Night out with the stars

Mike Hayes, 25 Feb 2013 14:26

Last week, I attended the Dubai workshop for Arabian Travel Market exhibitors.

For the purpose, I booked a three-night stay in a three-star hotel.

As always, with a ‘blind’ booking, I was a little nervous – but it being a relatively short stay, I thought I’d take my chances.

I got more than lucky: The recently-opened Corp Executive Al Khoory Hotel was one of the best I’ve stayed in within the price range.

Immaculate rooms, bright and stylish decor, high-quality bathroom fixtures and superb beds – plus a fitness area with sauna and steam room and a friendly restaurant offering fresh and tasty food.

So why only three stars?

I’ve had occasion to stay in many other three-star hotels – good and bad – that have left me wondering what the star system is all about.

A member of the Al Khoory marketing team said they were hoping for their three-star rating to be increased to four in the future, but they would have to open two more restaurants and install a pool.

So, basically, the level of comfort in the room – surely the most important aspect of a hotel – is some way down the list when it comes to star ratings.

This may be a pie-in-the-sky notion, but wouldn’t it be good if a global system could be introduced, that would give travellers peace of mind when booking hotels for the first time?

No offence to the Burj Al Arab – doubtless one of the most eyecatching hotels in the world – but seven stars? Really? How are we to compare this behemoth of hospitality with other luxury hotels?

To be fair to ‘the Burj’, none of its own advertising mentions this mythical rating; the ‘seven-star hotel’ phrase was coined by some wag and has simply stuck. That said, I’m sure the owning Jumeirah Group doesn’t mind.

But what will it mean for the Burj Al Arab when the first eight, nine or even ten-star hotel opens its doors? (Yes, that has been mooted.)

Why not standardise the system, as much as possible – regionally at least?

Even in the mature markets of Europe, it’s currently pretty meaningless. In Spain, for a hotel to get a three star rating, rooms must be 50 per cent larger than three-star rooms in France.

And completely different criteria must be met, whether it be the number of spare toilet rolls in the room, how many hours a day there are porters working, or whether or not staff wear uniforms.

We all know there are better ways of rating hotels. Don’t we rate them better ourselves?

TripAdvisor and are just two examples where the star-rating system has been overtaken by today’s hotel guests.

A starry plaque above the door is nice, but let’s make it mean something.

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