UK government wants to axe hotel star ratings, web systems better

UK tourist authorities are to withdraw their support for the long-standing hotel star rating system, claiming user reviews are a better indicator of quality.

five stars

The coalition government says it will publish a wide-ranging tourism policy paper in February in which it will propose ending the existing system of one-to-five stars for hotels.

Officials say websites such as TripAdvisor are better at providing a benchmark on the quality and range of services a hotel can offer consumers, rather than the existing system where hotels are evaluated privately by experts and the appropriate star is awarded.

With the end of the official star rating system, hotels will be free and also advised to choose a standard of their own (some hotels already promote using a TripAdvisor score) or establish a system of their own, using consumer data and opinions.

The government says it will stop trying to “corral” hotels into joining an official rating scheme provided by the state’s tourism authorities.

“The Government will encourage any rating schemes or customer websites which improve the quality of information which visitors can use to choose the right holiday for them, so they make informed choices rather than discovering problems when it’s too late.

“We will also encourage every scheme to provide specialist information on travel, accommodation and attractions which is accessible to visitors with disabilities, and which is sustainably ‘green’ as well.”

There is no suggestion at all that TripAdvisor will be promoted by tourism boards as the de facto rating scheme to use – it is being highlighted by officials purely as an example of an established user review system, albeit one with issues of its own and not exactly the universal support of the hotel industry.

But the scrapping of the existing star rating system is likely to be a controversial move in some quarters, with some probably suggesting a government-sanctioned system actually gives a hotel some kind of official backing rather than what consummers have opined on websites.

The UK government does not see it that way:

“In the end, of course, it is for individual businesses to make up their own minds what ratings systems they sign up with. The important thing for us to try to support both the industry (through deregulation and removing administrative burdens etc) and the customer (through the provision of relevant, accurate and up-to-date information to help inform their holiday choices).”

The policy paper to be released next month (also covering issues as wide as tourist visa regulations and airports) replaces an existing position being considered by VisitEngland before the last UK general election.

In March 2010, VisitEngland said it was considering a combination of user generated content and official star ratings for hotels.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.

 

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  1. Bran Thomas

    We are huge fans of any quality assessment process that is driven by cutomers rather than annual audits.
    Auditors can be, and are, duped by annual spring cleaning just before their arrival, out of the ordinary attention to customer care and above average quality of meals etc etc.

    Back handers are also present in the industry with all sorts of perks offered for favourable reviews and of course commission is offered by preferred suppliers to the industry if supported and recommended by the auditors.

    I worked for two large luxury automotive companies in the UK for 30 odd years and witnessed the revolution within both organisations when the focus for product quality was switched to customer driven feedback as opposed to internal audits; JD Power changed the shape of those organisations and the quality of the products and services offered to our customers before it was too late.

    We are of course No 1 on Trip Advisor for our area and our customers are driven to us by those ratings and we are driven by those ratings to make sure we maintain those standards; it is brilliant.

    You can’t buy or dupe over 5 million customers that use a system and of course it is FREE..

     
  2. Devon Hotel

    Why not leave it to user/reader/tourist discretion about what he or she should refer when hiring into a hotel. I see no harm in letting both systems co-exist. As it is most people hit the web for any reviews before deciding on a hotel.

     
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  5. Anna

    Do anyone know how this statement will effect Visit Skottland and their quality star rating? Will that continue?

     
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  7. Sarah

    Interesting debate. I have a number of smaller clients in Suffolk who object to the high cost of the ratings system and don’t feel they get value for money – either in terms of advice they receive from the ratings agency nor additional room nights filled as a result of having the rating. They object that the ratings relate to ancillaries like sinks in each room rather than, for example, a friendly greeting and decent breakfast. I’m sure many people don’t look at ratings at all anymore, just peer reviews, so it’s time for the consumer to be heard first & foremost, and for the playing field to be levelled for smaller accommodation providers.

     
  8. Rikard Bergsten

    Why “axe” when you can join? The countries in Europe are now harmonizing the national classification systems into a Pan European through Hotelstars Union (www.hotelstars.eu) with already 10 countries as commited members – and more to join. Who is afraid of the official stars? Definetly not the customer. So England, join!

     
  9. Joseph ' Yossi' Fischer

    I find this blog to be very interesting and important to me as well as to all the travel and hotel industry of Israel. The Israeli Ministry of Tourism is currently looking to re-introduce a star grading system that was abolished back in 1992. The Re-Classification comes as a result of a study made by Ernst & Young for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism in which it was recommended to have an official grading system. Any additional ideas insights to this subject would be highly appreciated.

