A guide to understanding the hotel star system

About the only thing that hotel ratings have in common are their confusing star systems

CALGARY, Alta. Jan. 1, 2017/ Troy Media/ – About the only thing that hotel rating systems have in common are the stars. If you are looking for a big name, 5-star hotel, you’ll more than likely get what you’re looking for. It becomes confusing, however, when you get into the 1 to 4 star categories.

There are French rating systems, British rating systems, Italians ratings, not to mention Michelin guides and others. A 2- or 3-star hotel in one country isn’t the same as a 2- or 3-star hotel in another.

The systems for evaluating the hotels differ from country to country. So, for instance, French hotels with 2 stars may be adequate, while you shouldn’t settle for anything less than 3 stars in Italy.

In most countries, guest houses and B&Bs are judged by different standards than hotels. If you’re driving down the road and you see something that has 4 stars, you need to look to see if it’s a guest house or a hotel. The amenities will be different. Of course you can always look at the room and see if it fits your needs.

While you can count on paying less for a 1- or 2-star hotel than you will for a 4- or 5-star place, you can’t always assume that you’ll pay less for fewer stars. Price ranges will overlap, so a nice 3-star hotel may cost more than a 4-star hotel.

hotel star systemAnother problem with most of the hotel star rating systems is that they are based on facilities and services provided. They have nothing to do with room decorations, ambiance and charm. Hotels don’t get extra stars for the staff being helpful and friendly or for having great views or a good location.

Small hotels may be stuck with only a couple of stars because they have their reception area in the pub next door or because they have an outside staircase. They might have great rooms and be just what you’re looking for, but you might not stop to find that out because they only have 1 or 2 stars.

Guide books have their own criteria for assigning stars. If you get used to their rating system, you might be able to find some consistency from country to country.

But what if you’re looking for a hotel using the internet? Things aren’t too much better for the hotel star rating system there either. There are internet ratings by Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and Hotels.com and others.

Sometimes the same establishment is rated differently by each of those internet sites. And we’re not talking just one star to quibble about. A hotel may be rated as 5 stars by one and only 3 stars by another.

Accommodations of all sizes want to have the word hotel in their name because that will generate the most number of searches, which also confuses the issue. You could roll up to that hotel you reserved only to find that it is really a little guest house. That’s not necessarily bad, if that’s what you wanted.

So what can you do? If you’re booking on the internet, check more than one travel site. Go to forums and see what kind of ratings and testimonials other users have posted. Look at pictures of the rooms, and check a map to see where the hotel is located.

If you’re driving along, hoping those stars in the hotel rating system will help you find a good room for the night, don’t pass up a cute place with only 1 or 2 stars. Stop and look at a room, it might be something you could never have found in a guidebook because it didn’t have enough stars. Grab that cute little room.

Forget that confusing “official” hotel star rating system: assign your own stars.

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