Tuesday, December 28, 2004


FIVE STAR HOTELS How often do you see listings describing hotels with a worldwide STAR system? Well. First it is NOT worldwide. There are many agencies, governments, and groups who rate hotels including the hotels themselves. Depending on what country you are in, that rating is greatly varied. Often suspect. In some countries you can BUY your standard it seems.

Too be the Top Dog in accommodation these days is very challenging. It depends on the overall attraction, the furnishings, the amenities, the people service, food and beverage quality, etc. Matching everything to be "king of the hill" is just not always possible. Very few can.

Are travel brochures truthful? Are listings equal? A hotel has a "peek-a-boo" view of the ocean or they simply say "ocean" view. In many cases those words relate to something 5 blocks from the beach or a siting out the bathroom window if your standing on the toilet seat. Your room could be shockingly different from advertised ratings as well. A king bed could be like the airline seats in economy class. Automated checkin seems to lack personality. No soap really hurts.

Service costs money! Many countries have as many as 5 or more people working to each guest they accommodate. In North America, as an example, that ratio can slip to something akin to 2 staff to guest count and less in off season.

Agencies of government rate properties fairly well and so do organizations like the Automobile Associations around the world. Even then, check more than one rating source. Bias is often present. Taking the accumulative critical comments or accolades set out by respective hotel and resort inspection ratings, and dividing them by the number of sources gives a realistic STAR in my opinion. Looking on BLOGS gives you first hand comments from travelers. Keep in mind every traveler is different, usually honest. It is in their eye of course. What does a customer know anyway you ask. Sassy hotel people at times feel they are above their paying subjects.

The internet offers photos and 360 degree views of rooms, facilities, grounds, and food preparation that are pretty good examples of what you might find. Service, cannot be described in pictures, and, that you need to search out from those before you or just take your chances.

Just remember hotels and resorts are in business and will toot their own horn loudly. Having been in the hotel business and looking with a jaundiced eye, most properties still fall short of their press releases I believe. Something missing? You bet. Energy! Spark! Attentiveness! Outrageous hospitality! Your room can be less than perfect (not the mattress - never the mattress) but the people element MUST be the cornerstone of a great facility. Even if the building is tired, being clean also matters. Much can be forgiven except if you call yourself FIVE STAR. No forgiveness.

Too often in this time of economic restraint what hotel and resort management becomes is just a charade. Managers. Money Managers. What's the difference? Hotels and resorts or any other hospitality facility is people pleasing, people managing, and more people. Hospitality reigns! Bean counting has turned much of the industry into a sham of it's old self. Be on the alert which of these you want. Attentiveness, pampering, satisfied needs or aloof staff so full of themselves, serving microwaved num nums on plastic plates. No problem with that if ordinary is what you expected. FIVE STAR better get their people engaged with their guests. Walking around with PDA's and surgical smiles is NOT what FIVE STAR is. Be critical. You are expecting greatness.