Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Battle of the Stars

What images come to mind when someone tells you, that you are booked to stay in a 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 star rated hotel?

Do you imagine the 1 & 2 star hotels are dark, unclean, not refurbished and offers poor service and food?  Do you imagine the 5 star can provide you bright, big, spacious rooms that are well furnished, with perfect service, gourmet food and a chocolate on your pillow?  Do you feel that hotels without a star rating are not even worth considering?  Do you even understand the star rating system?

Perhaps another question to ask is, what is important to you when booking a hotel?  Is it the location, the room size, how well furnished it is, or is it actually just a room to sleep in? People use the word quality, they want quality, so what does that mean?

The general idea behind a star rating is this.  The more stars, the higher the overall level of quality you can expect to find.  However all properties have to meet an extensive list of minimum standards before they are even considered for a rating.

Some hotels choose not to participate in the rating system, it can be quite costly, yet actually the absence of a rating does not indicate poor quality of amenities or service.

When it comes to trying to work your way through the hotel star rating system, it can be quite complicated.  Star ratings vary from global region to global region, country to country and occasionally within countries.  Within Europe, hotel stars are assigned if properties have leisure facilities and lifts, not always on when the last refurbishment was done and its current state.

The UK star rating system dates back to 1912, when Automobile Association's Secretary, Stenson Cooke hit on the idea, and the 3 star classification system was born.  Today in Great Britain, the AA works on a 5 star system and after years of confusing tourists and Britons, a standardised system was launched in 2007.

Cost comes into where you can afford to stay.  If you are on a tight budget and need somewhere for less than £70 a night, you might consider the likes of a 2 star or lesser rated properties, perhaps if you can afford a little more you will find yourself looking at 3 & 4 star hotels.  If you are the lucky ones who can afford the 5 star and deluxe hotels, you are in for a treat, but don't bank all your expectations on those shiny gold stars next to the hotel name, sometimes they disappoint and you are left wondering how they got it.

Bathroom size, a night porter, 24 hour hot room service, bed size and more all come into it. Sometimes you might surprise yourself and stay in a 3 star hotel that can offer you 5 star furnishings, and service, but because the bathrooms can't be increased in size they can't benefit from the higher rating.  If you think a nice fluffy towel and slippers will guarantee a perfect stay, it might, but don't always bank on it.

Many hotels nowadays are starting to move away from the star ratings, especially branded hotels such as Holiday Inns.  They feel that the brand projects and guarantees what the customer can expect better than the star rating system.  You may well find in the future, less and less hotels opt for a star rating for this exact reason.

Baring all the above in mind, try not to disregard a hotel purely because it lacks a pool, or because it is only rated 2 or 3 stars, or even if it doesn’t have a brand above the door. Brands certainly offer consistency so that a room in one branded UK hotel looks identical to a room in one of their Tokyo hotels, however some might argue that this also results in a lack of character compared to unbranded hotels that are unique in their own right.  If you’re adamant that you want to stick to a brand though, my suggestion would be to choose one like Best Western, who don’t own any of their hotels. All Best Western hotels are independently owned, so you can feel safe in the knowledge that you will experience consistency in the standards you would expect from the brand, whilst still having the unique experience that comes from a country house retreat or even a castle!  Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it too ;o)

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