April 26, 2019 |
Hotels are rated based on their amenities, size of the room, does it have a spa etc. All good criteria to base a ratings system on, but does it have as much relevance in today’s market as it did say 10 or 20 years ago? The advent of Airbnb stirred the hotel brands into action and made them realise that the consumer was less interested in a luxury spa and more interested in being able to wirelessly connect their device to watch Netflix.
It also made them realise that there was a lot of room in the mid-market sector, that had traditionally been the domain of independent hotels with a wide variety of service and amenity levels. Independent, challenger brands such as Ace, Citizen M, The Hoxton and 25 Hours appeared, and have had an immediate impact. The consumer is now choosing on convenience, design, price and how good the tech is as opposed to price, location and amenities alone. The challenge for these brands is to remain independent in the face of the onslaught of acquisition by the larger corporate operators.
But if you see a largely unknown 3 star hotel under the AccorHotels umbrella are you more likely to trust its quality over an independent 3 star hotel? The chances are yes and that is why the existing star system needs overhauling. The corporates have the might to create an assembly of brands that any self-respecting FMCG company would be proud of and can position them to meet the needs of every consumer every time. They use the existing star system to make sure they have all of their bases covered and thereby are seen to be giving the consumer excellent choice.
But for the independent brands to be given a voice, the consumer needs to be given a voice too and asked to contribute to the rating system. I realise that the aggregators have been using peer reviews for a while, but they remain independent of the official rating system.
A GCC 5 star hotel in Dubai is not the same as a 5 star hotel in the UK but they are rated the same, so ostensibly they should provide the same level of service. The only way that the real level of differential can be created is if the existing system and the aggregator peer reviews were combined to create a new rating system. The hotels can all be categorised by their official rating and then the peer reviews give them an addition score. So for example a 3 star rated hotel that is highly rated would be officially scored at 3.8, with the latter being the peer review score, and a 4 star hotel with an average rating could be a 4.4.
This throws up an interesting proposition for both the consumer and the owner or operator. Previously there was a vast perceived gap between the good 3 star and the average 4 star, but with this rating system the gap is a lot closer. The consumer can make a better decision on which hotel to choose, whilst the owner or operator can decide what improvements, or not, they need to make to get their score higher within the bracket they are in.
Whilst there is no need to completely ditch the existing system, it has provided consumers with information for years, there is a need to overhaul it. And the way to overhaul it is to make the consumer’s voice central as opposed to on the periphery of the rating system. The top down style of communication has been turned on its head by social media and it is time for the same to happen to hotel rankings.