NEW YORK: Hilton, Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons are among the most searched-for luxury hotel brands globally, with two-thirds of category searches originating in the US, a new study has said.

The World Luxury Index Hotels report, from Digital Luxury Group, examined 70 luxury hotel brands in ten key luxury markets and more than 133m unbiased searches from the most-used search engines.

It divided hotels into three categories, including Luxury Major, defined as the luxury brands of a major integrated hotel chain, Luxury Exclusive, the luxury brands of a small- or medium-sized luxury chain, and Upper Upscale brands.

It found that The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company topped the Luxury Major category, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts the Luxury Exclusive category, and Hilton Hotels & Resorts the Upper Upscale category.

Luxury Daily noted that Four Seasons had invested some $18m in digital marketing.

"When you look at the strongest contenders in the luxury hotel searches, the brands that have properly invested and executed an active digital strategy are having the most success," Damon M. Banks, director of DMB Public Relations in New York, told Luxury Daily.

"These brands bring a comfort level to the consumer by connecting to them on a variety of digital levels and having a relationship with them, compared to a decade ago when the only time you connected with a property would be on the telephone, with an operator or on-location," he added.

Banks also noted the impact of social media and mobile devices. "Americans live on their smartphones and tablets and, therefore, do their research and booking online," he said.

"Through social media, they have become more familiar with many of these luxury hotel brands, and then want to experience them for themselves when travelling."

Luxury Exclusive was the single largest category in the report, accounting for 40.5% of hotels, followed by Upper Upscale, on 38% and Luxury Major, on 21.4%.

While Upper Upscale attracted by far the most searches, at 76.2% of the total, the fastest-growing sector was Luxury Major, which recorded a 12.1% increase in searches year on year.

As well as the three category leaders already mentioned, the top ten most-searched for luxury hotel brands overall included Sheraton, Westin, Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Embassy Suites, Renaissance and InterContinental.

After the US, the major countries searching for luxury brands were the UK (13.3%) and China (5.2%).

Data sourced from Luxury Daily; additional content by Warc staff