Do you trust hotel star ratings? I gave up long ago, and now make my own judgements based on photos, videos and reviews online. Are hotels really as good as their stars make out?
It seems many people have reason to doubt the value of such ratings. Our latest Which? Travel survey found that 46% of UK travellers had stayed in a hotel that they felt didn’t live up to its star rating.
Our survey also found that many people don’t understand what hotel ratings mean abroad – only 29% said they knew what to expect from a star rating.
What do hotel star ratings really mean?
Part of the problem is that different countries have different systems for grading hotels, so a four-star in one place will be different to a four-star in another.
To counter this, many of the large UK tour operators use their own rating systems using stars or other symbols. These are designed to give international consistency so that their customers know what they’re getting wherever they go.
But it’s not always clear how these ratings are arrived at or what customers can expect from the different levels. Some have clear criteria showing what you can expect for each rating, others are more vague.
And this can cause problems – a colleague who went to Greece on holiday this summer chose two hotels that were graded the equivalent of a three-star (though the tour operator used a different symbol).
She and her friends thought the first hotel was terrible and then moved on to the second, with the same star rating from the same company. But in their view the facilities were incomparable. So how can the two hotels get the same rating?
Star signs online
Online retailers also use star ratings to give you a guide when you’re surfing for a holiday hotel, but it can be unclear what they mean or who sets them.
Some use star ratings provided by the hotels themselves. Booking.com, for example, said it gets its ratings from the hotels, but that these are then checked by its staff, customer feedback and against other online sources. Travel Republic also uses ratings from hotels. It doesn’t check these with local tourist offices because it has more than 150,000 on offer, but it did tell us that it believed the ratings were accurate as hoteliers knew exaggerating them would lead to complaints.
So do you have any faith in star ratings? Or have you stayed in a hotel that didn’t live up to the rating it was given? And who do you most trust to give you an accurate guide to hotel standards?