One question I seem to get asked a lot is about the “star” level rating that many hotels use to help you understand where the hotel fits in the overall tourism landscape. If you look at any hotel here at sunshine, you’ll find little sunshines that tell you what the star rating level is.

But can a star level help you decide what hotel to pick? ¬†Mmm… kind of… it’s complicated.

A Good Starting Point

I think the real value of the star levels is to help you get a starting point. Star levels can help you match up the type/style of hotel (and their associated¬†amenities) with your budget. This isn’t always true, but often the star ratings trend nicely with pricing. For example, let’s say you can only spend $100 a night, and you’re headed to Spain. You do a quick bit of digging and see that most of the 2 and 3 star hotels are around $100, so this can help you eliminate those other choices and focus on the things you can afford.

Problems with the Star Rating

The star rating system has a number of flaws. The first and foremost is that it is not an international standard; a 4 star hotel in Montenegro will not have the same amenities and level of service as a 4 star hotel in New York.

Countries often have their own rating systems, often managed by the hospitality industry associations that operate in that country. For example, in Europe there is a significant amount of standardisation, but in Britain, some of the best properties I’ve stayed in opted out of the national tourist board scheme, and thus no stars! In New Zealand, the gold standard is the Qualmark rating, which conveniently includes half stars, in case you can’t decide whether to be a 3 or a 4.

It’s a Guide, not a Golden Rule

My advice for you when it comes to hotel star ratings is to use that information as a guide, not a golden rule. The most important thing is to look at the detailed list of amenities. For example, star ratings have nothing to do with location. A 5 star hotel may be terribly inconvenient, and a 1 star hotel might be across from the train station where you have an early departure the next morning. High end hotels are notorious for expensive Wifi, whereas low end hotels are notorious for free Wifi.  (Go figure.)

The stars are a guide to help you hone in on good choices, but they themselves alone are not the perfect hotel indicator. Only you know what is right for you – don’t judge a hotel by its stars.

Photo credits: Julian Burgess, Trusted Tours

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Posted : Tuesday, May 1st, 2012 at 10:00
Category : Holiday Tips
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