Hotel Rating Systems: Evolve or disappear (Forbes might be near the end)

AAA- Forbes - Gervois Hotel ratings systemsHow guests choose their hotels? International hotel ratings systems exist for a long period of time. Some are amalgamations of other ratings systems; some, like TripAdvisor, average out user ratings, and everyone know it’s partly fake. (Oops, it’s not politically correct, sorry guys); and then there’s the Forbes Travel Guide, which claims to be “the only independent, global rating system for luxury hotels, restaurants and spas.” The very old fashioned AAA ratings with the fading glory of their diamond ratings is another player. And the new Gervois Hotel Rating is the newest hotel rating system for U.S. hotels, founded in 2017.

There are a few things you should know about the Forbes Travel Guide. First and surprisingly, Forbes doesn’t own it. The publisher licenses its name to this independent entity. Secondly, unlike many other ratings systems, a team of full-time professional mystery shoppers inspects every rated hotel listed in the Forbes Travel Guide. Thirdly, a growing part of millennials don’t really trust Forbes Travel Guide. And that’s problematic for the future.

Additionally, the same company offers consulting services to hotels. According to the Forbes Travel Guide LinkedIn profile, “We also provide the hospitality industry with learning tools and programs that deliver insight into the star rating process and expert guidance on connecting with guests most effectively.” And that’s a big issue for ratings independence.

Forbes Travel Guide evolved out of Mobil Guides, which had been around since 1958. In 2006, Jeffrey T. Arnold, the founder of WebMD, bought the publication, and in 2009, renamed it Forbes Travel Guide.
In recent years the publication has undergone another change. “We stopped measuring one and two-star hotels and replaced the three-star category with a recommended option,” Chief Executive Gerard J. Inzerillo said.Thus, the guide turned its focus to upper-upscale and luxury products. “A four-star rating,” in the words of Inzerillo, “is what we consider the Olympic gold medal or the Oscar. They are extremely difficult to earn. Meanwhile, we are very stingy on the five-star rating.”
He compares five-star properties to Michael Phelps, Meryl Streep or Robert DeNiro: hotels that not only demonstrate excellence, but do so over a span of time. Among Forbes Travel Guide’s perennial five-star hotels with “relentless, seamless commitment to the highest guest standard” are The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado, the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong(one of several Mandarin Oriental hotels on the list), and Portrait Roma-Lungarno Collection, Rome. Places like The Langham in Sydney and L’Auberge in Carmel only get four stars. “The most beautiful hotel isn’t the best hotel, because the best distinguishes itself with emotional connectivity, not how much marble it has,” Inzerillo said.

Emotion is precisely how the Gervois Hotel Rating is working: This New York City based hotel rating system started in 2017 with 80 U.S. properties, and has 120 rated properties in 2018 (200 in 2019). With a more flexible and accurate sytem based on a 100 points scale, it primarily targets sophisticated, diverse and affluent American travelers. And it might well be the future of hotel ratings.

The  Forbes Travel Guide guide benchmark service standards (check-in process, room service) on factors such as courtesy and manners; graciousness, thoughtfulness and sense of personalized service. Meanwhile, it rates the physical aspects of the hotel on factors ranging from cleanliness and condition to guest comfort and convenience. But these factors remain very technical and analytical.  A true hotel experience is about feelings, emotions, and the desire to come back with your loved ones.  Not about the size of the closets or around the clock room service that nobody really uses.

Source: Article by L. Powell in SKIFT / Forbes Travel Guide / AAA / Gervois Hotel Rating / Travel+Leisure / E.K.

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