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The CEO of Bon Hotels argues that people now rely on online reviews, rather than the star rating system, when choosing a place to stay.
The CEO of Bon Hotels argues that people now rely on online reviews, rather than the star rating system, when choosing a place to stay.
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Existing hotel star grading systems will soon become extinct. The reason? They are simply no longer relevant in today’s world and don’t reflect the needs and wants of the modern traveller.

We live in the “Age of Recommendation”, where officially accredited “stars” are taking a back seat in the traveller’s decision-making process. The truth is that guests and travellers are often in a much better position to attribute a star rating to a hotel than the one-dimensional rating systems put in place by tourism authorities around the world.

Unsurprisingly, hotel guests are relying increasingly on peer reviews, recommendation websites and consumer photos to judge the quality of hotels. According to Tripadvisor’s Path to Purchase report, 33% of people globally visit travel sites before booking and 74% of hotel purchasers check Tripadvisor before booking.

In comparison, star grading systems globally tend to focus on outdated and inconsistent criteria for hardware facilities and service availability at hotels, lodges and resorts. Within each category there is a list of minimum requirements an establishment must have in place before they can be graded. Four- and five-star establishments would be expected to offer services/facilities such as 24-hour room service, disposable slippers, gowns, a concierge, porterage and luggage handling. Full housekeeping and laundry services must also be provided.

The question is why you would need a 24-hour full room service option to obtain a five-star grading if 99% of your guests are out between 10am and 4pm. Why would you need telephones in the rooms if most of your guests are millennials who have cellphones and would far prefer communicating with reception through apps? Why should you enforce room service seven days a week when some guests would prefer not to have anyone enter their room during a pandemic?

Instead of offering real value to hotel guests in the decision-making process, star rating systems have become glorified safety nets that keep the tourism authorities busy and generate some form of income for associations and tourism establishments. Unfortunately, the current official star ratings don’t highlight the actual guest experience, nor do they take into consideration the innovation at the property or the uniqueness of the service offering.

Whether we like it or not (we certainly don’t), if you as a hotel owner or manager want to know how many stars you are, Tripadvisor will tell you!

Many global hotel groups have found that their franchising terms and conditions, which are often based on star grading requirements, have become too onerous and are a repellent for modern hotel owners who would like to join the brand. At Bon Hotels, we have decided to streamline the “minimum standards” to a few relevant essential requirements that correspond with travellers’ needs of today instead.

Do star ratings still have a place in the modern hospitality industry? Perhaps, but only if we fundamentally review the system to correspond with what the modern traveller wants and needs. The only question any star rating should be based on is: would you recommend our hotel to your friends and family? 

Stehlik is CEO of Bon Hotels.


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