AAA Tourism – A long way to go, but on the right track…

While the angst and uncertainty around the new AAAT Star Rating methods is understandable, there has been extensive consultation and forewarning. In particular, the proposed moratorium period is a massive 12 months (at least) for some and up to 24 months for others.

Importantly, the rating scheme had to change and it must continue to do so regularly if it is to remain relevant for our guests. The big problem with AAAT is that they should have taken this action earlier and upgraded their scheme every few years. I agree that the recent changes are significant but they are needed and have caught many operators asleep at the wheel.

The issue is that a property which is rated 4½ Stars this year will not remain 4 ½ Star in two years time unless they continually upgrade, improve and replace their facilities and guest services. It may be squeaky clean but consumer expectations about the accommodation experiences we offer them are constantly changing. For example, what is cutting edge technology now may be run-of-the-mill in a few years, such as the transition from B&W television to colour television; a rotary-dial channel changer to push-button remote controls; or VCRs to DVDs to USB docking.

A decade ago we installed DVDs and it helped our property achieve a 4½ Star Rating. Now, they are expected and we have all manner of technology to keep up with. The same applies to finishes and floor coverings, as well as light fittings and air conditioners – we started with a window-mounted air conditioner, changed to ducted, then a split system, and now use inverters. What was necessary under the old scheme to achieve 4-4½ Stars is now essential for 3 Stars.

I agree that times are tough for everyone in the Australian accommodation sector and that occupancies have declined while rates have stayed the same and costs have blown out. As a consequence we have not had the financial resources to re-invest and keep up with our guest expectations, and that means our Star Rating suffers.

But we can’t all be 4½ Stars if we don’t re-invest, especially if a new property opens up and has all the latest facilities and of better quality. We can both achieve excellent standards of cleanliness, but unless we upgrade to the new benchmark set by our competition then we slip down a notch. That’s life and we need to accept that fact.

Unless you award 5 Stars or 5 ½ Stars or even 6 Stars to new properties, then we may be able to retain our 4½ Star Rating, but that’s not going to happen and nor should it. Yes, AAAT have moved the goalposts and we were all told well in advance. But we also have the opportunity to address matters raised by the assessors before the moratorium ends.

Our own property was downgraded from 4½ Stars to 4 Stars but we accepted it and we knew it was coming. We are better off putting our energy into making our properties better for our guests and telling the world how good we are so that guests continue to use Star Ratings as a true guide to accommodation standards. And AAAT have a long way to go to help us better promote the Stars.

All of us have been assessed by the same standards and if we want to put our energy into something that really helps our industry, then let’s accept the changes and focus on self ratings. Because it is the practice of self rating that harms our investment in Star Ratings the most.

Kim Michelmore
Barossa Heritage Cottages

Editor’s Note: This article was originally submitted as a comment in response to a previous article AAA Tourism – Where to from here? 

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