France doles out new "palace" label to top hotels

Thu May 5, 2011 1:14pm EDT
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By Astrid Wendlandt and Elisabeth Pineau

PARIS (Reuters) - France granted a few top hotels the right to call themselves a "palace" on Thursday, a label which distinguishes them from rivals and is designed to boost the country's profile as a luxury destination.

The eight winners of the accolade include Paris hotels Meurice and Plaza-Athenee, both owned by the Sultan of Brunei, as well as the Bristol hotel, owned by Germany's Oetker family.

"We expect significant commercial and notoriety boosts from this accolade," Didier Le Calvez, head of the Bristol told Reuters.

"Perhaps other countries, such as the U.S. and the UK, might now think of giving the same label, countries which have the same hotel heritage as France....The palace label means winning a prestigious decoration which is valid for five years."

Criteria to obtain the palace label include the hotel's location, historical significance, room comfort, personalized service, multilingual staff, health and spa facilities.

The Ritz hotel in Paris, famous for being the last place where Princess Diana slept before her fatal car accident, the Four Seasons George V, and the Negresco hotel in Nice all failed the exam to get the label.

The palace denomination was created by France in 2009 to boost the country's attractiveness for affluent tourists. It was also a response to the hotel industry's lobby for a revamp of classifications.

"The word 'palace' holds a certain place in our imagination, it is in and of itself an invitation to travel," French junior minister Frederic Lefebvre in charge of tourism said in a statement.   Continued...

<p>Didier Le Calvez (R), director of Hotel Le Bristol, and Eric Frechon, chef of Hotel Le Bristol and third Michelin star, pose before a ceremony for the "Palace" distinction at the Hotel Le Bristol in Paris May 5, 2011. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen</p>