Good evening madam, good evening sir. Can I take your bags? Soft white towels, soft pillows, monogrammed slippers, full buffet breakfast, Egyptian cotton sheets, tasting menus, signature cocktails. . .
Five stars has long been synonymous with “luxury hotel experience”.
But what do we really know about how hotels get this rating?
Five stars has long been synonymous with the “luxury hotel experience”
In the UK, AA and VisitBritain are the two hotel rating bodies, but nothing prevents a hotel from describing itself as five stars. Since 2006, the AA and VisitBritain share common quality standards, which means that they give the same ratings to the same hotels.
Websites such as booking.com, Tripadvisor, and Expedia also give hotel ratings. These are based on customer reviews rather than a formal system.
There are 180 hotels registered with the VisitEngland Quality Scheme and over 1900 with the AA. The AA says that number has declined in recent years.
For full accreditation, hotels must undergo an anonymous night inspection once a year and pay a fee as well. This ranges from £ 624 for a one star hotel to £ 2,123 for a five star hotel. So, in theory, properties could pay a premium to be downgraded.
Inspectors examine various aspects of a hotel, including multiple rooms, and then rate them against the evaluation criteria. The scores are then discussed with the hotel management and areas for improvement are suggested.
A written report is completed and the score remains or is updated as appropriate.
Do you fancy a “substantial writing table with excellent headroom”? This is one of the criteria for a five star hotel. Others include “excellent upholstery”, “beautiful decoration” and “a wide range of dishes of exceptional quality”. Which is a bit vague.
A touch of class: hotel expert Alex Polizzi, who runs The Polizzi Collection hotels with his mother Olga
Double beds should be at least 5 feet wide and single beds at least 3 feet wide, with generous access from both sides. Bunk beds are not acceptable.
Hotels are rated based on these criteria and must achieve an 85-100% rating to be considered five stars.
Some criteria are reasonable, such as being open seven days a week, and having secondary dining options, recreational activities, and a spa.
Others may seem less important: do we really need a business center? And should an entire hotel be judged on having “a permanent luxury suite available that includes three separate rooms – a bedroom, a living room and a bathroom”?
Double beds in five-star hotels should be at least 5 feet wide with generous access from both sides
One criterion in particular is almost indecipherable: “a choice of environments in public spaces of sufficient and relevant size to provide personal space”.
Hotels don’t have to meet all the requirements. Rather, they are graded as if they were passing an exam.
The hotel rating system could be of great help to small independent hotels where advertising and reputation building is difficult and expensive.
The problem is that a lot of the criteria (like 24 hour room service) are more easily achievable in large corporate hotels.
Clearly, this is not a problem for independent brands with strong support.
Alex Polizzi, who runs The Polizzi Collection with his mother Olga, says: “I don’t think high-end independent hotels rely on the star rating system for their reservations, because customers come directly to them, thanks to their reputation and their recommendations. “
Hugo says that the 24-hour room service, which is one of the criteria of a five-star hotel, “is more easily achievable in large corporate hotels”
WHAT THE INSPECTOR THINKS …
Any hotel that slams into being five star should be avoided. Or, at least, treated with skepticism. We have all stayed in modest hotels and guesthouses with exemplary levels of service and comfort – even five stars – but these would not meet the criteria to be officially five stars.
Corporate hotel chains often speak of “five star luxury” when in fact they offer something strangely depressing and impersonal.
The Endsleigh Collection Hotel in Devon is already full for much of this month and half of October. Similar occupancy levels can be observed for its other properties, none of which are listed in the rating system.
Adam Raphael of the Good Hotel Guide said: “The rating system in the UK is not as firmly established as in places like France or Italy because it is not regulated by the state. . However, something non-commercial would be expensive if done right. ‘
Websites like Tripadvisor have undermined the rating system. On Tripadvisor, the top rated hotel in London, for example, is not an official five-star property.
When it comes to booking an upscale hotel, it’s worth looking past the star rating it has (if it’s listed).
Use a website, guide, or organization that controls hotels but has no business interest (other than selling vacations, of course) to hand out stars.
The Good Hotel Guide, Relais & Châteaux or Mr & Mrs Smith are all good options.
All rating criteria can be viewed at visitenglandassessmentservices.com and theaa.com/hotel-services/ratings-and-awards.