How star ratings separate class from the ordinary

A section of Hilton Hotel in Nairobi. [David Njaaga, Standard]

On the eve of travel, there is probably a couple of things you will be doing. In addition to ensuring your friends are aware you will be out of town, you will be confirming the credentials of the hotel you intend to stay in.

These are prices, proximity from your destination, and, most likely, the ratings and reviews of the hotel.

If you can afford a luxury room in a five-star hotel, why would you carry your sleeping bag with you? If the hotel offers ample parking, you will not need to leave your car in public parking.

If your dream destination is within Kenya, Tourism Regulatory Authority (TRA) tells you what kind of quality to expect, and where.

The authority publishes the name, location, address and class of hotels, lodges, tented camps and restaurants in the tourism regions.

In August 2019, they released a classification register that ranks 211 hotels, from the lofty five stars to the modest one-stars. These are the hotels that are likely to attract tourists.

The status of the hotel has a bearing on the business that it will make. And going into the Christmas period, there will be a lot of activity around hotels as people make bookings.

As such, five-star rated hotels such as Intercontinental, Radisson Blu, The Sarova Stanley, Villa Rosa Kempinski, PrideInn Paradise and Medina Palms Suites and Villas might find business easy to come by.

In the report, 24 hotels were rated five star.

According to TRA, they are in the process of fresh rating.

“TRA will periodically be undertaking national classification of all regulated tourism activities and services with the aim of ensuring high standards and quality of services,” says the industry regulator on its website.

“The classification exercises will be overseen by a standardisation and classification committee comprising members from both the public and private sectors. This will be based on the approved criteria for each category of establishments.”

The Forbes Travel Guide, a star rating service and online travel guide for hotels, restaurants and spas, releases annual ratings of hotels globally.

“Our professional inspectors travel the world to assess hotels, restaurants, and spas based on 900 objective standards that determine our coveted annual star ratings,” they say.

Through the experience of a common guest, the team is able to use set metrics to classify places they visit. And all that while the hotel administration has no clue that they are being scrutinised.

“We visit every hotel, restaurant and spa that we star rate, paying our own way and staying anonymously as a typical guest. No one can buy a rating under any circumstance. Every star rating is earned through our objective, independent process,” the travel guide says.

“While we assess both service and facility, our star rating system emphasises service because your experience at a hotel, restaurant or spa goes beyond looks - how it makes you feel is what you will remember most.”

For more than 60 years, Forbes have travelled the world to give guests what they believe is the most reliable information on where to stay, dine and relax. 

The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa recognises five-star hotels as special destinations, attractive to high-end visitors.

“Aligned to international best practice, our star grading levels of one to five stars have been augmented with the introduction of a five-star ‘premium’ level.  This aspirational level, reserved for the most luxurious products offerings, allows for the recognition of exceptional five-star properties,” says the body.

They also have a category for smaller hotels. “We have also taken global best practice and industry needs into account and introduced three new categories to cater for small hotels, boutique hotels and apartment hotels.”

The council defines a hotel as one that provides accommodation with full or limited service to the travelling public and has a minimum of 80 rooms. A hotel, the council says, has a reception area and offers a dining facility.

Assess facilities

A small hotel, on the other hand, provides accommodation with full or limited service to the travelling public and has up to approximately 10 rooms. A small hotel has a reception area and offers a dining facility.

Bathroom facilities must be en-suite and, where applicable, any meals and beverages should be provided.

Some of the key factors that the Grading Council of South Africa look at to aid in the classification are the exterior of the hotel such as building’s exterior, parking, grounds and gardens.

They also assess the interior lighting and ventilation, fixtures and fittings, kitchen, public areas, food and beverage facilities, and service including room service and housekeeping.

In Australia, five-star properties are those considered to typify luxury across all areas of operation.

In such establishments, guests will enjoy an extensive range of facilities and comprehensive or highly personalised services. Properties at this level will display excellent design quality and attention to detail.

Four stars are given to properties that achieve a deluxe guest experience. A wide range of facilities and superior design qualities are typically complemented by service standards that reflect the varied and discerning needs of the guest.

Three-star hotels deliver a broad range of amenities that exceed above-average accommodation needs. They offer good quality service, design and physical attributes are typically fit for purpose to match guest expectations.