SAN DIEGO ( MainStreet) -- Global consumer interest for luxury hotels has grown 1.5% since the first quarter of 2012, with Russians, the British and Chinese being the fastest-growing luxury hospitality consumers, according to a study from the Digital Luxury Group. But U.S. brands continue to dominate, and the top three most searched luxury hotel brands on the Internet worldwide were Hilton, Ritz-Carlton ( MAR) and The Four Seasons. These and other findings are part of the first World Luxury Index Hotels, a study prepared by Digital Luxury Group in partnership with the Chair of Luxury Hospitality of Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne.
The study separates the luxury-hotel market worldwide into three tiers: Luxury major: This includes luxury brands of a major integrated chain such as Sofitel, Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott. It's the fastest-growing category of luxury hotels, according to the study, showing 12.1% growth since the first quarter of 2012. Luxury exclusive: These are luxury brands of a small/medium size and include exclusive luxury chains such as Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental and Kempinski. Upper upscale: This category is primarily integrated chains such as Hilton and Sheraton. It's the most popular category, capturing three-quarters of total global interest. Hilton is by far the leader in many ways, according to the study. It's the No. 1 Upper Upscale Chain hotel brand, snagging 22.8% of global demand in its category. It also ranks first in four out of 10 markets studied -- Italy, Germany, United Kingdom and the United States. The reason Hilton is such a strong market force, according to the study, is strong brand awareness and brand recall, giving it a distinct competitive edge. Among the Luxury Exclusive category, Four Seasons is the clear leader. The Four Seasons benefits from an outstanding level of online awareness, according to Florent Bondoux, head of strategy and intelligence for Digital Luxury Group. Meanwhile Ritz-Carlton is the top Luxury Major brand in the world, capturing 4.6% of global demand for luxury hotel rooms in its category. It is most popular in Japan. Ritz has become a leading hotel luxury brand because of what the report calls rigorously developed and implemented standards. One such policy cited is Ritz Carlton's allowing its employees to spend up to $2,000 to respond to guest's wishes to make any single guest satisfied. Bondoux said all three hotel chains have several advantages that keep them in their top spots