You know when you're scrolling through friends' Instagrams and it feels like everyone's at a cooler party than you?
The state of Minnesota is feeling it right now… and the party is being held at a bunch of swanky hotels across America.
The Forbes Travel Guide sends trained, anonymous inspectors to rate hotels based on 900 “objective criteria.” The best of the best are given five stars. A four-star hotel is nothing to sneeze at, but to reach that coveted fifth, hotels must be built from luxury materials like polished marble and offer round-the-clock service from “infallible” staff.
Forbes, according to records dating back to 1958, has never bestowed the five-star honor on a Minnesota establishment. The closest five-star hotel is the Kohler Resort in Wisconsin.
In fact, the Twin Cities doesn’t even have any four-star hotels, nor does it have any with a "five-diamond" rating from the American Automobile Association. Among the 20 largest metropolitan areas in the country, Minneapolis-St. Paul shares this dubious hotel-poor distinction with just one other city -- Tampa, Florida -- according to a report in CoStar News.
Minneapolis and St. Paul have a combined total of 3.6 million residents. They just hosted the Super Bowl. Why don’t they have a single top-tier hotel?
Maybe we just don't want one badly enough, guesses Liz Rammer, executive director of the Minnesota Lodging Association.
“The hotels that have been interested [in opening] cannot get the city financing they need to support the rates they’re going to charge,” Rammer wrote City Pages in a statement.
Five-star hotels run on five-star prices. Between the cost of luxury building materials and a 24-hour staff rotation, rates need to be high enough to make these opulent hotels pay for themselves. Rammer says there just aren’t enough people coming to this market to justify the expense.
Not to mention the Super Bowl had its own impact on the market. Minneapolis alone added more than a thousand new hotel rooms since 2016 in anticipation of the big day. The glut can be a turn-off for five-star developers.
“How big of a hotel can you build and still have good occupancy in a place that just added 1,200 rooms?” Meet Minneapolis spokesman Kim Insley says.
That’s not to say developers haven’t tried. For more than two years, United Properties and JMI Realty Inc. have been in talks with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, trying to park a 33-story luxury hotel in Minneapolis’ Gateway District on the north end of Nicollet Mall. That’s no longer happening, which CoStar claims was due to that ineffable lack of demand. Insley says the new structure is going to be geared more toward office space. Neither United nor JMI responded to requests for comment.
Brent Foerster of Meet Minneapolis has worked in the hotel industry for 20 years, and he thinks the market could potentially bear a five-star establishment. What the Twin Cities lacks in five-star hotels, he says, it makes up for in a "higher than average" four-diamond places. The market's in good shape, and on the uptick. Getting a top-tier hotel is probably just a matter of time.
"Look at all the cranes in the air," he says. "The city's growing."
Thing is, the kind of luxurious buildings worthy of the five-star rating just aren't being built as much these past 20 years. It's a high-risk business that depends on high occupancy, and not as many developers are willing to attempt it. It may be that having a place on Forbes' list -- for the moment, at least -- isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Insley says the Twin Cities’ lack of five-star or five-diamond establishments doesn't mean there aren’t beautiful hotels in town. Their market, she says, is just “different.” And that doesn’t mean it’s not good enough for event planners deciding where to hold the Super Bowl, or the X-Games, or the NCAA Final Four.
“They never say, ‘well, you don’t have any five-star hotels,’” she says.