



Bill Gates and his Four Seasons hotel group have purchased the Palazzo Marini in Rome for $170 million (after being denied their bid to manage the historic Danielie Hotel in Venice). The property will have about 100 rooms, a gym, spa and full conference center. Many of the rooms unironically feature views of the massive, recently opened, Apple showroom in the neighborhood. 


Unconfirmed sources have suggested that minibar fridges, in addition to the usual items, will be stocked with a full range of vaccine boosters and a portion of the snacks will be made from genetically modified corn and soy grown exclusively on Gate’s ever-expanding, somewhat frighteningly, farmland empire. This is probably apocryphal. Or apocalyptic.



I bought this! Bill Gates’s Palazzo Marina, in Rome, not yet ready for prime time Photo provided by Wonderlust



The Palazzo is being billed as a six-star hotel, and while that rating doesn’t exist, a lot has been written about the property claiming it. 


Trying to determine what features qualify a property for six stars is rather difficult, because at this level of luxury, the things that make hotels special are rarely duplicable. A few that come to mind are an underwater restaurant, an infinity pool hanging out the side of your suite (or suspended between two towers), a helipad above your penthouse, and even access to a massive yacht and/or fleet of meticulously maintained classic automobiles. These are not available at a Holiday Inn.


I have difficulty envisioning plans for an edgeless rooftop infinity pool or helipad being approved at this property, so perhaps we must look elsewhere for what qualifies it as worthy of a sixth star. And if Bill Gates is allowed to make up his own non-existent star rating, then certainly we are allowed to make up the non-existent requirements for said non-existent rating.  Based on similar purchases, actions, and developments from Gates and others of his ilk, I have come up with my own criteria for what should qualify a hotel for six stars, and it might surprise you. 



Bulgari Hotel, Dubai Photo provided by Wonderlust



1   Come in hot/make a big splash. For instance, instead of buying and developing a townhouse or a country estate, purchase and renovate entire city blocks (Palazzo Marini, Aman NY, Post Oak Houston). 


Other examples include developing a multi-structured micro-community at the base of a mountain (Pendry Park City, Ritz Carlton-Higashiyama Niseko Village, Four Seasons Jackson Hole), or carving your man-made island into the shape of a seahorse (Bulgari Hotel-Dubai) or palm tree (WaldorfAstoria/Atlantis Dubai). 


2   Provide over the top luxuries in the middle of nowhere. The list of features and amenities should be so staggering that halfway through it you get borderline uncomfortable as well as excited, and then uncomfortable again for getting that excited. For instance, the Singita Serengeti House which features an 80 ft infinity pool and a full-sized tennis court in the middle of the Serengeti Game reserve, or luxury desert hotels like Al Maha, with its 43 individual temperature-controlled pools and full sized spa and gym scattered across sand dunes, 45 minutes from Dubai. 


It fills a block… the Aman NY Photo provided by Wonderlust

3   Make the property completely inaccessible to not just locals, but most of the world’s population through ridiculous price points, private club status and/or exclusive use only policies. Multiple Soho House locations now have a sixth star for excellence in this category, but perhaps no better example of this exists then the studios at Aman NY, which could have been a semi-affordable way for the hotel to endear itself to its surrounding community and hotel enthusiasts around the world, but alas can only be rented as add on to larger rooms, with a starting nightly rate of around $1,400.  


4   Anger the locals and the local authorities! Force yourself into the location of your choice, regardless of whether or not anyone who lives or works there wants you there! You cannot have a sixth star if the locals are celebrating the arrival of your property, so, sorry 21C Hotels and Margaritaville, no six stars for you.


On a more serious note, if six stars were to become a real thing, I hope that the requirements would start by including some level of incorporation into/cooperation with the local community with regards to the hotel workforce and accessibility of the property. A more dynamic view of environmental responsibility could be another way to achieve a sixth star. For instance, not just paying attention to the construction methods and materials used but also to where the food and drink are sourced from, how far the ingredients have traveled, and how many of them are sustainable or purchased from independent merchants, purveyors, farmers etc. Whether locally or from further abroad. It’s a small thing, and it’s a big thing. Every little bit makes a difference. 


At WONDERLUST we’re not nannies, or hall monitors, and we don’t think every hospitality location has to conform to every popular dictate. That’s unreasonable and unfair. But two things can happen at the same time, and we encourage entrepreneurs and existing multi-national corps to expand their horizons and continue to raise the luxury hospitality bar with each new venture, while acknowledging that small changes in operating habits open up great possibilities for local communities, and sustainability often turns into profitability for all involved.