What hotel star ratings mean today | Tech US News

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Editor’s Note: Monthly Ticket is a CNN travel series that highlights some of the most fascinating topics in the world of travel. In November, we will enter the world of hotels and resorts.

(CNN) – Online user ratings are great, until you find out they’re fake. Or you remember how your uncle always leaves reviews and his taste is terrible.

Travelers want an adequate set of standards, which generic hotel star ratings seem to provide. After all, you see “Five Star Hotel” and think, “It must be amazing,” just as you hear “One Star” and realize it’s going to be a rough honeymoon.

But what do those ratings really mean, especially now that the Internet and its many hotel review sites have transformed travel? We’re here to set you straight… right after we’ve confused you a lot more.

A changing standard

Hotel ratings were created “to help customers work through acceptable and unacceptable choices, then within the acceptable choices come up with some kind of hierarchy of best and worst,” explains Chekitan Dev of Cornell’s School of Hospitality Administration.

A great idea, of course. But the problem was that a number of different hierarchies emerged, with limited overlap.

Un-American Approaches

“In most parts of the world, the system is controlled by the government,” says Dev.

These ratings often have one thing in common: they’re out of date.

“Governments tend to get stuck in the past,” observes Dev. “They don’t update their criteria. They don’t take into account service and more intangible issues.”

Even the ones that are current can be a bit questionable.

Changing stars

For a long time it was almost impossible to find a five-star hotel in France. Why?

His ranking system stopped at four. Then in 2009, they added an extra star category, bringing it up to the standard five stars. The following year, one more category was added: luxury hotels considered particularly extraordinary are now given a separate title of “Palace” by the French Tourism Development Agency.

Meanwhile, Dev notes that India has placed a luxury tax on its five-star hotels, which has resulted in properties that fall into this category being modestly presented as four- or even three-star properties.

Hotels in some nations go the other way, pushing for an artificially high rating so they can charge higher rates or even use the rating as leverage for loans.

The US offers a different kind of confusion.

The government does not control the ratings, so there are several methods. Traditionally, the two most prominent rankers were AAA, with its diamonds, and Mobil (now Forbes), with its stars.

Dev notes that diamonds tend to be more relaxed: “It’s common for hotels to have five diamonds and four stars.”

Now that you’re properly perplexed, let’s actually look at the levels.

Climbing the stars

There is no single answer to the question of what star ratings actually mean, as there are so many systems shaped by so many factors.

Some travel marketers even give exceptional luxury properties an unofficial six-star designation. (Think stunning overwater villas in the Maldives with private butlers, like the ones in the video at the top of this page.)

And keep in mind that not all brand properties are created equal when making assumptions about a chain’s star rating: newer hotels tend to be more modern and deserve a higher rating.

But just to give you an idea of ​​how it works, rankings usually play out like this.

A star

Expect the hotel to be small to medium sized, most likely part of a national chain.

You probably have a phone and a TV in your room. You can have a restaurant; you probably don’t have room service.

It should be “conveniently located for moderately priced attractions.” Think: Econolodge, Motel 6.

Back to Basics: EconoLodge is among the best-known budget hotel chains in the United States.

Back to Basics: EconoLodge is among the best-known budget hotel chains in the United States.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Two stars

A little more personal; public access may be restricted after certain hours. Think: Days Inn, LaQuinta Inn.

Three stars

For now, the lobby should be pretty nice. Fitness centers and swimming pools make an appearance. Think: Holiday Inn, Best Western.

Four stars

Treats that surprise you with three stars have become commonplace, such as spas, concierge services, and valet parking. Think: Hyatt Regency, Marriott.

Five stars

The service is quite personal. The property will probably be quite large. The rooms will offer “elegant furniture and quality bedding”; your lobby can be described as “lavish”. Wait for a concierge. Think: Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons.

Leading to the question…

How much should the stars influence your decisions?

Four Seasons The Nam Hai Hoi An

The Four Seasons is one of the most well-known hotel brands considered worthy of a five-star designation. Pictured is his property in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Four Stations

Those in the travel industry have mixed opinions about the use of stars.

Katherine Norton of Brownell Travel, North America’s oldest travel agency, is polite about them (“a rating is something a hotel should be very proud of”).

That said, “Brownell’s business is focused on long-standing relationships and personal experience.” It means that “a three-star hotel might be chosen because we know they will go above and beyond for our customers.”

Likewise, Dev says it’s important to understand a basic fact: “A one-star hotel doesn’t have to be a bad hotel.” At their best, such properties are only minimal: they offer no bells and whistles; they get paid less accordingly.

So when you pick up your laptop to locate your next accommodation, how should you approach star ratings?

“If you focus only on star ratings, you’re missing out on a lot of potential benefits,” says Slav Kulik, CEO and co-founder of software company Plan A Technologies. He knows this field well, having provided customized software platforms, digital transformation solutions and many other services for dozens of hospitality and travel clients.

What can consumers expect? “Thanks to AI, booking engines and loyalty programs can now deliver a personalized experience for each guest,” reports Kulik.

Considerations may include: What floor do you like to stay on? What products do you want waiting for you when you get to your room? Which restaurant should have a reservation ready to go, so you can have a favorite meal after a long day? What type of pillow do you prefer?

If you’re determined to get as many stars as possible, Dev suggests taking the price of a hotel and dividing it by the number of stars.

Then explain to your spouse why spending $500 on a four-star hotel instead of $130 on a one-star hotel may have technically blown the family budget, but generated $5 in average star savings. What could matter more than that?

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