How Do Accommodation Providers View Grading Systems?

By Venkat Rajagopal Professor, Pacific International Hotel Management School | March 06, 2011

In a highly competitive hospitality and tourism market, consumers are becoming more selective and demanding while choosing accommodation and its products. Under these circumstances the consumer relies on grading of the establishment to make a right choice. While the star system of grading is recognised universally, the system is not administered consistently at an international level. This means there is inconsistency in interpreting what grading means in different countries. A lodge could be graded as a luxurious accommodation in Africa and could be the opposite in India. Unfortunately there is yet to be one international body which is common for grading all the accommodations in the world so that there is no common reliable standard.

The hospitality industry provides different kinds of accommodation to suit different segments of customers, commencing from 5 star deluxe Maharajah service to backpackers accommodation. The classification or grading of different kinds of accommodation is very difficult as they can mean different things to different customers coming from different locations. The accommodation is accompanied by a variety of products such as food and beverage, 24 hour room service, swimming pool, recreational activities, shopping arcade, internet etc. etc. The competition to sell these products is so high because the service provider is competing in a matured market where the consumer is price and quality conscious. Under these circumstances a customer relies on grading of the establishment.

How does the customer view grading?

In the USA the term inn hotel or motel style accommodation is generally operated by a multi chain eg Holiday Inns. At the same time in Britain "inn" means public type accommodation offering bed and breakfast. A lodge in India means a cheap accommodation, usually haunted by men alone like for various nefarious activities (when drinking, horseracing, prostitution) are considered vices. On the other hand a Lodge in Kenya means a luxury accommodation perhaps rooms in the hotel, rooms in the club, accompanied by preferably 18 hole international golf course. A five star hotel in India could literally mean an accommodation in a palace in the midst of a lake where as a five star accommodation in New Zealand could simply mean a boutique hotel at National park closer to skiing enthusiasts. A guest coming to New Zealand from India ,if goes by the concept of a five star hotel , could be quite disappointed with the above accommodation since his expectation of a five star accommodation was in line with Maharajah service type. Similarly a New Zealander travelling to India to stay in a five star Palace hotel could be surprised to be met and greeted personally and given a best suite in the hotel for the five star price he or she has paid.

How will a customer be able to recognise what type of accommodation would suit him? He or she simply looks forward to the Grading agency which they feel would ensure consistency of quality. The most common grading system is "star" system where individual accommodation is rated depending upon the facilities, comforts and the level of service it provides.

There are many grading systems implementing different types of grades for different purposes. Some grading systems guarantees cleanliness and value for money while others offer higher standards of service and facilities. The main objective of a consumer looking at a grading system is that he or she is fully aware and informed when purchasing tourism related products especially accommodation. Grading systems could be administered by public or private organisations. While the Star system is recognised internationally it is not awarded by international standard, but rather at national standard, or at regional level. This means there are inconsistencies in interpreting what Star means in different countries. While some guests understand this inconsistency, not many do. Most of the guests would be loyal to brand names. Unfortunately there is no one international grading agency which is common for all the accommodation providers throughout the world, so that it becomes an internationally recognised and reliable standard.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.