French luxury hotels reach for a star
By Sophie Taylor
PARIS (Reuters) - A cliche recipe for success is to aim for the stars. France's luxury hotels say they need to reach for just one more.
The world's largest tourism destination has introduced a five-star category to its hotel ranking system and the country's gilded establishments are flocking to apply, believing the upgrade will reel in higher rollers.
Until this year, France was in the odd position of being synonymous with high culture, finery and the very best in food and drink -- yet it had none of the five-class hotels found elsewhere in Europe.
"Lots of people have asked why even so-called palaces here like Georges V and Hotel Plaza Athenee had only four stars," said Francoise Parguel, vice president of communications for the Sofitel chain.
Paris now has 13 five-star hotels, the city's tourism office said. For many, including Sofitel, the fifth star is simply the culmination of longer renovation programs aimed at shifting upmarket.
Hotels applying for top status need to satisfy hundreds of criteria, from bedroom size to phones in bathrooms.
"Why a fifth star? While there only used to be a 'luxury' fourth star, today it's about putting French establishments on the same level as international competition," said the press office of Concorde Hotels & Resorts, which owns Le Palais de la Mediterranee based near the Cote d'Azur overlooking the sea.
The government hopes a five-star bracket will help France better weather the financial crisis: the French hotel sector has held up better than neighboring countries, but suffered from a drop in British and American tourists, Deloitte said in its winter 2009 research report. Continued...