Why Assessing Hotels Isn’t That Simple!
By Jochen Ehrhardt
Friday, 12th March 2021

There are a myriad of reasons to assess a hotel, however, in the era of rapid information processing and dissemination the prevalent reasons appear to be pure self-marketing, self-praise, self-laudation, self-gratulation, bragging or doing someone a favor.

You get the message.

Hardly a week goes by without hoteliers applauding their own offering based on the hit list of yet another “well-reputed” source. The motto seems to be, the more accolades, the better. “Well-deserved” and “Great team effort” are the kind of supporting and bolstering messages seen on social media by colleagues and former co-workers.

It seems to be a win-win situation between the issuers of such hit lists and the hotels, at least those that end up in one of the sweet spots.

It bores me to death. I keep wondering, who needs to know? TMI. How low and shallow can it get? Is it mankind’s constant quest for ranking, i.e. putting things in order? Is it because in light of information overload and ever lower attention spans, it is just the super-easy way to digest things that resonate with us?

Are substance, truth and facts things of the past? Can virtually anyone assess hotels these days? Has the ranking, some call it “benchmarking”, become more important than the underlying data, in case any was generated at all?

A high-profile hotelier once said to me about one of the many dodgy awards...”the biggest scam of the hospitality industry”...which says it all.

The above begs the question whether putting hotels in a ranking order makes any sense at all. Is it just purely misleading? Misleading to the consumer, and even the top-ranked hotels? Isn’t it like asking who is the most beautiful girl in town? The short answer I have: Either you are biased or there is none.

I know of hotel experts that are very close to certain decision-makers. What do you think the result of an assessment will be? Exactly. It is simply worth nothing. In the case of hotel guests that are regulars at a particular hotel, who will they vote for? Exactly, very surprising. In addition, knowing just a fraction of the relevant hotels doesn’t help either.

So, what are the key factors differentiating a professional hotel assessment from a marketing or public relations ploy?

1. Hotel assessors who claim they know “everybody” in the industry – this really does raise all eyebrows and set off alarm bells. Being too close to decision-makers might impact one’s impartiality and his or her ability to pass an independent and unbiased judgement.

2. How about thinking of a hotel’s target customer group for a moment? Older vs younger. Men vs women. Couples vs families vs solo travelers. Western Baby Boomers vs Asian Millennials. Does the hotel aspire to cater to everyone? Or is there a distinct focus, a clear value proposition and an actual USP? Does the hotel have, and actually live, its own distinctive soul and unique DNA?

3. What does truly matter in a hotel experience? (Except the obvious, the mattress.) The website as the first potential touch point? The first impression? The last? Guest engagement? F&B? The room? Service quality? The vibe? How about all of the above?

4. Opulent facilities don’t matter anymore, right? Wrong. They do matter. They are the basis, the foundation of any hotel stay. They continue to be a clear differentiator.

5. What matters most? Guest engagement and emotional intelligence! How does the staff interact and engage with the guest?

6. What about service? The “what” as opposed to the “how”. Also part of any guest-staff interaction and nearly as important as guest engagement.

7. The flaws and shortcomings in human interactions that an inspection reveals are either random or part of a pattern. Even if you are close to perfection, random mistakes do occur. It is important to label them as such. Worse for the hotel is a pattern. In order for an inspector to detect a pattern, time is needed, with as many human interactions as possible. Being able to distinguish between random and a pattern is key.

8. Sustainability? Sustainability! Is it just “greenwashing” or genuine sustainability? Is the (entire) staff knowledgeable about the property’s commitment to sustainability? Does the hotel truly live this? For example: Use of mainly seasonal local produce, ideally from the hotel’s own onsite organic garden. More plant-based dining options for ample choices for vegetarians and vegans. Avoidance of plastics. Use of (mainly) reusable energy sources. Actions speak louder than words. This should not be a differentiating marketing ploy; rather, it should be the norm. So, no need to brag about it on social media.

The bottom line is, an excellent hotel is ideally the destination itself. Apart from being a home away from home, it never tries to fit the guest to the hotel, but rather fits the hotel to the guest.

Full circle.

Jochen Ehrhardt (jochen.ehrhardt@true5stars.com) is the Founder of TRUE 5 STARS - QUALITY ASSURANCE, perfecting 5-star plus offerings through a heavy focus on human interactions, and the founder of TRUE 5 STARS, a B2B online platform that focuses on just the top 1,000 hotels in the world. He has personally inspected about 1,800 of the world’s best hotels.

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