Prizes, prizes, prizes

By Adam Raphael

Everyone loves them, but who is dishing them out and on what basis are they awarded? The hospitality business, like every other industry, enjoys spreading gongs around. They are a way of making friends and rewarding the talented. Prizes are fun, but should be regarded with a sceptical eye because picking winners is more art than science.

Lucy Madden, of HILTON PARK, in Co. Monaghan, Ireland, a country house hotel which has had an entry in the Guide for many years, has a lovely turn of phrase about the jamboree: ‘We are told, and no surprises here, that airbrushed stars in magazines leave young girls stressed and wanting to drink. It’s the same effect that the annual round of hospitality awards have on me. They swish around these awards and the categories become ever more obscure. Soon there may be an award for the receptionist with the best teeth.’

It is not just the obscurity of some of the prizes that stands out. When Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel prize for literature following in the footsteps of such great literary figures as Rudyard Kipling, William Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Mann, it raised a few eyebrows. The views of the literarti may perhaps be dismissed, but the way in which prize winners are selected is worth scrutiny.

The Guide will shortly announce the ten winnners of its annual César awards, named after the famous Swiss hotelier, César Ritz. The process of choosing the winners begins with reports from readers whose judgment we trust. If a place starts to attract exceptionally good reviews, we send an inspector to stay anonymously for a night at our expense to see if it is a candidate for an award. Final decisions are taken by the Guide’s small editorial team.

I believe it is a fair process, but it is certainly open to challenge. In the end, it all depends on how skilled the Guide’s team is at assessing a wide variety of different kinds of hotels and marrying the judgements of our readers and inspectors. My own view is that the best way to allot prizes is to leave it to a group of experts. But there are dangers. Small groups can be swayed by a dominant character; they can also be subverted by friendships and old relationships. We try hard, however, to get it right.