If you are in the market for a hotel for your next vacation, you might assume the first logical step would be to read reviews or check ratings for hotels around your destination. Upon perusal of such ratings, you might quickly discover that those stars mean different things to different people. In fact, a myriad of ratings might only serve to confuse the selection process, rather than narrow your prospects. If you are in a quandary over how to use hotel ratings to your advantage, we have tips to help you understand what those ratings really mean.
Consider the Source
The first step in understanding ratings is to consider the source where the rating comes from. Some hotel ratings, such as the AAA Diamond and Mobile rating systems, are completed by professional travel reviewers, while others are done by fellow travelers who have stayed in the accommodations. Professional reviews are typically more objective and follow a set protocol, while reader or traveler reviews might be more subjective and affected by a variety of factors.
If you are traveling to another country, it is important to find out the source of their hotel rating systems as well. In the UK, AA is considered the premium source of hotel information, while Germans get most of their information from the hotel industry association. Some countries actually have the governments create the rating system, with specific laws governing how the assessment process must be done.
Read the Fine Print
Most review systems will provide fine print that explains the ratings and what they mean. This helps prevent you from comparing apples to oranges, since a three-star rating at Priceline may be somewhat different than a three-star rating at Hotwire. The fine print under the review should explain what is included in that particular rating, to give you a better idea of how to compare reviews.
What if a Hotel is Not Rated?
While every hotel rated by AAA or Mobile is recommended by that company, the lack of a rating doesn’t necessarily mean the accommodations did not measure up to their minimum standards. In some cases, the hotel may be too new, or may have undergone recent renovations and a current review has not yet been completed. In these cases, an FYI rating will replace the standard star system. However, some of these hotels may not have made the cut, so it is important to do further research before booking one of these hotels.
Read Full Reviews
While a star rating can provide a significant amount of information about what is included in hotel accommodations, there is simply no substitute for a full review written about a hotel. When possible, combine the rating system with a review written by a professional travel journalist to get the best information possible. You might pick up a detail or two in the review that indicates a particular hotel may not be the right choice for you after all.
Beware of Inflated Ratings
Sometimes when you are researching reviews, you might find a hotel with a six or seven-star rating. These inflated rating systems are typically offered by the hotels themselves and do not reflect an accurate assessment of the accommodations. Professional reviewers are still only giving five stars for the top-rated hotels across the country. Any more than this indicates that the hotel may be just trying to blow its own horn louder than the competition down the street. If you are paying attention to the source of the rating, you can rest assured you won’t be basing your hotel decision on what the establishment is saying about itself.
Four-Star vs. Five-Star
Many travelers are still unsure about the difference between a four and five-star hotel, since these ratings are both reserved for the cream-of-the-crop in travel accommodations. The primary difference between the two will mostly be seen in service, with five-star hotels greeting guests by name, providing turn-down service without a request and personalized wake-up calls. However, four-star establishments also provide first-rate service and high quality accommodations, so you may not even miss that extra star during your stay.
Hotel ratings are designed to help you make the best choice in accommodations for your needs – as long as you know how to use those rating systems to your advantage. With so many systems and criteria used for evaluating hotels, it can be difficult to know which ones are the most reliable and which are purely subjective. By learning the ins and outs of rating standards and the sources that provide them, you will be much better equipped to get the best value out of your hotel rooms.