Paris emerged as the biggest winner in Forbes Travel Guide’s 2016 Star Rating Awards, racking up a record nine Five-Star hotels in its first time on the list. The city tied Macau for the highest number of top-rated hotels worldwide.
Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris; Hôtel Plaza Athénée; La Réserve Paris; Le Bristol Paris; Le Meurice, Dorchester Collection; Le Royal Monceau — Raffles Paris; Mandarin Oriental, Paris; The Peninsula Paris; and Shangri-La Hotel, Paris clinched the coveted distinction.
The results confirm the centuries-long belief that Paris is one of the best luxury destinations in the world, due not least to its own take on hospitality. “Service in Paris is an important feature of the city’s culture,” says François Delahaye, chief operating officer of Hotel Plaza Athénée Paris. “American guests who come to Paris are keen to experience our art de vivre. Along with touring the sights and tasting our various regional foods, they come to be attended to and looked after in a way that they associate with France.”
One unequivocal characteristic of French art de vivre is Five-Star service, which all Paris winners showcase consistently. “Five-Star service is in many ways how the guests’ needs and satisfaction are anticipated and delivered upon,” Delahaye says. “The infrastructure plays a huge part, but the most important factor is a service that is personalized. We try to know our guests as much as we can and to give them an experience of our hotels, which leaves them with wonderful memories. We try to exceed their expectations.”
Of course, even though service is in the fabric of French culture, it doesn’t mean it’s easy rising to a Five-Star level. Each hotel faced its own set of obstacles. For Peninsula Paris general manager Nicolas Béliard, it was the daunting task of debuting a new hotel from Asia’s oldest luxury hospitality brand in an unfamiliar market. “It adds some challenge in opening the first Peninsula hotel in Europe, and therefore a brand that may not be known as much as it can be in Asia or in the USA,” he says. “We have to settle the Peninsula heritage in a very new market and to offer the same level of quality and service that our guests are used to when visiting other Peninsula properties.”
For a veteran Paris hotel like Le Bristol, which has been around since 1925, the hard part is not taking for granted its well-earned reputation. “In this end of our business, one can never rest on their laurels,” says hotel manager Leah Marshall. “Every day is a new day, with different guests. It’s like going to the theater. You are only as good as yesterday’s performance.”
But obviously, in a city teeming with excellent hotels, another factor is the market. “With the high competition in Paris, we have always strived to focus on one essential thing, which is our guest satisfaction,” says Philippe Leboeuf, area vice president, operations and general manager of Mandarin Oriental, Paris. “This will always be our most important challenge.”
One big payoff is when hotels gain the recognition for their efforts. “The Forbes Travel Guide’s Five-Star awards mean that Paris is being recognized as a key international destination for discerning travelers,” Leboeuf says. “The fact that Mandarin Oriental, Paris’ high standards are being rated by such a global brand is a very positive message to both French and international visitors.”
When Delahaye heard news of Hotel Plaza Athénée Paris earning the Five-Star in the city’s inaugural ratings, he says it was “one of the best feelings ever as a hotelier in the luxury sector. This is such a prestigious award. It is a privilege and also an incentive to continue doing our very best.”
Of course, winning a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star distinction gives the added pressure of maintaining the rating next year. But the Paris hotels already have plans to better themselves in 2016.
For the one-year-old Peninsula Paris, that means integrating itself into the Parisian community — to be a social, dining and lifestyle hub for locals. “We have applied for the Palace distinction, which would highlight the very unique nature of The Peninsula Paris,” adds Béliard (although the Peninsula is new, the building originally opened in 1908 as one of the city’s grand hotels).
“We are undergoing a facelift in our Café Antonia, which will give it a fresher than ever feel come spring,” Marshall says about Le Bristol. “The gallery that leads to our magnificent garden and terrace is also going through a significant renovation.” Plus, the Faubourg Saint-Honoré hotel will continue to do room improvements on the guest floors.
Mandarin Oriental, Paris, which opened in 2010, will launch a new Spa Suite with the French beauty brand Guerlain, redesign its lobby to create a cozier atmosphere and devise a new “top suite” overlooking its beautiful courtyard garden.