When securing accommodations, one of the most asked questions of the property is its star rating. Star ratings have become the unwritten rule in designating the value of a place to stay when traveling.
Did you know star ratings are not standardized in the United Sates?
It’s true. Even the most prestigious of rating’s companies don’t use the same standards. And with the advent of consumer opinion websites, these ratings have become subjective. In the U.S. today, the most common ratings are set by:
- National Consumer Organizations
- Guidebook publishers
- Consumer travel and opinion websites
With so many different systems in place, who’s ranking do you bank on?
We asked David Bakke, Editor at Money Crashers Personal Finance to help demystify this system. He explains, “Although standardized star rating systems exist in other countries, there seems to be no one unified standard here in the United States. One of the first star rating systems introduced came from the Mobil Travel Guide in 1958. It is still used by many organizations in the hotel industry.”
Consumer Organizations & Guide Book Publishers
The two most popular systems in the United States are the Forbes Travel Guide, formerly Mobil Travel Guide, and AAA Diamond.
Forbes Travel Guide website says they have defined the standard for what constitutes a Five Star hotel, restaurant and spa experience since 1958—evaluating properties using hundreds of standards. For more than 50 years, consumers have used these Star ratings to choose where to travel. Today, the Forbes Travel Guide explains their five and four star ratings as:
Five Star: These exceptional properties provide a memorable experience through virtually flawless service and the finest of amenities. A Five Star property is a destination unto itself.
Four Star: These properties provide a distinctive setting, and a guest will find many interesting and inviting elements to enjoy throughout the property. Staff is accommodating and takes pride in catering to guests’ specific needs throughout their stay.
According to AAA Diamond’s website, the Four Diamond Award® and Five Diamond Award® ratings are among the most well-known and respected trademarks in the global travel industry. To be AAA Approved, the hotel must provide acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality during an unannounced, on-site evaluation. Once approved, the AAA inspector recommends a rating of One to Five Diamonds based on the extensiveness of services, facilities and amenities typical of each rating level. You can find their comprehensive Approval Requirements & Diamond Rating Guidelines for Lodgings online.
Consumer Travel & Opinion Websites
Vastly different are the consumer travel and opinion websites. These sites gather the opinions of John Q. Public to rate facilities. Unlike the Forbes Travel Guide and AAA Diamond, there are no set guidelines used by every user to qualify their ratings. Each review is based solely on that one person’s idea of quality, value and luxury, influenced by their life experiences.
TripAdvisor® is the world’s largest and arguably the most popular travel site offering “trusted advice from real travelers”. Users log in and rate the property on value, location, sleep quality, rooms, cleanliness and service based on their experiences, likes and wants. There is ample space for feedback and even pictures. With more than 200 million unique monthly visitors, and over 100 million reviews and opinions, this site stores and shares a lot of traveler’s opinions.
So what is a traveler to do?
Baake recommends looking beyond the “star” rating, and diving deeper into the sites.
“Just about all rating systems differ from one another, and you should look into the qualifications of each star or diamond rating prior to making your final choice. You may also want to stay away from websites where the ratings are determined by travelers, as these tend to be less objective and rather arbitrary,” he says.
What’s more, one person’s one star could be your ideal accommodations. Baake notes that just because a certain hotel has a one-star rating does not necessarily mean that it’s a bad place to stay. It could be a viable lodging option as long as you don’t need many amenities.
So what does all of this have to do with condominiums?
If you noticed, the Consumer Organizations & Guide Book Publishers rate hotels. Condos don’t apply. You’ll need to forget what you think you know about the star rating system and do some research to discover just what that means in the US today.
You won’t find an AAA Diamond or Forbes Travel Guide Five Star or Four Star condo with Global Discovery Vacations. Those designations are reserved for posh and luxurious hotels. What you will find are quality, clean accommodations offering you a comfortable place to take your family on vacation in resort destinations around the world.
Go ahead and log on to TripAdvisor®, you’ll actually find reviews for condominiums on this user review website. Just make sure you understand what the reviewer means by their personal rating by reading and trying to analyze the comments. One lady’s One Star is another man’s Five Star in the world of condominium vacations.