There are many
criteria by which planners choose hotels, ranging from
basics such as location and amount of meeting space to
recommendations from peers. Then there are hotel ratings, a
seemingly straightforward way to judge a property’s overall levels
of comfort and service.
Only it’s not so straightforward. There
are multiple rating systems vying for credibility with planners and
consumers, and seldom do these systems reach a tidy consensus on
the merits of a particular property. For example, the Monte Carlo
Resort & Casino in Las Vegas garners four diamonds from AAA and
three stars from Mobil Travel Guide; Expedia bestows a 3.5-star
rating and a 4.0 “traveler opinion” rating, and Trip-Advisor weighs
in with three stars and 3.5 “owls”; Travelocity gives the resort
four stars and 3.5 “smiley faces.”
Outside North America, the problem can
be even more confusing when a country’s own hotel ratings are added
to the mix (See “Distant Star Systems” on page 62). Some hotels (at
least one in Italy and several in Dubai) boast as many as seven
stars, though M&C can’t find a governing body that
confers more than five.
If all of this seems perplexing, many
planners concur. In an M&C reader survey (see “Going
to the Source,” page 60), 47 percent of respondents admitted they
are somewhat or very confused by the topic.
Ultimately, there are dozens of rating
systems meeting professionals can tap into, and each has its own
judging criteria. What’s not available -- and very much needed,
according to 68 percent of respondents to our poll -- is a
consistent, universal ratings code.
But we’re not likely to see one anytime
soon. None of the leading industry groups -- the Travel Industry
Association and American Hotel & Lodging Associations, both
based in Washington, D.C., and the Paris-based International Hotel
& Restaurant Association -- backs the idea.
If there is a note of agreement in the
world of hotel ratings, it is that Mobile Travel Guide and AAA are
in a class by themselves. They are “the most established ratings
systems in the United States,” according to a spokesperson for the
AHLA, which lauds the two systems “because they are based primarily
on objective criteria.”
What follows is a roundup of the most
popular hotel rating systems available today, along with details on
how the assessments are made.
Mobil Travel Guide
Mobil Travel Guide is celebrating its
50th anniversary this year. The Chicago-based company, after going
through two owners in the past two years, is now a stand-alone
entity. MTG has its own field staff of 50 that annually rates
approximately 9,000 properties in the United States, Canada, Mexico
and the Caribbean on a scale of one to five stars.
The star level is derived via two lines
of inquiry. First, facility inspections evaluate a property’s
cleanliness, physical condition and location, resulting in a one-
to three-star rating. Based on the facility inspection, properties
that might qualify for a prestigious four- or five-star
certification move on to the second level, a service inspection.
Here, one of MTG’s incognito service inspectors visits the hotel
for three days/two nights, during which he or she interacts with
staff, orders room service, visits the spa and engages in other
typical guest activities. These inspectors evaluate properties in
more than 500 areas, ranging from staff appearance, behavior and
skill level, to food quality, housekeeping, concierge service and
luggage delivery within 10 minutes of check-in, along with making
general observations of facility, staff and how other guests are
Star ratings are defined as
* One star: A clean,
comfortable and reliable establishment with limited services and
* Two stars: Expanded
services including a full-service restaurant.
* Three stars:
Well-appointed establishments that feature a full-service
restaurant and expanded amenities and services such as room service
and a fitness center.
* Four stars: An
outstanding establishment in a distinctive setting with expanded
amenities and exceptional service, including valet parking and
24-hour room service.
* Five stars:
Properties with an exceptionally distinctive luxury environment
offering all of the above and consistently outstanding service.
As of this year, MTG will begin to
review properties in destinations outside North America, beginning
with Beijing in April, followed by Hong Kong and Macau in the fall.
A London guide will be forthcoming next year.
Mobil’s hotel ratings are available free via the company’s
website; hard copies of Mobil Travel Guide publications are
available for purchase.