If you’ve been a friend for a while, it’s NO mystery that we love luxury hotels. Nothing makes me feel better after a long flight than to walk into the serene lobby of a great hotel (or, to see the “Bar Man” approaching with an icy-cold Cosmo). Even in the busiest of times there is a quiet, understated efficiency about it. No long check-in lines with surly front desk attitudes – just welcoming smiles and often direct to your room for a private check-in. Have I already mentioned the icy, cold beverage?!
It got me to thinking about how hotels get these ratings and what exactly what it means both for the property AND for you, the consumer. As you’ve probably guessed, not all ratings are equal or even mean the same thing. Many countries and areas have some type of a rating system. In the US, the AAA has long been the standard – think the AAA Five Diamond award (Hello Broadmoor). In many European countries, the government determines what is needed for a certain number of stars. In Italy, the government rating revolves around the room / bathroom size, front desk hours and how often linens /towels are changed. In France, Five Star hotels must have air conditioning, room service, a Concierge, bilingual front staff and they must offer to escort you to your room at check-in. Top Japanese hotels must have English speaking staff, a number of amenities such as fitness centers, multiple restaurants, currency exchange and en-suite bathrooms. In China, some 5 Star hotels downgraded themselves to 4 Star facilities because the government deemed that Officials could not stay at 5 Star accommodations while traveling on government business!
As you can see, ratings vary greatly depending upon where you travel. None of the requirements include a professional, courteous staff that knows you by name and looks after your every need (however, most of the top-tier hotels spend lots of money on specialized training for their staff. Think Ritz Carlton service level). So, how do you know that you will be getting a 5 Star experience? First and foremost, if you’ve not been to a certain country, research their particular “star” system. What passes for a 5 star here, may indeed be a 2 star there…..these are NOT the type of surprises we want when in a foreign country!
Follow these tips for your next trip:
1 – Choose your hotel from known luxury brands – Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, Mandarin Oriental, Shangri-La, Aman, Soneva, etc.
2 – Use a luxury agency such as Classic Travel or AmEx Fine Hotels and Resorts
3 – Look at hotel reviews on sites such as Trip Adviser, FlyerTalk and the Luxury Travel Expert.
The takeaway here is ALWAYS do your own research prior to making international reservations. Better yet, call someone whose been and get their feedback!
Hoping International Travel comes back soon!
Wander Until Found,