Recognising individuality

31 August 2006
Recognising individuality

The introduction of a consistent way of assessing and also guiding our visitors to the quality of accommodation in Scotland, England and Wales quite understandably causes owners and managers of these businesses to ask questions about the approach being taken. Jeff Riley has raised some of these in his letter (Caterer, 17 August, page 14).

We at VisitScotland, VisitBritain (for England), Visit Wales and the AA have taken what we see as a grounded and businesslike approach to the issues surrounding the development of an even more credible and reliable grading scheme. Extensive consumer research along with equally extensive trade and consumer research across all industry sectors (backed by some considerable experience in delivering successful grading schemes) helped us introduce criteria, standards and a system of presentation that, we believe, will help all of our customers select, stay in and be happy with the accommodation they choose for business and leisure.

One of the main driving forces behind the common standard is that we should be assessing outputs on behalf of our customers; it's not our job to tell people how to run a hotel. It's to assess, as objectively as we can, how well their services and facilities are being delivered. From this we can provide nationwide independent, consistent and reliable guidance for people trying to find somewhere to stay that will suit, or exceed, their requirements.

Much can be done on the back of this, such as motivating improvements and investing in skills, but a hotel's customers and our customers are the primary reason for choosing to run a nationwide scheme that's trustworthy and widely used.

We understand why different operators take differing approaches to satisfying their customers' expectations and do not in any way wish to homogenise products on offer.

The overriding principle behind the common standard is that the intrinsic quality of what is provided should determine the star grading - how good and effective this is, is far more important than the style and range of the services and facilities. Many of the criteria are dependent on how appropriate they are to the market the hotel is in. Tell us why you're providing the services you offer, and we will always listen as part of understanding the experience you offer to your market.

A business's costs and style of operation are driven by an understanding of its customers' requirements. Far from being inflexible, the common standard is designed to recognise these, and provide objective benchmarking alongside these marketing-driven decisions, while at the same time encouraging and nurturing an increase in quality.

In addition, the development of an easy-to-understand way of describing these standards to a varied domestic and worldwide market involves using stars to describe the quality for all types of accommodation. This, combined with a range of consumer-friendly "designators", such as small hotel, hotel, restaurant with rooms, inn, farmhouse, B&B, guesthouse, etc, has been a proven success in Scotland and Wales since 2000.

We're working with you to provide reliable unbiased information upon which consumers can base their decision of where to stay and in a way that we believe will help grow your business and recognise individuality.

Tony Mercer
Head of quality and standards
VisitScotland, Inverness

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