The outliers are Marriott's Ritz-Carlton, which runs almost 40 U.S. properties, and Hilton's Conrad, which has just four U.S. hotels but is looking to expand the brand domestically. "You have to look at them as retail stores," said RSBA & Associates President Rick Swig, whose family owned San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel for more than 50 years before selling its stake in 1998. "You look at the fact that 40 years ago, there were two Gucci stores in the entire world. Now, there are Gucci stores in every major capital. It's brand expansion." The subject is particularly topical because financial institutions appear willing to fund only hotels that will cater to the wealthiest of travelers. In a report released early this month, Smith Travel Research found that the U.S. luxury-hotel development pipeline in April had widened 19% from a year earlier, while the pipeline for upper-upscale hotels, which include the flagship brands for companies like Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott, widened 11%. That contrasts with an overall development pipeline that shrank 9% in the same period. Get the full story at Travel Weekly