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Eight hotels given 'palace' status

But the absence of the Ritz or George V leads hotel owners to argue their new distinction is meaningless

EIGHT hotels around France have been given the title of 'Palaces' – one step higher than the five-star rating.

But the absence of the Paris Ritz and George V undermines the list produced by the jury, critics say.

The 'Palace' label denotes French excellence and has been monitored by the ministry of tourism.

In Paris, the Bristol, Meurice, Plaza Athénée and Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme were chosen, along with the Airelles and Cheval Blanc at Courchevel, the Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz and the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

However the head of the Dorchester group, owners of the Meurice and Plaza Athénée said their awards had left a 'bitter taste'.

"The fact that the Ritz and the George V are not on the list removes all credibility from this award," he said.

The Ritz has made no comment but the director general of the George V told Le Figaro: "We don't understand. We have had no explanation. Our reputation is solid. For years we have been regularly classed as the best hotel in the world. We spend €6 million a year maintaining our 'palace'."

The hotel is still carrying out some minor refurbishment work but in January The Gallivanter's Guide placed the George V as the best hotel in Europe and the world.

The president of the jury that produced the list, Dominique Fernandez, said: "All our decisions were taken by a majority of our ten members.

"We visited 11 hotels. The Negresco in Nice doesn't have a spa, so it could not be a candidate. The three hotels left out, the Ritz, George V and Lana at Courchevel did completely meet our criteria.

"However, they were subject to intense debate and could stand again," he said, adding that another session was due in November.

The hotels were judged on specific criteria such as room size and facilities but also on more subjective areas such as 'charm', architecture and location.

Photo: The George V in Paris

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