Hotels and B&Bs across the UK are to be rated under a new set of common standards.
It is the first time that a single method of assessing and rating serviced accommodation has been agreed by all of the UK's main accreditation bodies, including the national tourist boards of England, Scotland and Wales and the AA and RAC.
The new system is being introduced to simplify the existing ratings and provide a unified system to the consumer and the industry.
All accommodation will be assessed on an annual basis from January 2006 with properties awarded between one and five stars.
Any operators who choose not be rated under the new standards will be excluded from all marketing activity or material provided by the tourist boards or the guidebooks.
Announcing the new standards, Albert Hampson, business manager of hotel services at the AA, said a lot of consultancy has gone into these standards. "Britain is already recognised as having the best assurance schemes in the world and these new standards mean we'll stay that way."
Only budget hotels will not be assessed with a star rating although they will still be inspected.
Large international hotel chains like Hilton and Marriott, which have previously resisted star rating in favour of branding, will now be rated.
A spokesman for Hilton UK said the group fully supported the new standards. "We welcome the multiple choice of inspection bodies as a means of ensuring control of the costs," he said.
Operators will still be obliged to pay for their assessment, although prices and the full service offered will differ depending on the provider.
Despite a unified front, British Hospitality Association chief executive Bob Cotton stressed that the full criteria behind the standards should be released as soon as possible to ensure the industry and consumers bought into the new standards.
"Otherwise we will end up with the same situation we did in1998 when attempts to introduce common standards across the UK failed," he added.
Alan Britten, chairman of the Common Standards Group, was adamant that this time the scheme would work. "This is not national standardisation it is four bodies choosing, in the interests of the customer, to make their standards common."
Under the new standards accommodation will be divided into three categories: hotels, guest accommodation and budget hotels. These categories are then divided into further sub-categories.
Crucially, businesses will be assessed according to their own definition. This means that if a business calls itself a hotel, it will be judged as such.
Grading will be confirmed by a new Standards Review Group which will ensure consistency across all accreditation bodies. Full detailed assessment criteria will be available in about a month's time.
For list and description of all new categories click here >>
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