Which is best in 2017 ?
Which is your 'go to' source for information about standards of accommodation ?
We have set out our current thinking in the article below.
Star Ratings (Quality Assurance Schemes)
Traditionally star rating schemes have been awarded to accommodation providers following an annual inspection, based on set criteria and a subjective interpretation by the individual carrying out the inspection !
These are awarded either by one of Visit Britain, Visit Wales, Visit Scotland or Tourism Northern Ireland. They are also still awarded by the AA. Since 2006 these organisations have collaborated to produce Common Quality Standards. This means for example, if you have been inspected and have a rating from Visit England, you could just apply for an associate membership with the AA, without the need for any further inspection – because the quality standards are the same.
Awards take the form of stars or diamonds, usually on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. There are often additional awards such as welcome schemes for walkers and cyclists or for breakfast quality, as well as enhanced Silver and Gold star ratings.
For information, the RAC scheme was discontinued in 2006. All RAC branding should have been removed by now.
‘Quality’ in the Modern Age
Since around the same time, i.e. 2006, there has been an exponential growth in user generated content on the internet, which in this context has taken the form of online reviews by guests across multiple sites, Online Travel Agents (OTA’s) and meta search sites such as Trivago awarding their own stars and comments, reviews and photos on social media.
Has the opportunity for guests to leave their own reviews, e.g. on Tripadvisor, Google, Booking.com or facebook, made the need for a traditional star rating obsolete ?
In todays market, we think it is probably even more the case that potential guests have no understanding of the star rating schemes and what the ratings actually mean. This can be further complicated if a business has awards from more than one scheme, or through the use of other descriptors such as ‘Boutique’.
With the growth of OTA’s and mobile technology, potential guests can search for up to date reviews and recommendations, even on the move, potentially making the traditional annually evaluated star rating out of date, unreliable or even irrelevant.
Star ratings were one of the ways to make a listing stand out in a paper printed publication, but these have almost disappeared now, the exception being more upmarket publications such as Sawdays. However, even these have a big online presence today, so the days of the printed publication are probably numbered.
These review sites provide real time feedback using a recognised scoring system that is used by guests worldwide, creating a universally accepted and understood system. Guests can leave reviews under their own name, a pseudonym, or choose to remain anonymous, meaning reviews can range from gushing praise to brutal honesty.
We choose to support our local tourism sector by being quality assessed by Cumbria Tourism. Their scheme is based on the same Common Quality Standards, but is simply pass or fail, i.e. there is no star rating. There is still a financial cost for this, but it is significantly lower than for example the Visit England scheme. We feel this is worthwhile to contribute toward funding tourism in the area in which we operate our business – however, we also believe this does not contribute to guest decision making or the financial bottom line.