My quick trip to Paris this week centered around Michelin’s announcement that good amounts of their printed material – from information in the tourist-oriented Green Guides to the listings in the famed Red restaurant and hotel guides – are now online.
Travel.ViaMichelin.com allows users to access all of the Michelin information they need to plan their trip and tie it together into a personalized logbook. The idea, company officials said Tuesday, is that customers will print out material – or send it to their GPS – and use it as a complement to one of their guidebooks. All of the material on the site comes from highly regulated and detailed Michelin inspector reports, so you know that the information has been vetted in a way that other dining and hotel guides that rely on the masses, such as Zagat’s, is not.
Of course, in an age of iPhone (and tablet) apps, one may wonder what’s so innovative about these website upgrades (ViaMichelin itself has been around since 2000) – and you’d be joining the international journalists who asked company honchos just that on Tuesday. The website doesn’t allow users to send the itinerary to their smartphone, for example, and there’s no option to compare pricing (the site uses Booking.com).
That’s not to say that the company isn’t in the iPhone market – ViaMichelin apps are already available for fees ranging from $9.99 to $18.99. It’s just that with a website launch these days, users expect something a little more integrated with technology, as well as social media (while the site allows people to share tourist information on Facebook and Twitter, it’s not quite the direct interaction with the company that web 2.0 users expect these days).
What’s most promising about the website, however, is the community that could spring up around the Michelin listings. The site allows user comments and reviews from around the world, which could be extremely helpful in making a hotel or restaurant decision (because let’s face it, a three-star Michelin meal doesn’t come cheap, as my report from Le Meurice proves). One of the downsides of TripAdvisor and other user-generated review sites is that you never know what kind of traveler is providing their opinion. If I’m investing hundreds of Euros on a mind-blowing meal, I want to make sure that I get feedback from other foodies who are comfortable shelling out that much for a dining experience.
I’d like to see Michelin continue to develop that concept on the site, perhaps by designating power users or even allowing some of their famously anonymous inspectors to weigh in directly online (without blowing their cover, of course). If they added those features that already play upon their strengths, the website could become a must-visit for those planning a luxury holiday or a one-of-a-kind night out.
Read my Paris trip report here
What do you think? Do you use Michelin guides or rankings when planning your vacation? If not, what guides do you prefer?