Industry can pay for hotel star scheme, says government

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Hotel, Visitengland

John Penrose: "It’s bizarre that the government is involved in rating hotels"
John Penrose: "It’s bizarre that the government is involved in rating hotels"
The national tourist board has confirmed that its hotel star rating scheme will not disappear, but that it may change format if it loses government funding next month.

The comments come in response to industry confusion after press reports suggested that the hotel quality rating system could be scrapped.

“Our star rating scheme is not in question at all,” said Jenny McGee from the country’s tourist board, VisitEngland, which currently oversees the government-backed hotel quality rating system.

“What we are looking at in our current review is how we can support the scheme in a reduced-funding environment,” she told BigHospitality. This, she said, could involve higher fees for participating hotels as “just one possibility of many different options”.

Prioritise government funding

Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive at the British Hospitality Association (BHA) said: “It’s not a question of abolishing the star system. The question is the use of government funding.”

“VisitEngland’s funding has been cut back significantly (34 per cent over the next four years) at a time when we have the Olympic Games in one year’s time. With limited funds, if you have to prioritise, then you need to put the funds into promoting the country.”

VisitEngland’s chief executive James Berresford confirmed that the board will continue to support the star scheme as long as it “remains beneficial to the industry”. However, he added that the scheme would “evolve” and be “modernised”.

This would involve ensuring it is independent of government funding and also expanding its reach to include social media and online review sites.

John Penrose: industry can pay

In an interview with BBC Radio 4 yesterday afternoon, John Penrose, Minister for Tourism, said: “We’re trying to strike a slightly better balance. The fact is that most people do both – they have a look at a star rating if there is one out there, but they also will go and look at one of the various rating websites as well.

“We would like to get people to use those websites rather more frequently, but also if the industry wants to carry on running a star rating system off its own back that’s absolutely fine as well.

“It’s rather bizarre that the government is involved in rating hotels when, for example, there’s no government rating scheme for cars or cornflakes; I’m not quite sure why hotels are so special.

“Tourism is tremendously important but so are many other industries, and fundamentally this is about making sure that people have the right information to make sensible decisions about where they’re going to go on holiday. And I think most people will want to have both a star rating and be able to look at what other consumers have thought about [a hotel] too.”

AA star scheme

The star rating systems currently used are run by the tourist boards of England, Scotland and Wales, as well as a private scheme run by the AA.

Since 2006, all systems have followed the same common standards set by the government, with star ratings determined by the services and facilities provided, as well as the hospitality of the staff, the food and the cleanliness.

The main difference between VisitEngland’s and AA’s systems is that AA focuses only on hotels and guest houses, while VisitEngland covers all types of accommodation, including ‘alternative’ options such as holiday parks or camping.

AA and VisitEngland also follow different models when assessing the cost of participation in their schemes. Whereas the AA charges a different fee per star category, VisitEngland’s fee depends on the size of the property and the number of rooms, and starts at £132 plus VAT for a small guest accommodation property.

An official decision on the future of VisitEngland’s scheme is expected to be announced at the end of February as part of the Department for Media, Culture and Sports (DCMS) new Tourism Strategy.

Related topics: Legislation, Hotels, Travel & Tourism

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2 comments

We also dropped out of VisitBritain scheme

Posted by jean long,

I agree entirely with the small Guest House owners comments.

I went to a trade fair and spoke to numerous accommodation providers who all had the same complaints as below, they said they had decided to drop out because of the attitude of the assessors.
Nobody minds constructive critisism but some of the comments they came out with were ludicrous.

A star rating system is a very good idea, however, I felt I was being "blackmailed" because if I didn't join VisitBritain, I couldn't advertise in the Blackpool brochure. Now I hear you have to pay over a £100 to actually join VisitBritain, plus, pay an extortionate rate to have an unhelpful, bored assessor inspect your premises. I found that no matter how many thousands of pounds spent taking her advice from the previous year, it didn't make a bit of difference because the year after, the goal posts were moved. I personally feel very bitter that we cannot advertise with Blackpool Tourism but
we object to being ripped off and held over a barrel, unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about it.

I hope more disgruntled accommodation providers will complain, perhaps then we may get a fairer price for inspection and accreditation. I would prefer to go with the AA or RAC or some other organization but unfortunately they don't have anything in place for holiday apartments.

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Dropped Out of the Scheme

Posted by Chris Kirk,

This year dropped out of the Visit Britain Scheme - which means i also had to drop out of the Tourist Board (Tourist Information Office) I have a small Guest House - i let 7 rooms. In 2009 the Visit Britain wanted about three hundred pounds on top of which the tourist board wanted another one hundred and sixty - plus a further three hundred plus to go in their guide. Its now got riduculas -- three hundred pounds to spend half a hour telling me im a two star guest house. They are now considering putting up the price if government funding is cutback --- i for one hope government funding is withdrawn altogether. The industry has managed quite well without this european star/diamond rating for hundreds of years -- why should we the ordinary hotel/guest house owners have to pay for this . I suggest all hotel /guest house/ b&b owners drop out of the Visit Britain/AA schemes altogether.. Its a waste of time and money. You will all have experianced the same as me over the last 7 plus yrs -- idiotic suggestions as to bedrooms /dining rooms etc -- i dont need to list all but enough to say -- if you have a protective matteress cover you also hve to have a fleese over it -- need to provide fresh milk ( didnt quite get round to saying - full cream -- semi skimmed - skimmed -- gluten free?? ) in a hot summer small guest houses must love the way it goes off -- oh and to be provided at all times?? so your on call 24 hrs a day to provide milk?? How about glasses in ensuite rooms?? advised to use proper glass? then the following year told glasses cant be keep in the ensuite bit but had to be keep in the bedroom. Advised to provide Fruit and breakfast menus - already provided choice of over 15 cerials - orange juice - full cooked breakfast - jams - toast - coffee - tea for Nineteen Pounds - twenty two pounds ensuite. Then decided that all signs could not say Hotel -- i had just had all signs renewed --- So wanted me to spend another Three to Four Hundred pounds changing signs from Terrace Hotel -- to just The Terrace or Terrace Guest House. Every year they came up with some stupid idea to justify their job -- and i guess im definately not alone in being fed up with this con. So all you 1 2 3 star Hotels or Guest Houses especially - please consider dropping out of the schemes --- the 4 and 5 star probably can afford to stay in but to be honest i really dont care. If you agree -- post comments here -- anyone wishing to come and stay in Scarborough - ur most welcome.

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