At the end of this month, the Ritz Hotel is to close for an unprecedented renovation program due to last two years. The refurbishment, to be unveiled in 2014 and estimated to cost around 200 million euros, follows the five-star hotel’s missing out on the rank of “palace” in 2011.
Anyone who wants to experience the legendary hotel in its current incarnation has until July 31 to spend the night in one of the rooms (priced at 850 euros per night). According to Matthieu Goffard, PR manager of the hotel, the last dinner will be served at L’Espadon on July 31. The Ritz, first opened in 1889 by Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz and situated in an 18th century private mansion, last went through renovation back in 1979, when its owner Mohamed Al-Fayed pumped 250 million euros into his new acquisition to add the legendary Olympic pool.
The new renovation project includes restoration of the rooms, suites, spa, restaurants and Ritz Escoffier cooking school, under the direction of internationally acclaimed interior designer Thierry W. Despont.
There has been growing competition between high-end hotels in Paris, aiming to attract super-rich customers from the Middle East, China and Russia. A number of high-end hotels have recently opened in Paris, such as the Shangri-La (opened in 2010) and the Mandarin Oriental (opened in 2011). Others such as Le Royal Monceau and Le Bristol have undergone major upgrades as a response to rising customer expectations. According to Goffard, the majority of the hotel’s customers are from Russia and the Middle East.
In Paris, only three hotels have been awarded the desirable “Palace” category: the Meurice, Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme and the Plaza-Athénée. The label, created by the French National Tourism Administration in 2011, is given according to demanding criteria including that the hotel must be in a historic building and must have exceptional architectural and decoration qualities, as well as services and infrastructure of the highest level, feature a Michelin-starred restaurant and employ a ratio of 2.75 employees per room.
In its history, the Ritz has inspired several artists: composer Irving Berlin wrote a song called “Putting on the Ritz,” while American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, a regular with wife Zelda, wrote the novella The Diamond as Big as the Ritz. Other usual customers included Coco Chanel, who lived for 37 years in the suite that still bears her name.
The legendary Hemingway bar, named after the American writer, closed earlier this year prior to the renovation of the hotel. Both Paris regulars and the international jet set have expressed concern about their historic watering hole. Earlier this year Goffard told Reuters that “all our clients have called us saying, ‘Please don’t change anything,'”; to reassure customers Goffard confirmed that the style of the bar wasn’t going to change significantly: “the idea is to keep the very French Ritz spirit of Parisian luxury.” – Relaxnews