PARIS'S famed Hotel Ritz is to close its doors and lay off around 500 staff while it undergoes an "unprecedented renovation project" lasting more than two years.
The move by owner Mohamed Al Fayed comes after the five-star hotel missed out on the prestigious "Palace" label for the best hotels in France and, according to newspaper Le Figaro, the capital's Crillon and Plaza are also looking at plans to close for refurbishment.
Luxury hotels in Paris have been under intense pressure with the arrival of new challengers in the market such as the Mandarin Oriental and Shangri-La and the perception that the older hotels were "tired" and lacking in facilities.
Now the Ritz - which was founded in 1898 - is to get a top to bottom refit with its 160 rooms and suites receiving the "latest technological innovations". No information was given on the potential costs.
It is thought that only about 30 staff will be kept on during the works, which will start next summer. The hotel will reopen for Christmas 2014 or in time for the spring fashion collections in January 2015, a spokesman said.
Woody Allen and Kate Moss are regulars at the Ritz as were Charlie Chaplin and Coco Chanel but it was also where Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed dined before the car crash that killed them both in 1997.