The Michelin Hotel Guide Unveiled – Luxury Travelers' New Bible

by Jocelyn Tan
23 Nov 2023

Michelin has always been synonymous with two things: Tyres and food — until now, that is.

While the former may not be of particular interest to most, the latter is what we keep in consideration when planning our next meal – whether it be in Singapore or while we’re travelling. Now, the red book is taking it one step further. Armed with its background in luxury and reputation for culinary excellence, Michelin has introduced a tier for hotels around the world. The Michelin Key will distinguish exceptional establishments led by teams with unique forms of knowledge.

From L-R: Sayaka Miwa, Head of Business Development & Partnerships, MICHELIN Guide Japan; Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of The MICHELIN Guides; Nobuaki Takizawa, Hotel Critic; Lucy Lieberman, CEO, MICHELIN Guide Hotels

Offering a selection of hotel recommendations isn’t something new for the brand. If you have the Michelin app on your phone, you’ll see a tab that allows you to search for hotels in whichever city you’re headed to. Then what’s the significance of the Michelin Key? Simply put, it’ll be “a special distinction that highlights the establishments offering the most exceptional hotel experiences.”

During the guide’s press conference in Tokyo last week, International Director of the Michelin Guides, Gwendal Poullennec, announced that Japan will be the first country in Asia to receive the Michelin Key rankings. The exact date for the unveiling of the hotels in this new tier is yet to be confirmed.

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Lucy Lieberman, CEO, MICHELIN Guide Hotels, was also invited to speak at the press conference in Japan

“We want to create a truly independent, trusted reference of hotels to help travellers along when planning their trips. The issue with the world nowadays is that there is too much information, and many find it tiring and lost to go through all the lists out there. Our job is to help streamline the process for travellers and ensure that when they choose to stay at one of our selections, it’ll be a good experience that’s not only been tried-and-tested, but also been through a rigorous evaluation process. There is no independent global player out there with no affiliation or relationship to any brand, and that’s where we come in.”

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Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of The MICHELIN Guides

Each hotel is evaluated on five major criteria. They will, first of all, have to be “a destination unto itself, where the hotel contributes to the local experience and provides guests access to the local life”. Other factors include excellence in interior design and architecture, and the individuality of the locale. Similar to the way the selection of dining spots is done, quality and consistency in service, comfort, and maintenance will also be taken into consideration, as well as the consistency between the level of experience and the price paid.

When asked if there’s a set number of hotels that Michelin picks for the selection, Poullennec revealed: “There isn’t any quota to the hotels that we pick. We’re focusing on quality and not quantity. In our current selection, we are picking less than one percent of all existing hotels – whether it’s a boutique hotel or a chain property, distinctions like the hotel’s style, location, experience, authenticity and uniqueness are of utmost importance to me.”

  • The Mitsui Kyoto and The Tokyo Edition are currently in the MICHELIN Guide Hotel selection
  • The Tokyo Edition Deluxe Tower King Room
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To put things into perspective, Poullennec commented that over the past 12 months, approximately 500 hotels/addresses were removed and 500 were newly added to the selection in 2022. The selection is constantly refreshed to ensure relevancy for travellers. The Michelin Key will then be an annual process, and hotels in this tier will be chosen from the current selection.

A typical hotel and a Japanese ryokan, for instance, are different in many ways – but that doesn’t mean that cultural and regional differences in the experience won’t be taken into consideration in the selection. Despite the inspectors being from all over the world, the process is similar to that of how different cuisines are being evaluated for the restaurant guide. “Inspectors are trained to recognise the local culture and to benchmark it for the particular reference. The team will recognize and embrace the qualities of the local service, food, and so on – it’s ultimately a team decision as well when it comes to the selection, so it won’t be a singular inspector’s review of the property that will make or break the selection decision.”

While the Michelin Guide has always prided itself on being a trusted physical book of recommendations for cities, the team also recognizes the importance of the digitization of customer service for the guests – whether it be for restaurants or travellers – on the go. They are amping up the travel expert platform on the app and on the website where guests can obtain relevant trip-planning information based on the destinations they wish to visit after they have made their bookings. While AI seems like the way to go these days, Poullennec assures us that the human factor and approach will be key to this – there will be real people behind the platform giving advice and available 24/7.

“The ultimate goal for Michelin has always been the consumers. With the selection and the upcoming Michelin Key rankings, hoteliers will constantly strive to improve themselves to be part of/ not drop out the guide and in turn, this will make the travel experience for guests themselves better as well,” Poullennec concluded.

The first Michelin Key selection will be announced in the first half of 2024.

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