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Hotel Star Ratings: Bizarre Rules and Little Things

So we stayed at a Best Western this weekend whilst attending the launch of the latest pub in the EPIC pubs collection, The Anchor at Aspley Guise, as it was literally over the road and reasonably priced.

It was pleasant enough, and had all the usual amenities associated with hotels. Which got me to thinking, what makes the difference between this, a three star hotel, and say The Langham with five stars (other than the price)?

I started to do some research on the AA website (who are now the sole organisation rating hotels in the UK), and found that it was actually pretty interesting just what hotels of a certain rating are required to have, and equally what they aren’t.

Some of the criteria are pretty obvious – staffing levels, bars, restaurants – others are more interesting. For example, to qualify for three stars and above, all bedrooms must have two mirrors, one of which must be full length; four star hotels must offer two easy chairs in a double/twin room, and stools are not acceptable. One easy chair and a stool is fine for three stars. See what I mean?!

Each hotel is assessed, and special dispensation can be made if a hotel can’t achieve the criteria in one area but correspondingly exceeds it in another, that I should imagine they have certain areas that are deal breakers if you fall short. Things like quality of service, quality of furnishings, size of beds and the availability of en suites in the room.

It becomes a law of diminishing returns, in reality. The jump from two to three stars is an easy one to identify and categorise – all room should have en suites, wi-fi should be available at least in public areas, room service should be available and so on. Then as you start to move up the ladder, it becomes more about focussing on the smaller things, and real attention to detail. So while your hotel may have a restaurant, if its menu isn’t quite comprehensive enough, or the quality of food is poor, you’ll be unlikely to move up to the next tier.

But it was these little things that would become glaring errors when staying in the three star hotel this weekend. For example, in the bathroom, the towel rail was literally right in front of the toilet. So much so, that unless you were an amputee, you had to sit on the toilet at an angle, because your knees wouldn’t fit in. There were marks on the ceiling from when various insects had been squashed. The toilet door stuck in the frame and wouldn’t close smoothly. As would the door to the room, meaning you couldn’t avoid slamming it when leave – much to the chagrin of our neighbours I’m sure.

I’m not saying that I haven’t come across these things in varying combinations at higher-rated hotels – I have. It was just the general appearance that as long as the bathroom was clean and the linen changed regularly, the rest was a lower down the priority list. Which I guess it was – you get what you pay for.

But my issue with all of this is that if it were my hotel, I wouldn’t be able to resist addressing this stuff as a matter of pride. So I guess it’s why it resonates so strongly with me when it’s not done, because I end up getting the feeling that the proprietors of the hotel really don’t care about their guests, but care about turnover and the bare essentials.

I recognise that hotels are a business, and that keeping on top of things like this all ultimately cost money – either in materials or manpower, but I genuinely believe that the costs of doing so will be repaid over and over in increased room rates and custom. So why wouldn’t you? Surely it’s a no-brainer?

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