Sometimes it can be very challenging to pick a hotel for vacation, is it the brand, is it the star, or is it the price factor – the more the merrier one should look for? World Spa explores and helps you in making an informed choice.
To search for a suitable hotel to stay during a well-deserved vacation has become a challenge. We are confronted with different types of hotel with varying price brackets, ratings and brands to choose from. I normally skip over the significance of the stars associated with hotels, paying more attention to price, deals available and nearby sightseeing venues. In certain cases, I have simply relied on brand names as the deciding factor. Stars next to hotel names help filter the search and give us an indication of what to expect when we do select a hotel.
The simple meaning of stars, to me, has been: one star is bed and breakfast type while five star would mean a luxury hotel; one star would say ‘no service’ and five star would mean ‘fabulous service’. The higher the star rating of a hotel, the bigger the smile on hotel staff! There are however exceptions to this, I have been to many five star hotels and received service and seen facilities not worthy of a three starrer and I have been to may three – four hotels which can easily pull off five stars. I have also been to many Swiss and Austrian four stars which behave like one or two stars in terms of facility and comfort! A ‘lay-traveler’ needs a rough guide to hotel ratings! World Travel Magazine is here to help.
The star ratings rendered on a hotel exemplify the kind of service, amenities, excellence in guest care, price range and so on. So the next obvious question to ask would be how do hotels get their ratings?
Travelers, organizations and government bodies review hotel ratings. Every country has their own rating method. For instance, the United States has ‘Forbes Startle’, an hotel rating system. AAA has the ‘Diamond Rating System’ that covers the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean by conduct physical, on-site evaluations. AAA’s regional Tour Book guides cover the U.S and Canada and are updated annually. These rating bodies had been in the business for more than 50 years and use published guidelines to evaluate a hotel. For example, AAA states that ‘their professionally trained inspectors assign a rating of one to five diamonds based on the extensiveness of services, facilities and amenities typical of each rating level’. Forbes tow a similar line, ‘Forbes Travel Guide’s inspectors visit a property, anonymously and test every aspect of the property’s experience. When we check in to a hotel, restaurant or spa, we notice if the staff welcomes you warmly, greets you by name and anticipates whatever you might need-before you’ve even realized you needed it’. Australia has a private rating method named AAA, not to be mistaken with North America’s AAA.
Due to multiple hotel ratings via various agencies and the dramatic increase in hotels worldwide, there are bound to be a few discrepancies. It has been observed that there have been evidences of inconsistency in the rating procedure in some countries. To counter this, the hotels associations of Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland have created the Hotel stars Union under the patronage of HOTREC. They admin past guilt by stating, ‘Since 2004 HOTREC and its associations have been working on bringing the hotel classification systems in the various European countries closer to one another.’
As a bare minimum, we can use HOTREC’s criteria to create a floor for our expectations when we choose hotels.
A ‘one star’ hotels should have “100 % of the rooms with shower/WC or bath tub/WC, daily room cleaning, 100 % of the rooms with color-TV together with remote control, table and chair, soap or body wash, reception service, facsimile at the reception, publicly available telephone for guests, extended breakfast, beverage offer in the hotel, deposit possibility”. Sounds grim.
‘Two star’ hotels should have “Breakfast buffet, reading light next to the bed, bath essence or shower gel, bath towels, linen shelves, offer of sanitary products (e.g. toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving kit) and accept credit cards”. The big difference here is the buffet and towels! To be honest with the readers, it would have to be an exceptional situation for me, or anyone I know for that matter, to be in a position to use a towel in a two star hotel. It will be cheaper to get a one star hotel booking, buy a towel from a nearby super-mart and get a decent breakfast in a nearby café.
Three star hotels should have “A reception operating 14 hours a day, accessible by phone 24 hours from inside and outside, bilingual staff, three piece suite at the reception, luggage service, beverage offer in the room, telephone in the room, internet access in the room or in the public area, heating facility in the bathroom, hair-dryer, cleansing tissue, dressing mirror, place to put the luggage/suitcase, sewing kit, shoe polish utensils, laundry and ironing service, additional pillow and additional blanket on demand, systematic and a complaint management system”. I am not sure whether a complaint management system is relevant but for a few more bucks, a three star is a better option to a two star though I still have doubts about their towels!
The four star hotel should have “Reception opened 18 hours a day, accessible by phone 24 hours from inside and outside, lobby with seats and beverage service, breakfast buffet or breakfast menu card via room service, mini bar or 24 hours beverages via room service, upholstered chair/couch with side table, bath robe and slippers on demand, cosmetic products (e.g. shower cap, nail file, cotton swabs), vanity mirror, tray of a large scale in the bathroom), internet access and internet terminal and a la carte-restaurant”. It will be relevant to note that hotels earn a bigger percentage from their restaurants and so it will be normal for most four star hotels to offer at least a couple of restaurant options.
A five star accommodation needs to have “reception opened 24 hours a day, multilingual staff, doorman-service or valet parking, concierge, page boy, spacious reception hall with several seats and beverage service, personalized greeting for each guest with fresh flowers or a present in the room, mini bar and food and beverage offer via room service during 24 hours, personal care products in flacons, internet-PC in the room, safe in the room, ironing service (return within 1 hr), shoe polish service, turndown service in the evening, mystery guesting”.
Ratings depends a lot on the facilities available. Old hotels or historical properties are thus at a disadvantage. Heritage hotels sometimes lose out at least one or two star ratings but have a whole lot of character and are far away from the run of the mill cookie-cutter rooms that many of the branded hotels offer.
You would have noticed that some hotels label themselves as resorts. Both hotel and resort hotel offer daily accommodations to their clients but the similarity ends here only.The hotel is a temporary lodging facility availed by a person away from home, located mostly near an airport, shopping area or business center. For instance, Grand Hyatt New York is just steps away from Times Square, Broadway theaters; Central Park and Fifth Avenue’s shopping belt. The InterContinental London Park Lane is not far from the Tower of London, Big Ben and Trafalgar Square. BLUE Sydney, a Taj hotel is a boutique hotel in the heart of a luxury marina, entertainment and apartment complex.
A resort hotel however will be situated at a scenic location such as a beach, an island or mountains. They would offer many activities like boating, trekking and scuba diving, the spotlight being on leisure moments.
The conception of the star rating can benefit the people scouting for a good deal on hotels or resort hotels. As the structure of the star system provides with an overview of the hotel features, cost, facilities to meet the expectations and budget of the person. A smart research would help one get a fair idea on a hotel.