The regulation of 22 December 2008 and article 10 of the Law n° 2009-888 of 22 July 2009 regarding the development and modernization of the tourism services have, 22 years after its implementation, finally reformed and updated the French hotel rating system.The regulations have incorporated the changes that have taken place in the hotel industry and reflect the requirements of the current tourism environment and the importance and needs of foreign clientele.
The new rating system has five categories instead of six previously; hotels are now rated from 1 to 5 stars, with the creation of the “very much awaited” fifth star which replaces the previous 4 star “luxe” which did not have any visibility with foreign customers, and the “0” star ratings which have now been abolished.
The French authorities also envisage creating another rating category with a “five star premium” category to respond to the specific needs of exceptional hotels usually referred to as “palaces”.
Mandatory - In order to be part of the new star rating, a hotel located in France shall have a minimum of six rooms. This first and preliminary criteria is meant to distinguish between hotel and bed and breakfast (‘chambre d’hôtes’) which should not have more than five rooms and fifteen beds. The new rating criteria are extremely detailed and are divided into three main subjects : (i) equipment, (ii) services to customers and (iii) accessibility and sustainable development, with over 250 items.
Optional - Optional criteria have been created which should be added to the mandatory criteria in proportions depending on the relevant rating. These optional criteria permit the diversity of the French hotel industry to be taken into account.
Rating - In order to be rated within a specific category, a hotel will have to reach a certain level of points for both the mandatory criteria and the optional criteria. However, there is a new additional and essential element of flexibility since, if a hotel does not obtain all the points designated in the mandatory criteria, the missing points may be compensated up to a maximum of 5% by optional criteria (with a maximum of 3 optional points for each mandatory point missing).
The number of required points can be summarized as follows:
141 mandatory points for a 1 star hotel, together with 24 optional criteria points;
161 mandatory points for a 2 star hotel, together with 45 optional criteria points;
177 mandatory points for a 3 star hotel, together with 83 optional criteria points;
266 mandatory points for a 4 star hotel, together with 112 optional criteria points;
298 mandatory points for a 5 star hotel, together with 118 optional criteria points.
The cornerstone of the new regulation is the balance between, on the one hand, a harmonized rating system and the minimum requirements for each category and, on the other hand, the specific characteristics of each hotel in terms of marketing, historical buildings or regional characteristics.
The choice of criteria included in this new grid reflects the willingness to meet the expectations and needs of clients today, to comply with today’s lifestyle and to replace obsolete or inexistent criteria such as old phone booths. In terms of comfort, standards defining hotel bed linen are now mandatory.
The new grid also provides for a larger choice of facilities (spa, swimming pool, sporting facilities…) and also takes into consideration the new needs expressed by customers for “green” products and the importance of the environment in our society and in the hotel industry by introducing fifteen criteria (amongst which three are mandatory) relating to the protection of the environment and sustainable development, such as information on energy saving, use of energy saving light bulbs, recycling of waste and use of ‘eco-friendly’ products.
The grid may be revised every five years, with information on new criteria being provided at least two years prior to actual implementation.
Voluntary - The rating is still based on voluntary requests.
Compliance/Assessment - The control of compliance with criteria defining the rating is now carried out by specialized and accredited audit firms and no longer by the French Consumer Department (DGCCRF). Once the audit is finalized, the final decision of rating shall be taken by a prefectural ruling.
Cost - The cost of the audit shall be now borne by the hotel.
Duration - The rating is no longer definitive, and is valid for a five year period.
Grand father provision - The rating obtained pursuant to the former 1986 rating will remain valid only until 25 July 2012.