The Laurel Hotel & Spa is thrilled to announce that the property has been awarded a Five Diamond designation by AAA Travels, recognizing it as offering world-class luxury, amenities, and indulgence for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Only 89 hotels across the United States carry this prestigious recognition. The Laurel Hotel & Spa is operated by Auburn-based Ithaka Hospitality Partners in partnership with Auburn University.

“I am ecstatic that The Laurel Hotel & Spa has received this fantastic recognition in its very first year of operation,” said Hans van der Reijden, Founder & CEO of Ithaka Hospitality Partners. “This is fantastic news for our owners, our students and academic partners, and for our entire hotel team, led by General Manager Josh Head. We are immensely proud to be the first hotel in the state of Alabama to receive a Five Diamond designation and are excited to share this accolade as part of our larger goal to establish Auburn as a world-class destination for both hospitality and education.”

The Laurel Hotel & Spa is a one-of-a-kind teaching hotel adjacent to the Tony & Libba Rane Culinary Science Center (RCSC), the home to Auburn University’s esteemed Horst Schulze School of Hospitality Management, which opened its doors in August 2022. The property sits atop culinary labs and classrooms as well as 1856 – Culinary Residence, the world’s first teaching restaurant to serve a tasting menu, currently helmed by Chef in Residence Ford Fry and Master Sommelier Thomas Price. The Laurel Hotel & Spa also features a rooftop lounge and infinity pool with cabanas. A rooftop garden operated in partnership with Auburn University’s Horticulture Department provides produce used at 1856 – Culinary Residence and by students in culinary laboratories.

To learn more about The Laurel Hotel & Spa, click HERE. 


About Ithaka Hospitality Partners

Auburn-based Ithaka Hospitality Partners (IHP) was founded in 2018 by Hans van der Reijden, an international hotelier with more than 35 years of experience in the industry. Formerly a partner in the Capella Hotel Group, he worked with founder Horst Schulze, a legend in the hospitality industry. The Ithaka Hospitality Partners management team has over 200 years of industry experience at some of the most prominent and respected global hospitality organizations. IHP manages independent hotels, resorts, spas, restaurants, and food halls and is a proud partner in The Horst Schulze School of Hospitality Management at Auburn University. IHP manages all commercial aspects of the Tony & Libba Rane Culinary Science Center and is honored to play an active role in educating the next generation of hospitality and culinary professionals. For additional information, visit?


About The Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center

The Tony & Libba Rane Culinary Science Center (RCSC) is the home to Auburn University’s esteemed Horst Schulze School of Hospitality Management. Opened in the summer of 2022, The Rane Center introduces a cutting-edge, world-class hospitality education facility to Auburn, Alabama. The unique educational experience for students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels blends hands-on learning with essential business and cross-functional coursework. The RCSC features numerous experiential learning spaces, including upscale teaching restaurant 1856 – Culinary Residence, The Laurel Hotel & Spa (Alabama’s first ultra-luxury hotel), educational labs, a multi-concept food hall named Hey Day Market, a rooftop terrace, Thr!ve Here @Auburn coffee roastery & café, and a microbrewery operated in partnership with New Realm Brewing. The RCSC is the result of decades of visionary leadership and collaboration between Auburn University College of Human Sciences and industry leaders, beginning with Capella Hotel Group and continuing with Ithaka Hospitality Partners in 2018. Poised as a unique partnership between academia and commercial offerings, the RCSC prepares students with operational knowledge and a leadership approach devoted to superior guest service, creating a stronger and more competitive group of future hospitality leaders, while also offering unparalleled guest experiences.


About the AAA Diamond Program

For more than 80 years, AAA’s professional inspectors have conducted in-person property evaluations. AAA is the only entity using comprehensive, on-site professional hotel and restaurant evaluations guided by member priorities. AAA’s inventory includes nearly 30,000 Diamond hotels and restaurants across the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Travelers can find AAA Diamond hotels and restaurants and inspector insight in AAA’s trip planning products: Trip Canvas, AAA Mobile app, AAA Travel Guides, TripTik Travel Planner, and the AAA TourBook guides. For more information, visit