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Hotel Ratings Cause Confusion

How to Decipher Online Hotel Rating Systems

The vast amount of information that makes the Internet so attractive to travelers also is causing confusion when it comes to choosing a lodging online according to AAA.

Hotel Star Ratings Cause Confusion

"With nearly everyone using a star to designate a ranking level, consumers often can't distinguish one system's star from another, making it nearly impossible to know whether the ratings are impartial or a marketing ploy," said Michael Petrone, director of AAA Department of Tourism Information Development.

As head of AAA's well-known Diamond Rating program, Petrone leads the organization's group of professional evaluators who physically inspect hotels in North America. AAA's team of 65 full-time evaluators collectively travel more than a million miles per year to inspect more than 55,000 lodgings and restaurants for the AAA Diamond Ratings® program.

AAA has been evaluating hotels and restaurants with full-time inspectors since 1937, and trademarked its Diamond Ratings when they were introduced in 1976.

"The purpose of evaluating and rating lodgings and restaurants is to help travelers make informed decisions," said Petrone. "For this reason, it is important online travel companies be able to disclose what their ratings mean and how they are determined."

"One large hotel booking Web site is spending millions of dollars on a national advertising campaign touting a non-existent team of hotel evaluators. While intended to be humorous, this campaign draws attention to what has become a concern for consumers — companies that don't physically check out the hotels they rate."

To assist travelers who may have some difficulty deciding what many of these rankings really mean, AAA offers these tips when searching for a hotel online:

  • Determine whether the site rates hotels, or uses ratings supplied by others. If they provide ratings, look for a description of the rating process. If the ratings are supplied by the hotels that are listed — or others with a direct financial interest in the property — it may be best to double-check that rating at another Web site.

    Read the descriptions for the various levels (usually from one through five) and determine what you want or need. If you're looking for luxury, then you may only want to look at properties at the four or five level. If you need economical lodging, you might concentrate on properties at the one or two level. But be aware that wording can vary significantly. What is considered a "deluxe" room in one rating system may differ in size, amenities or degree of luxury elsewhere.

  • Ask questions to determine how long the rating organization has been evaluating properties, how many properties are rated each year, whether there is a financial obligation between the rating organization and the listed properties, and whether the rating criteria or guidelines are published.

    Find out how the ratings are assigned. Does someone with the rating organization visit the property or does the hotel determine its own rating? Also, how often are properties reviewed after their initial rating?

  • Ask a travel agent for advice. When in doubt, turn to the experts in the industry to find out what they consider to be the most reliable and consistent rating programs.

(Source: AAA)