Now over one hundred years old and still in fine form, "The Michelin Guide" has made the journey through the 20th century in much the same way as the motor car, the method of transportation preferred by Bibendum! Travelling was arduous before 1914, on rough dirt roads, but with the arrival or paid holidays for employees, France was soon on the move. After a first golden age known here as the "glorious thirty years" (roughly 1945-1975), the advent of the motorway made travelling ever easier. The popularity of weekend get-aways, the reduced work week and other changes in society have created an increase in the number of short trips people take at any time of year, often to get away from the hectic pace of town.
The Guide was first offered to motorists "on a complementary basis". In France, in 1900, only 2,897 vehicles were officially declared to the tax authorities. Clearly the first printing of 35,000 copies had other readers in mind, as the Preface made clear. They were the 75,000 members of the Touring Club de France, founded ten years earlier. Michelin created the first removable tire for cycles in 1891, and a dozen pages of the Guide are devoted to tires for velocipedes.
The two brothers André and Édouard Michelin launched the project in the spirit of providing a service to motorists. The Guide is a reflection of this spirit of initiative and thirst for information and yet remains an objective guidebook, year after year, unaffected by fashion and mood, in tune with the events of the times. Like a Michelin tire, the guide has proved its resilience over the years, bouncing back after every bump or obstacle in the road, always seeking to improve its performance and to reach the end of the century, as its founders predicted, with the help and support of Michelin Guide readers.
The Guide is thus a testimony to the spirit of innovation of its creators, who were far ahead of their time in terms of market research, consumer surveys, readers’ letters and promotional actions.
The years pass, the Michelin Guide remains.
As we enter the third millennium, the Guide embarks on a second century of existence and no longer needs the Michelin brothers to predict a bright future for it. Has it not shown proven its usefulness in myriad situations? And let us not forget the famous message of optimism in the preface to the 1902 edition: "There is no limit to progress, and we hope to further improve this Guide next year".
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Since its first guide was published over 100 years ago, Michelin has continued to introduce more services in its mission to make life easier for the traveller.
To this end, The Red Guide has evolved to reflect changes in travel requirements: it may no longer list tyre outlets as it did in 1900 but it does tell you if a hotel has an exercise room and gives e-mail addresses of establishments listed. Today The Red Guide collection has 12 titles to choose from covering 11 European countries. Michelin is the European publisher with the most thorough selection covering the whole of Europe (range, depth of information, annual update, quality etc.), and is perceived as Europe’s authority in hotel and restaurant guides.
The collection is revised every year to meet consumer needs and expectations as far as possible. It aims to serve the greatest number of readers possible by offering both detailed information and a wide selection (variety of establishments, prices to suit all budgets etc).
The collection aims to offer its readers products that are practical, user friendly and easy to read (indexes by category of establishment, town plans, symbols that are easy to understand).
Strengths of the Michelin Red Guide:
- On site visits: the trademark policy for every establishment listed in the Michelin hotel and restaurant guide. Nothing can ever replace seeing for oneself first-hand, which is why Michelin has its team of professional inspectors, each with an excellent knowledge of the local hotel and restaurant industry. As Michelin employees, they all share the same methods and practices of the group, ensuring that their selections are consistent with each other.
- Independence: the second policy of the Michelin hotel and restaurant guide. Visiting a hotel or restaurant is not enough; objectivity must also be kept! Michelin is clear in its policy of remaining totally independent from hotel and restaurant owners. The inspectors visit each establishment anonymously and pay their bill. Opinions are formed objectively with nothing asked in return. This policy guarantees reliability for consumers and professionals alike as the guide’s sales and reputation can testify.
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