     
  10. Kimberley

    As a person at the other side of the coin I object to the cost of the star rating schemes (£550 for this year with Visit Britain we changed from AA as this is even more expensive)That is a lot of money for a one night visit once every other year and 1 hour visit in the other year. I wouldn’t mind if they suggested any practical help or advice but they don’t. There is no hotelier who states “you know what I want to do I want to run a really crap place and be shouted at every day” we are all striving to improve all the time but many are struggling in this economic climate as well as with the mountains of red tape we are constantly burried under which mean costly changes almost on a 6 monthly basis people are struggling to keep up. A lot of people I know have had to put in fire doors on all their rooms at £120 each and new fire alarms at the cost of £7,000 well that will take a chunk out of your decorating and renovation budget won’t it? People need to be realistic about what a service costs.

     
  11. Andy

    We took over 3 and half years ago and to say I’ve swayed my opinion on the ratings system is an understatement. I now think its great that once a year we get an independent “state of the nation” report from tourism professionals who can (and do) point out our little short-comings and way-forwards. We also feel that being a member of the scheme adds weight to our credibility. Also, when the guest books our 2 star accommodation they have a reasonable understanding of the quality of the furnishings etc. I do feel that a mixture of official ratings and guest reviews would provide the best overall picture for the potential guest.
    Regards,
    Andy

     
  12. Rajul

    I published a post on my blog a couple of weeks ago entitled “death of the hotel star rating system” but did not expect it to unravel so quickly:
    http://londonhotelsinsight.com/2011/01/10/the-death-of-the-hotel-star-rating-system/

    Star ratings may be outdated but that doesn’t mean that a better system could not be designed which incorporates “the best of both worlds” between objective criteria and user reviews.

    At the same time, the internal policing of reviews by sites like TripAdvisor needs to go up a notch…why can’t they simply hire more people to police, vet and audit content?

    Surely this would be a good investment when the credibility of their brand reputation depends on this sort of due diligence.

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @rajul – the star rating system has been under scrutiny for quite some time, as the post outlines (VE looking at changing it this time last year).

      The coalition government looked at the combo system put forward by VE after the election in May last year and has decided to scrap the idea.

       
  13. Tamara

    At last – finally people have realised how irrelevant star ratings are to real people travelling and staying in hotels.

     
  14. Bruce

    Oh goody, so it to be a wikipedia of ratings systems.

    A standard doesn’t have to be good, just consistent, based on a set criteria, which TA and suchlike don’t have.

     
  15. Markus Luthe

    From my point of view it is a fundamental misunderstanding, that hotel classification would lose their importance in times of review portals. In the infinite wides of the web, the customer is looking more than ever for an objective anchor, something to calibrate his expectations with. Therefore the hotelstars will even shine brighter than before, as long as the underlying criteria are up to date and in accordance with rapidly changing guests’ needs.

    For this purpose for instance the harmonized criteria set of the Hotelstars Union (Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland) is based on customer research and combines traditional offline and modern online criteria (homepage, reviews). See http://www.hotelstars.eu.

    Hotel review sites are far too vulnerable to fraud and misuse as if they alone could serve the customers’ demands the best way. The European hospitality industry is encouraging review providers to increase reliability and to realize even more mutual benefits. See http://tinyurl.com/64j3v5c

     
  16. @toddlucier

    Well if this isn’t incentive enough for stodgy old hoteliers to get with the times and embrace social media nothing is. I’ve never been a fan of traditional accommodation ratings schemes that use an amenities approach to determining quality.

    Travelers know best. Value is the commodity. What do you get for what you pay for. If your guests see value, they had better be saying something. Don’t leave it up to the wankers who are disappointed to paint the picture. Ask for reviews.

     
  17. Martyn Collins

    Hi Kevin, can you please confirm where your government quotes have been sourced from? Would also be interesting to see what ‘research’ evidence has been compiled to justify this change – are you aware of any?

     
  18. Steve

    Will a Tripadvisor rating alone be seen as a reliable sign of a good hotel by consumers though? I’m not sure, there’s so often bad press about fake reviews etc, and the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen in user testing hotels and tour operator websites shows customers look for the star rating too. If a hotel invents its own rating system will that be any more trustworthy?

    If we’re moving completely away from anything standardised I will personally begin to look at hotels more favourably if they have a professional (maybe journalist) review to go with the TA review. Best of the lot is a You said, We said, They said approach of customer + hotel + professional review combination.

    A change like this could lead more customers to actually leave reviews too I guess, which would be a good thing for the overall trust rating for a hotel (in terms of accuracy).

     
 
 

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