Five Stars to the Victoria Palace Hôtel

Well, it finally happened! On 1 October 2012 the Victoria Palace Hôtel became the newest five-star hotel on the Left Bank! It’s a little bit like a ‘major’ birthday : you go into it with trepidation and excitement, then wake up the next morning feeling exactly the same as you did the day before. Except that, unlike the day after the birthday party, there isn’t quite so much washing up to do.

Changes to the French Hotel Rating System

For those who have not kept up with labyrinthine arcana of French hotel ratings, this is what you need to know : in 2009 the French Ministry of Tourism decided that the ratings system in use until then no longer reflected the needs and expectations of hotel guests and required a major dusting off. One of their most important decisions was to create a new five-star rating. Until then the highest achievable rating in France was four-stars, to which an ‘L’ standing for ‘Luxe’ could be appended if the hotel met additional criteria, such as providing a restaurant, etc. In effect, this was a sort of five-star rating, but it was based on rather rigid and somewhat outdated criteria that no longer reflected the manifold variations on luxury available in the French hotel market.

In addition the Ministry of Tourism chose to outsource the ratings procedure : the whole kit and caboodle was handed off to Atout France (formerly Maison de la France) the quango in charge of promoting France as a tourist destination. Instead of inspectors being civil servants employed by the ministry, Atout France would certify a certain number of independent rating agencies which in turn would carry out the actual inspections, at the hotel’s expense. In the case of four- and five-star properties, the inspections would be carried out by an un-announced 'mystery guest', who would then follow up with a formal, official inspection. And should an hotel feel that the rating-system could not possibly provide an accurate reflection of its qualities and amenities, it may simply opt out of the whole system and decline to be rated. We may well be seeing a few of the smaller boutique establishments going that route. However, if they make that choice, as of 23 July 2012 they are prohibited from making public reference to their previous star rating.

Five-Star Hotels on the Left Bank

The main effect of the new ratings system has been to give recognition to the many changes and upgrades that Parisian hoteliers have carried out over the last few years. Whereas under the old rating system there were a considerable number of three-star and a few four-star properties on the Left Bank, there were no four-star ‘Luxe’ properties. As many three-star properties upgraded their services and accommodation, there entered a sort of catch-all, four-star category. Under the new system, many hoteliers who have invested in plant and services have been able to move up : some notoriously excellent three-star hotels are now rated four-stars and a few of the four-star hotels have moved into the new five-star category. As of today’s writing (4 October 2012) there is a total of five five-star hotels on the Left Bank, to wit and in order of the date of their new rating : the Hotel Montalembert, the Hotel Esprit Saint-Germain, the Hotel du Pont-Royal, the Hotel Bel-Ami and, most recently and to my delight, the Victoria Palace Hotel.

And in case you were wondering... No, that does not mean we shall jack up our rates overnight. And no, it does not mean we shall become all high and mighty and full of ourselves. Well, at least not so VERY full of ourselves.... We’ve been at this for nearly a century (100 years next year!) and are rather happy to continue just as we were. Although I’ll be pasting a lot of gummed gold-paper stars onto my brochures in the coming weeks! (Why did I print 10,000 of them just a few months ago???) Come to think of it, I suppose that is a little like the washing and tidying-up after the birthday party. But without the hangover!