The Accommodation Industry is Back Seeing Stars

Industry claims that websites such as TripAdvisor and self-ratings have made the official Star Rating Scheme in Australia irrelevant or redundant are unfounded.

New research findings reveal that Star Ratings are the third most influential source of information behind pictures of accommodation and recommendations from family and friends. Past guest reviews rank seventh and past guest ratings rank fifth.

Some 85% of Australian travellers have used the stars when choosing a place to stay. Only one in ten travellers use self-ratings in their accommodation decision-making process.

According to CEO Peter Blackwell, the research findings point to a need for an official, independent rating scheme such as Stars as well as qualified past guest ratings and reviews. “If the official Star Rating Scheme in Australia is redundant or irrelevant as some industry leaders have claimed, then it wouldn’t remain as such an influential source of information for Australian travellers,” he said.

“Travellers are also highly suspicious of self-ratings as well as guest ratings and reviews because they are too easily manipulated or are too negative. That said, the research findings show that the consumer is thirsty for both an official assessment of a property’s standards, as well as to hear from actual or qualified past guests, which is why we are planning to combine the two under our new scheme.”

A new Star Rating Scheme was launched last week, with a clear mandate from the consumer to focus on cleanliness and quality, as well as to incorporate past guest ratings and reviews. The old facilities-based model had failed to keep up with consumer demand and had also led to the development of homogenised, over-rated accommodation product in Australia.

Over the last few months 14 Star Rating assessors have undergone intensive training of the new criteria and quality guidelines, which have also been weighted according to their importance to the consumer. Victoria University was commissioned to develop the assessment model, with independent consultants and the RMIT University School of Design helping to develop the training programs and quality guidelines.

Industry leaders were involved in a comprehensive, four-year review of the Star Rating Scheme and have endorsed the changes. The Australian government has also recognised the new scheme as part of its T-QUAL accreditation program.

“Our partnership with the Australian government and T-QUAL demonstrates that the new scheme is at the core of national supply-side strategies,” Mr Blackwell said. “More importantly, our new scheme is positioned to take advantage of consumer demand for a trusted and truly independent source of travel information.”

“Five years ago, if you stayed at a five-star hotel without wi-fi, you wouldn’t think too much of it. It’s a different story now. A flat-screen TV is now standard in every single hotel room. Five-star properties have to rate over 90%, four-star over 65% and three-star over 40%. But the system is complex. “To be three-star, you have to be over 40% for quality but over 80% for cleanliness,” Mr Blackwell says.

“At a three-star property, you should expect if you rub your finger across the top of a door frame some dust may appear, but it shouldn’t in a 5-star.

“Seventy-five per cent for cleanliness is 1-star if you get below that you can’t be rated.”

There are a lot of one-star holiday parks and generally it just means they lack facilities they could be in a magnificent location but have only one amenities block and no children’s playground.

Blackwell says the organisation surveyed consumers to ask what the most important parts of a hotel were 27% said the bedroom, while 21% said the bathroom.

“Bed size is the single biggest point-scorer in the star-ratings scheme,” he says. “A consumer won’t expect a king bed at a one-star property, but they do at a five-star one. At a three-star, you will probably have a queen bed.”

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