The Washington Post: Michelin guide to add hotel ‘key’ ratings in 2024
By HEIDI PEREZ- MORENO
October 6, 2023, 1:41 PM
The Michelin Guide isn’t just for restaurants. The service guide for travelers announced Thursday it will add a rating symbol for hotels that carries the same prestige as its star system for fine dining.
Michelin will begin awarding “keys” to luxury properties in 2024. Anonymous inspectors are already at work to identify “exceptional establishments led by teams with unique forms of knowledge,” according to a news release.
“Just as the Michelin Star distinguishes those restaurants that are at the peak of their art, the Michelin Key recognizes the most exceptional hotels throughout the world,” said Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guide, said in the release.
The company has long been famous for restaurant ratings in which establishments are rated up to three Michelin stars for excellence. It awarded its first stars in 1926. Gaining or losing a star can have dramatic effects on business.
The Michelin Guide website already features a booking platform with more than 5,000 boutique hotels in 120 countries. The company made its first big move into hotels in 2018 when it acquired the online travel agency Tablet, which curated hotels based on anonymous evaluations similar to Michelin’s.
Keys may be awarded after a single stay or multiple visits, according to Thursday’s announcement. The Michelin Guide said it considers five factors for judging hotels, including destination-worthy locations, architecture and interior design, service, “unique character” and value.
According to a report from Agence France-Presse, Poullennec said hotels will pay a 10 to 15 percent commission to Michelin for bookings made through its website, and Michelin’s editorial and sales teams will operate independently.
The addition of Michelin keys follows another entry into hotel rankings; World’s 50 Best released its inaugural hotels list in September, expanding from lists for luxury restaurants and bars. With next year’s planned expansion, Michelin will join a market of hotel reviewers that includes the Forbes Travel Guide star system and AAA’s Diamond platform.
Peter Ricci, who directs the hospitality and tourism program at Florida Atlantic University, said Michelin’s reputation could make it stand out.
“If you ask any hospitality professional about Michelin restaurants, they’ll know it,” Ricci said. “They appreciate it. They respect it. They even revere it.”
Ricci noted the market is also crowded with crowdsourced platforms like Yelp, Google and Tripadvisor that have become more popular in recent years as a way to read hotel reviews from a wide range of guests.
But many hotels and travelers still look to rating systems from a professional, trusted source, particularly when it comes to businesses that aren’t affiliated with major companies such as Marriott or Hilton. Ricci added the players who will likely be gunning for a Michelin key will be the luxury hotel brands that already have the infrastructure and budget to impress deep-pocketed consumers.
“Those are some of the kinds of places that would really benefit from receiving a Michelin key, since it helps assert their quality and credentials,” he said.
Vijay Dandapani, president of the Hotel Association of New York City, said Michelin’s decision to expand its market is ultimately a positive one because hotels owners are always looking for ways to boost their reputations. That is especially true in the boutique market.
“They all are looking to maximize revenue, and they’re certainly not averse to getting something out of the proceeds that might come from a Michelin,” he said.
Although a Michelin star is considered the ultimate culinary accolade, many restaurants and chefs have pushed back in recent years, saying stars can often come with enormous pressure to maintain standards for the dining elite. French chef Sébastien Bras asked to be left out of the 2018 Michelin guide, after having maintained three stars for more than a decade at his Le Suquet restaurant in France.
Michelin stars in cities such as New York and Washington, D.C., favor high-priced tasting menus, typically feting Eurocentric cuisines and Japanese food. The guide’s bib gourmand designation casts a wider net for more affordable restaurants