Star grading unpacked

2013-05-08 08:29

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When talking about establishments like hotels and b&bs, referring to their star rating is rather common - but how many of us really know what it all means?

How do hotels get graded and what does each of the star ratings entail? Also, does the same set of criteria apply to guesthouses or backpackers, as does to a boutique hotel?

When you really start thinking about it, a whole lot of questions emerge. We chatted to Thekiso Rakolojane from the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa to find out a bit more about the system and see how it's been working to keep up with the rapildy changing times. 

1. What does it take for a hotel/B&B to be considered for grading, i.e. what are the minimum requirements to be graded?

By definition, a "Hotel" is an establishment that provides formal accommodation with full or limited service to the travelling public. A hotel has a reception area, and offers a dining facility. A hotel must have a minimum of 6 rooms but more likely exceeds 20 rooms.

Minimum Requirements for a hotel Star Grading are as follows:

- On site representative must be contactable 24 hours, 7 days per week. 
- All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and beverages must be provided from outlets within the complex (may/may not be operated by the property). 
- Servicing of rooms 7 days a week (this includes linen/towel change, removal of rubbish and cleaning)
- Formal reception area must be provided.
- Bathroom facilities must be en-suite.
- Onsite parking with security for guests. 
- Universal Accessibility

Additional Requirements for 4 and 5 Star

- Concierge, porterage and luggage handling
- Central business centre must be provided
- A range of other miscellaneous services provided eg: baby/child minding services; messages service, shoe polish, delivery of newspapers etc. 
- Full housekeeping and laundry services provided. 
- Universal Accessibility

"Bed and Breakfast" is a more informal accommodation with limited service that is provided in a family (private) home and the owner/manager lives in the house or on the property. Breakfast must be served. Bathroom facilities must be en-suite and/or private. If not, exclusive use of bathroom facilities per room is ensured. In general, the guest shares the public areas with the host family.

The Minimum Requirements for a Bed And Breakfast Star Grading are as follows:

- The host/representative must live in the house or on the property.
- Breakfast must be included in the tariff. 
- Daily servicing of the rooms must be included in the tariff.
- Bathroom facilities must be en-suite. If not, exclusive use of bathroom facilities per room is mandatory. 
- Servicing of rooms 7 days a week (this includes linen/towel change, removal of rubbish and cleaning).

2. Can you give a quick explanation of what guests can expect from the different star-ratings, one through five?

The Minimum requirements as stated above are what the guest can expect from a graded establishment. The levels of quality will however differ based on the star grading achieved i.e.

Five Stars: all its facilities and service offerings must be of outstanding quality. From the service to the furniture, everything is expected to meet the best international standards. Breakfast is guaranteed to encompass all tastes, be served all day and include seated and in-room dining. Room service can be ordered 24 hours a day.

Four Stars: excellent quality is expected. Just one step away from five star luxury, a four star establishment must have furnishings, amenities and service of excellent quality. You must be able to enjoy a full breakfast over an extended period and have the option of being served at your own table. Room service should be available at least 18 hours of every day. Rooms have to have a work area that includes a desk and the bathroom should be better stocked than your home.

Three Stars: Very good quality should be expected at three star establishments. The quality of service, furnishings and guest care must be of a particularly good quality and you should be able to order just about anything for breakfast.

Two stars: good quality can be accepted of a two star graded establishment. In order to be given two stars, an establishment needs to offer good quality service, furnishings and guest care. You should expect breakfast with at least some hot food and hand towels, bath towels and soap in the bathrooms.

One star: basic and acceptable quality furniture and fittings. Here you can expect acceptable levels of quality in all areas, from the service to the furnishings. You should also be entitled to an adequate breakfast and soap and bath towels in the bathroom.

3. Has the grading system changed over the past 20 or 30 years to keep up with changing technology? EGWiFi (especially FREE WiFi) is an important consideration to many travellers these days to stay in touch, check emails etc... does a having WiFi available to guests push up its star rating?

In 2008, the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA) in partnership with industry stakeholders embarked on a journey to review the Grading Criteria and Minimum Requirements as a result of various anomalies that had entered the grading system. This review included key areas of the Criteria and Minimum Requirements. 

We made a commitment then that the Grading Criteria and Minimum Requirements would be reviewed every 3 years to ensure that they are in line with international standards of quality as well as relevant to international and local traveller needs. 

The current grading criteria that were also benchmarked against the UK, New Zealand as well as the Australian Quality Assurance system are globally competitive and very comprehensive.

They embrace technology, sustainability and for the first time ever, universal accessibility, which is grading criteria that take into consideration travellers with either mobility, visual or sight impairments.

4. What other technological factors do you consider when grading a hotel?

Some of the key technological requirements of a graded hotel include:

- Either a functional remote controlled television set with free to air channels for three to five star establisments. Four and five star establishments are required to have a minimum 12 channels. A normal television that is made available on client request for one and two star graded establishments.
- A business centre for four and five star graded establishments
- A dedicated fixed internet option or wireless internet access in each room (four and five star)
- A telephone in each room (four and five stars)

5. Are there different criteria for hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses, backpackers and boutique hotels? Or are they all graded according to the same rules?

Well, there are nine different categories, which each have their own grading criteria and minimum requirements. The nine categories are as follows:

Read more on:    weekend escapes  |  travel south africa  |  lifestyle

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