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About Hotel Classification Systems

Difusion date: 
Wed 09 Jan 2013

The matter of the classification of tourism accommodations is particularly difficult for at least two reasons:

  • First of all, due to the large diversity of types of tourism accommodations, a diversity that is constantly increasing;
  • Also, due to the large diversity of classification systems that are themselves embedded in highly different cultural and economic contexts.

I will therefore try to successively address four aspects of this matter:

  1. The objectives and the general framework of classification
  2. Systems for classification management
  3. Classification criteria
  4. Monitoring/enforcement

The first question that arises, of course, is: Why have a classification system? Or in other words, what are its objectives? I see at least five:

  1. To inform consumers. This point is very important because, by definition, a hotel is far from the home of the tourist, and consumers cannot just go to the corner supermarket or the neighbourhood retailer to see and possibly try out their future purchase. Classification thus constitutes an indicator, a piece of information that should give confidence to the consumer before, during and after his stay.
  2. The second objective is to have a standardized listing allowing intermediaries, which are the tour operators and travel agencies, to have a reference they can use when preparing their catalogues, when negotiating wholesale deals with a hotel chain, or when putting together a customized product.
  3. The third objective is that of constituting an instrument for marketing and promotion. This would be useful, first of all, for the hotels, which by featuring how many stars they have will be able to promote their specific characteristics, and their additional services, based on the "certification platform" provided by their stars. It is also useful at the governmental level. You will note in this regard that practically all governments that are reforming their classification systems highlight their desire to bring the quality of their national tourism up to a higher level. In this way, the classification system itself can also become an element of promotion.
  4. A fourth objective is to use the quality-measurement tool that is the classification system to provide the hotel profession with a coherent framework that makes it possible to evaluate in a consistent manner a sector that is characterized by the extreme diversity of accommodation units, the vast majority of which, in both number and volume, are managed by individual entrepreneurs or by enterprises with fewer than 10 employees.
  5. Lastly, in certain countries, classification serves as a reference for the implementation of public policies, such as the granting of subsidies or certain tax breaks.