Colorado will pay $135k a year to promote Michelin Guide to tourists

Colorado’s tourism office will dish out $135,000 a year to promote the Michelin Guide, which produces restaurant listings around the globe and awards stars based on their quality.

The money will “support marketing and promotion domestically and internationally to raise awareness about Colorado’s inclusion” in the guide, said Hayes Norris, senior brand manager for the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO), via email. The office will also “collaborate” with the Colorado cities where Michelin is reviewing restaurants to “promote culinary tourism in our state.”

Michelin announced in June that it would produce a Colorado guide for the first time, reviewing  restaurants in Denver, Boulder, Aspen, Snowmass Village, Vail and Beaver Creek Resort. That was big news in the food world since Michelin, which is highly respected, only lists and reviews restaurants in seven other regions in North America: New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, California, Miami/Orlando/Tampa, Toronto and Vancouver.

Michelin revealed an initial list of “Bib Gourmand” restaurants on Tuesday. The first awards ceremony will take place on Sept. 12 in RiNo’s Mission Ballroom.

“This move will elevate Colorado’s status as a global dining destination, showcasing its unique flavors and … commitment to sustainability and innovation in the culinary industry,” Norris said.

Restaurateurs in some cities, however, like Aurora felt snubbed by that limited scope. That raised questions about how Michelin decides which cities to spend time in, and whether the influence of tourism offices in those cities plays a part.

Michelin spokesman Andrew Festa said the organization wouldn’t discuss commercial terms of its partnerships with cities or the state “for competitive reasons,” adding that “the Colorado Tourism Office is working with Michelin on marketing and promotional efforts only.”

He also said that “the involvement” of tourism agencies in establishing a new Guide does not have any influence on the inspectors’ judgments for the restaurants in the selection or the award distinctions.” Those cities “discover the selected list of restaurants at the same time as the media and chefs … There is no preferential treatment … in the partnership.”

“The Michelin Guide inspectors are anonymous and independent,” Festa said. “They pay their own bills, just as any other person dining at a restaurant. Michelin covers all the expenses of the inspectors just as it would any employee on company travel.”

Financial partnerships between tourism agencies and Michelin isn’t uncommon in other states. Florida’s Tourism Board paid $150,000 in 2022 for Michelin to review restaurants around the state, according to a story in the Robb Report, while California paid $600,000 for the guide to expand throughout the whole state in 2019, per a story in

“To bring these new destinations and their culinary specialties to light, Michelin has initiated a partnership approach with local destination marketing organizations (DMOs),” wrote Gwendal Poullennec, the international director of the Michelin Guide, in a statement to The Denver Post, “which cover some of the costs incurred to fund communication, digital and marketing campaigns to promote the selections and broadcast them to the world.”

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