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Should the ‘outdated' star rating system be ditched?

03 July 2009 by
Should the ‘outdated' star rating system be ditched?

Hotel group Jurys Inns has called for the scrapping of the hotel star rating system, claiming it is no longer relevant to the modern customer. Gemma Sharkey asked experts their views

John Brennan, chief executive, Jurys Inns

"We have started the debate because there is clear evidence that there is a huge gap between what today's consumer wants and what the current grading systems think guests want.

The star rating systems, invented before the recent travel revolution inspired by the internet and low-fares aviation, fail to value and grade the things our consumers most want. If a three-star guarantees wide corridors and a trouser press - what help is that for today's consumer who wants Wi-Fi, value for money, quality service and a great location?

We think there is a need for a system that regulates a minimum standard for hotels, particularly at the lower end of the market, so consumers can have confidence in their choices."

David Young, owner the Cross at Kingussie, Scotland (and a former AA inspector)

"I'm always somewhat suspicious when the old chestnut of the trouser press is cited as an example of what's so awful about the star rating schemes. I can say with some confidence that in the history of star ratings, stretching back almost 100 years, nowhere in any set of criteria will Brennan find a requirement for any hotel to provide a trouser press.

As for online reviews, there is a growing opinion across the hospitality industry that TripAdvisor is not all it's cracked up to be. Rankings and reviews are being manipulated by unscrupulous operators, hoteliers are writing their own reviews (or worse, they're writing damning reviews of their competitors), and reviews are posted without any check for factual accuracy.

So although I'm well aware of the marketeers' arguments for working with TripAdvisor, they make commercial sense but lack integrity."

Peter Hancock, chief executive, Pride of Britain Hotels

"The present star rating system is not perfect, but the AA applies standard measures across the country and, of course, it is easier to quantify facilities than the general ambience.

We also know that consumers are confused when presented with pubs, B&Bs, farmhouses and guest accommodation that are now graded with 1 to 5 stars but with fewer barriers to achieving those stars than are applied to larger hotels.

For these reasons and others, I believe that brands have become increasingly influential in helping guests to identify the type of hotels they like and that the number of stars, while still important, is no longer the prime factor when choosing a place to stay."

Andrew Mckenzie, managing director, Vineyard at Stockcross

"Every few months, another budget chain calls for the abolition of the star system. Perhaps, for these very branded offerings, it has no place and they should therefore avoid it and push their brand and all it stands for.

The vast majority of the hotel landscape in the UK, however, is populated with independent hotels of very varying quality and the AA star scheme still has credibility and integrity both within the industry and with consumers. For the industry it gives a benchmark to work towards in terms of facilities and quality, as the rating takes both into account. Every hotelier I know is aiming to increase their percentage score."

Andy Townsend, chief executive, Legacy Hotels

"More and more nowadays, if you wish to exhibit at major trade shows, you need to have at least 50% of your room stock accredited by the AA or similar. I think the AA has progressed in recent years in aligning its measurements to more service and standards.

That said, I think that its progress is better placed at the four-star and above. The mid-market, which is vast, is filled with three-star hotels that are often great little businesses and work well in their own marketplace but the convergence of Metro, Budget, Lodge, Boutique and the like are all a haze to most customers - and this is the sector the AA should get to grips with faster."

Harry Murray, managing director, Lucknam Park

"I strongly disagree that the star rating system should be scrapped. If you examine the Quality Standards Report that the AA issues following the inspector's visit, you will find that 58 aspects of the hotel are measured under nine separate headings which include cleanliness, service, food and hospitality.

These four areas are critical to the grading system and while some features do contribute to the grading system, it is the quality of standards and service that the inspector is looking for. From the guest's point of view, they need to know the quality and type of hotel they are visiting and both the AA & VisitBritain did consult with the industry before the harmonised grading system was implemented."

Hospitality leaders defend hotel star rating system >>

Jurys Inns calls for hotel star rating system to be scrapped >>

Has the AA lost its way? >>

Common accommodation standards launched today >>

By Gemma Sharkey

E-mail your comments to Gemma Sharkey here.

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