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Michelin Guide unveils the first Michelin Key hotels in the U.S.

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NEW YORK — The Michelin Guide on Wednesday unveiled its inaugural list of Michelin Key recipients in the U.S., with Michelin Guide’s international director Gwendal Poullennec offering additional insights into the brand’s newly launched hotel rating system.

The Michelin Guide, long known for its Michelin Star restaurant ratings, late last year announced plans to launch an equivalent for the hotel sector called the Michelin Key. 

Under the system, the approximately 6,000 hotels already listed within the Michelin Guide are eligible to potentially receive one, two or three Michelin Keys, based on anonymous inspections by Michelin Guide staff. As with the Michelin Star system, an updated Michelin Key list will be released annually.

“The best of the best, the crème de la crème of world gastronomy is recognized by the famous Michelin Stars,” Poullennec told attendees. “From now on, the crème de la crème of the world of hospitality will be recognized with the Michelin Keys.”

According to Poullennec, five core elements will determine whether a property is Michelin Key material. These are a prime location that offers guests “an open door to the destination,” excellence in interior design and architecture, quality and consistency in service, consistency between level of experience and the price paid, and a sense of individuality and authenticity.

A One Key rating indicates a very special stay, a Two Key rating an exceptional stay and a Three Key rating an extraordinary stay.

The first 189 Michelin Key hotels were revealed on April 8, when the Michelin Guide revealed the list’s honorees in France. The French winners included Paris properties La Réserve Paris, Four Seasons George V and the Plaza Athenee, all three of which were awarded Three Keys. 

The initial U.S. roster has 124 winners, all located within one of seven main tourism destinations: New York, California, Washington D.C., Chicago, Florida, Colorado and Atlanta. 

Several U.S. recipients attended the New York event, including representatives from One Key winners The Little Nell in Aspen and 1 Hotel Central Park in New York; Two Key winners Faena Hotel Miami Beach and Peninsula Chicago; and Three Key winners Aman New York and SingleThread Farms in Healdsburg, Calif. 

Poullennec said more Michelin Key announcements are slated to follow this spring and summer, with the Spain winners to be announced on April 29, Italy on May 7 and Japan on July 4.

A second round of U.S. Michelin Key honorees, which will feature properties across the country is also expected to follow.

“I think the value of what the Michelin Guide has done with the Star, and is starting to do with the Key, is to provide a truly international benchmark,” said Poullennec. “What is important is that a One Star restaurant has the same value in New York, Paris or Tokyo. We plan to do the same with the hotel Keys.”

Poullennec added that deeper engagement with hotels has been part of the Michelin Guide’s plan for roughly a decade. In 2018, that plan was accelerated by Michelin’s acquisition of Tablet Hotels, which allowed the Michelin Guide to integrate hotel-booking capabilities into its digital platform. (The Tablet Hotels brand continues to coexist alongside the Michelin Guide, with Tablet now positioned as “the “official hotel selection of the legendary Michelin Guide.”)

Travelers can filter for and book Michelin Key hotels via the Michelin Guide platform. Michelin Guide hotel bookings are commissionable for travel advisors.

Through the platform, said Poullennec, travelers “can not only find the hotel recommendations or restaurant recommendations, [but also] book your restaurant and book your hotel and remain with the Michelin Guide, and even after, share your experience with Michelin Guide teams.”

“What was important for us was to master the technology to be able to open the booking channel and operate a booking flow within the Michelin Guide,” he said.

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