England’s two hotel grading schemes will be overseen by the same body from next month, following the appointment of the AA to run VisitEngland’s quality assessment and star rating scheme.
VisitEngland’s National Quality Assessment Scheme has been run under licence by Quality in Tourism, a subsidiary of the security company G4S, since 2012. The initial three year contract, which was later extended, runs out until 31 March 2017.
Following a tender process, the AA was granted a three-year contract to run VisitEngland’s quality assessment scheme from 1 April.
VisitEngland said that the strength of the AA bid “lay in not only their commitment to maintaining standards and meeting the expectations of Quality Assessment Schemes’ participants, but also in matching our ambitions to develop the schemes further and bring additional value to participants and consumers”.
The AA, which has been inspecting and rating hotels in the UK for more than 100 years, follows the same common standards used by VisitEngland and the national tourist boards for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, introduced in 2005.
A spokesperson for VisitEngland said that there will initially be no short-term changes with regards the quality assessment process.
“Individual tourism businesses will continue to have a choice whether to hold a star-rating assessment either from the AA and/or VisitEngland in the future, where both organisations are active in the same accommodation segment,” she said.
Helen Brocklehurst, head of publishing and digital at the AA, added that the details of the contract are still being finalised.
“Visit England’s inspectors and the AA’s inspectors will work together as part of one team to fulfil inspections, under a number of area managers,” she explained.
“Having a larger team of inspectors providing the services should be beneficial to participants of both the AA and VistEngland schemes.”
However, Brocklehurst added that the VisitEngland and AA schemes would remain distinct.
The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) has been contacted by a hotelier who is concerned that the awarding of the assessment scheme to the AA will create a monopoly. The operator, whose business is currently assessed by VisitEngland, said: “My key concern is that if I wanted to be with the AA, I would already be with the AA.
“How do they [the AA] plan to keep the two schemes separate, maintain data integrity and ensure that my data is not used for commercial gain as they are a commercial company?”
A spokesperson of the CMA said: “We cannot comment on any cases which are not currently under investigation by the CMA.”