What do hotel star ratings mean? Here’s a breakdown

Ever notice that a single hotel can be rated three, four and even five stars?

That’s the case with Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay Sands, which is rated five stars on Booking.com, four stars on Forbes Travel Guide and three stars on Frommer’s.

This is because star ratings are “not regulated in a consistent way across the industry,” said Yngvar Stray, the general manager of Capella Singapore.

Booking.com said its stars are designated by the hotels themselves. Forbes Travel Guide, however, uses professional, anonymous inspectors who access “900 objective stands,” according to its website. And to add to the confusion, Frommer’s website states its star ratings only go from one (“recommended”) to three stars (“exceptional”).

What does it take to be a five-star hotel? Here's what star ratings really mean

The sheer number of companies that award stars isn’t helping.

Decades ago, few companies handed out stars — or diamonds, as the American Automobile Association calls its ratings. But now, countless magazines, guidebooks and websites issue them.

And in places like Australia, India and Dubai, hotels are rated by governments and tourism boards. 

Can the stars be aligned?

Some organizations are certainly trying.

The non-profit organization Hotelstars Union uses common criteria to unify star ratings across Europe. So far, 20 countries have signed on, and more than 22,000 hotels have been classified.

But Europe’s most popular countries to visit — France, Spain and Italy — are not among the member countries. Each has its own rating systems, which are run by national or regional governments.

Yngvar Stray, the general manager of Capella Singapore.

Source: Capella Singapore

In the United Kingdom, the AA motoring association and the tourism board Visit England award stars using the same criteria. They also display their ratings on one website (RatedTrips.com)

A project called “World Hotel Rating” was meant to standardize hotel ratings around the world. But that was more than a decade ago, and nothing has materialized yet. 

World Hotel Rating did not respond to CNBC requests for comment.

Do hotel stars still matter?

Star ratings are also helpful to set traveler expectations regarding a hotel’s quality and price, said Hentschel.  

“Somebody has to define what these expectations are,” he said. “Then the customers’ role in this all is then to use their voice and reviews to say [whether hotels] are meeting these expectations.”

In a global survey of more than 23,000 Tripadvisor users, 86% said online reviews made them feel more confident to book. Users read an average of nine reviews before making a decision, saying recent reviews matter to them the most.

Though it’s been argued that online reviews have replaced star ratings in the age of the internet, Hentschel said they complement each other.

“Reviews are the pot of gold behind the star rating, and every online travel agency publishes both,” he said.

Stray added that savvy travelers also turn to readers’ choice awards, like those published by Conde Nast Traveler or Travel + Leisure.

“There are other ways today people determine what makes a great hotel,” he said. 

What do star ratings mean?

How to find a “true” five-star hotel

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/12/11/what-do-hotel-star-ratings-mean-heres-a-breakdown.html