Superior hotel amenities once brought to mind elegant spa facilities or a private beach. But over the past five years, the world's most luxurious lodgings are increasingly upping the ante. Helipads, undersea restaurants, and expanses of gold leaf that stretch farther than in any castle are some of the details that exclusive hotels are offering to woo jet-setting business travelers and wealthy tourists.

"The lodging industry is very healthy at the moment," says Scott D. Berman of PriceWaterhouseCoopers' Hospitality & Leisure division. "The luxury hotel portfolios are driving a great deal of that success worldwide." In the U.S. alone, hotel industry profits are expected to rise to $29.7 billion by 2007.

That's up from an estimated $25.2 billion in 2006, according to a Jan. 23, 2006, presentation by PriceWaterhouse Coopers researcher Bjorn Hanson. And new hotel construction is up too, largely to meet increased demand. In 2006, there were approximately 127,708 room starts, up from 77,549 in 2005.

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