Are Hotel Star Ratings Useless?

We stayed in a “5 star” hotel recently and noticed that bath towels were so worn and thin that we would have long ago throw them out had they been ours. We began discussing with each other who it was that had had decided that this hotel deserved such a luxury rating.

Actually then it got us thinking further:

  • Where did the star ratings come from?
  • What on earth do they mean?
  • Who awards them?

Looking on the Internet we discovered there are many different ratings self awarded as well as a number of so called independent guides.

We did establish however that there is no standard ratings and there is little information about who is actually doing the awarding of the stars.

Facilities and amenities are a common theme in the self awarding of stars but the things we think important to the quality of a room seem low down the list or not even on it.

So what should decide the star rating from our point of view?

First and foremost we believe a hotel is about sleeping and therefore the bed should be comfortable.  In fact we do not think a hotel deserves even a single star if the bed has a sagging mattress. Unfortunately we have suffered all to often in beds with a horrendous dip on one side causing us that night time roll as we crash into each other in the centre.

Our private pool residence on Frigate, Number 14 Pwason
A very comfortable bed on Fregate Island in the Seychelles

A close second star quality must surely be cleanliness.  One memorable 4 star hotel in Malta had such a filthy looking carpet on the floor it saw us leave shoes by the bedside in case we needed a bathroom visit in the night.  And the floor was not newly dirty, it was filthy from long term grime with stains on it from more than just one accident.

Third on our list would come comfortable pillows.  When will hotels learn that those allergy pillows do not wash well no matter what the label says.  We know we are fussy as travel journalists writing about luxury we have to be, but we defy anyone to pass a peaceful night on a lumpy pillow.

Of course washing needs to happen with pillows even if you use a proper protection cover but why not use feather pillows that wash and tumbles perfectly and then place them inside an allergy proof cover?

So having put forward the main features for room rating we come to the desirables that could win extra stars.  We would include in this category a proper bath with a plug that keeps the water in and an adjacent shower that can be hand held for hair washing only.

Raffles Hotel
Perfect bath with hand shower and separate shower Raffles Hotel, Seychelles

There would be no 5 stars for hotels that issue towels that do not cover more than waist to top of thigh.  Hotels that dare offer thin, worn out things the size of a face flannel without a proper towel rail (ideally heated) to dry it on, should not expect guests to “save water” and reuse!

Large sized rooms are nice but are less of an issue as guests seldom have time to sit around in a hotel room but clearly 5 stars cannot be awarded to hotels where two guests have trouble walking around in it without bumping into each other.

Next on our star ratings list comes the Internet.  We believe all stars should be removed if, in this day and age, the hotel charges for Internet use and we would even award minus stars if they have the cheek to charge per device.  Internet is now as basic a requirement as bed linen.

On the issue of Internet and computers, how about giving more than one chair at the desk when the room is clearly designed for a couple.  Arguing over who gets the table and chair is not a good pastime.

Now comes the minibar.  We could write a whole book decrying minibars we have met and the incredible prices charged.  Let’s just say if a hotel is too mean to give a bottle of water freely at night, they should not charge more than double the going rate in the local supermarket if hotels want guests to have a warm and fuzzy feeling about them.  Furthermore if everything in the minibar is so ridiculously expensive then hotels should not be surprised if guests turf it all out and fill it with their own stuff.

You might have noticed we have not mentioned the quality of bed linen.  Surprisingly we seldom find this a major issue, most “starred” hotels seem to have grasped the need for reasonable quality linen.  Gone are the days of polyester.  Of course this probably has more to do with the truism that good quality lasts longer and is actually motivated by good investment rather than a real desire to provide the best.

Finally we come to those extra little things that decide if a hotel deserved an extra star they would include:

  • Coat hangers that can be removed from the cupboard
  • An iron and ironing board
  • Drying line over the bath for washing smalls
  • Electric sockets that allowed the charging of computers when the guests are out at breakfast
  • Air conditioning controls that are simple and easy to use

Have we missed anything?  Do you have a better point of view?

Come on! Use the comments box below to tell us what you think.

One comment

  1. The star rating system in my experience has been very deceiving. I recently stayed at a hotel rated 4 stars and the food was inedible. For breakfast sausages they served hot dog wieners. The bathroom ceiling was acoustic tile and the AC was so loud it drowned out the Tv.
    There was also another so called four star that in order to flush the toilet, you had to reach into the tank and lift the plunger by hand.

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