Is the hotel rating system something of the past? We tend to think so. The inspection and classification of lodging facilities emerged in the early 20th century. However, the seismic change in the global hospitality industry over the last two decades has rendered the official star rating systems out-of-date and inconsistent. The credibility of these systems has diminished and in many cases has left the consumer relying more on social media and other channels to judge the quality of an establishment.

Today, as booking decisions are made faster and easier by highly accessible information through citizen media – guest review websites, consumer photos and travel blogs to name a few – it becomes vital to understand how the official ratings are perceived by discerning travellers around the globe. Our research suggests that officially accredited “stars” take a backseat in influencing consumer decisions, as the rating systems have variable meaning across markets, are plagued by disparities and are not geared toward reflecting guest experience.

Here follow a few reasons why we feel star rating is no longer valuable:

  • It allows disparity: Establishments could selectively miss a few points, translating to the varying quality of facilities and service across the spectrum of same-starred establishments.
  • It does not address the needs of hotels today: The systems include criteria that are no longer relevant today, failing to address many establishments’ strategic needs to differentiate and serve a very niche market.
  • It is not universal: Rating standards vary by country. Therefore, guests are likely to encounter varying facilities and services at each star level in each country they visit.
  • It is confusing: The rating criteria are not known by the public. Moreover, the self-supplied star ratings on third-party websites are inconsistent and misleading.

  • It does not reflect guest experience: Official star ratings tell little about the guest experience. The systems fail to effectively communicate the uniqueness of the experience, innovation or the way a hotel meets the needs of a distinct target market.

It is important to understand today’s travelers. Today, they would much rather refer to guest reviews, as personal recommendations tend to carry far more detail and credibility and are very easy to access nowadays thanks to travel review sites like TripAdvisor. It is vital that hospitality establishments today change their tactics from being product focused, to being experience-driven and socially engaging.

Having your establishment star graded is also a very costly affair and there is very little ROI for your money spent. Said money can be redistributed elsewhere in your marketing budget for much better results.