Today, to choose a hotel, a client has several rating systems at his disposal: the one by star, attributed to all hotels (from 1 to 5, with the mention “Palace”), the notes and opinions left by previous clients and the professional guides. This customer feedback has never been so important for hoteliers because it is what will influence a customer’s choice.
Classification by stars
This system of classification by stars, applied all over the world, is actually a French invention: indeed, a law of 1937 (modified many times thereafter) establishes a classification from 1 to 4 stars (5 stars as of 2009) to differentiate the various hotels and restaurants. To qualify for one or more stars, hoteliers must comply with very precise specifications. Prior to 2009, the government rated and awarded the stars according to some thirty criteria. With the Novelli law of 2009, and in the name of modernizing the rating system, there are more than 240 criteria that hotels must meet, and now a private union, Atout France, is in charge of awarding stars.
To obtain a classification, the hotelier must apply to Atout France, which will send a team of specialists to evaluate the various services. Stars are upgraded or downgraded every five years and for 4 and 5 star hotels, surprise visits are organized. Finally, the mention “Palace” applies to 5 star hotels if they meet exceptional characteristics (location, interest, service, etc).
Among the criteria to consider are the size of the rooms, the number of languages spoken by the staff, the services (concierge, newspapers, valet parking, etc.) as well as the equipment (safe, broadband connection, television, etc.).
With the explosion of the Internet, a new rating system for hotels and meetings was born: client reviews. Whereas before, client reviews were mainly done by word of mouth, sites such as Booking.com and tripadvisor.fr offer clients the opportunity to share their experience with a hotel, often through a rating out of 5 and a comment, making a distinction between the “minuses” and “pluses” of an establishment.
These sites have become very popular with the public (star systems are considered too rigid and not up to date) and have almost become a reference for choosing a hotel: what could be better than having access to the feedback of hundreds of customers to get a precise idea about a place?
However, these sites are double-edged, both for customers and for hoteliers. Indeed, even if it can allow a hotel to attract clients, one very bad comment (following a bad service) can override a dozen other positive comments. Similarly, some hotels no longer hesitate to pay to have good reviews and ratings for their establishment and even go further, paying for their competitors to have bad ratings on these sites.
Thus, to make an opinion on this kind of site requires to cross-check the information, in order to have a global view and not to focus on some comments.
The guides, the best ally?
Finally, there is a third way to find your happiness: professional guides. We are talking about the Michelin Green Guide or the Guide du Routard. Every year, professionals travel around France and the world to try and rate hotels as anonymous guests. Relying on your guides has multiple advantages: you have the objective opinion of a professional, updated every year, who weighs the pros and cons, in order to have a clear and precise idea of the benefits. The only drawback compared to the two previous solutions is that the customer must pay to have access to the notes.