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April 28, 2008

5 Questions with...CNT's Lisa Gill

Lisa Gill
Lisa Gill, keeper of the List

by Tom Loftus

Another introductory post here, and this time we're debuting 5 Questions with... where Conde Nast Traveler editors sit down with a person of interest to the world of travel. Our person of interest this week? Senior editor Lisa Gill, who only just put down her pen from this year's Hot List. Find out what she has to say about the process below.

CNT: So what makes a property worthy of the Hot List?

Gill: There is no checklist per se, but a hotel is mostly evaluated for the combination of its design, service, location, and value for the money. Moreover, we also look for a "wow" factor that leaves an impression on the guest. There's a real broad range of properties--from a smart guesthouse in Siem Reap that goes for $70 a night to a winery estate/hotel on 900 acres in the Douro Valley that goes for 1,000 euros a night. And lots of stuff in between.

CNT: Does the criteria for what is wow-worthy change? In other words, is the trend for dark hallways and piped-in techno over? (I sure hope so.)

Gill: Yes, over the past 12 years of the Hot List what's considered fresh or cutting-edge has definitely morphed. To be honest, the wow factor is highly subjective (each reviewer is entitled to his/her preferences), but what I ask of the reviewers is to see whether it's a place they would recommend with little hesitation, and whether it leaves a strong impression. Make sense?

CNT: Just between me, you, and our millions of readers, what Hot List property left the strongest impression on you?

Gill: Wait, is this all on the record? This is a hard question to answer because the hotels are quite varied and obviously have different appeal depending on the traveler and the nature of one's trip. I guess one way to answer the question is to say that some of the places that gave me a serious bout of wanderlust are Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in the Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda; Hotel Fasano, Rio de Janeiro; Hôtel Particulier Montmartre, Paris; Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

CNT: On the record...ummm...maybe: So how did you get such a position of power?

Gill: Ha ha, I am drunk with power! But seriously: I've been immersed in covering hotels for some time--I edited the Gold List for three years, and have also kept busy with our ski and golf polls. Three years ago I started editing the Hot List, which is a great project to be involved with because I get to see a preview of what developments are going on where, both short- and long-term. It can be logistically tricky to get the right reviewer at the right hotel at the right time since some hotels are seasonal, and other factors such as weather and political turmoil can put a monkey wrench into carefully laid plans (not to mention that hotel opening dates are a moving target), but overall it's a fun project that keeps me busy year-round.

CNT: Thank you, Lisa. Last question: Chimpanzee sidekicks for premiere guests--the next hot thing?

Gill: Uh, perhaps if Jane Goodall opens a hotel in Tanzania.

More reading:
* 2008 Hot List

* Videos: Hot List London, Hot List Tokyo, and more...

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