By Christina VanGinkel
I cannot count how many times someone has remarked that they were disappointed with a hotel stay, because they checked the rating before booking their room, and it was supposedly a four or even five star rating, only to arrive and find the accommodations severely lacking in one area or another. If you ask them who provided the rating, or what they compared the rating too, they will just give you this look like you do not know what you are talking about. They assume that if they see a single rating, that the individual rating is adequate. They feel that they should be able to rely on any rating they encounter, especially those they find online, because it is going to be up to date and accurate. They do not feel that they should have to take the time to compare, to shop one rating against another to get a realistic picture. I actually agree, but ratings are what they are. They are not always accurate, and they are often very inaccurate.
So, how realistic are travel ratings that are commonly included in hotel descriptions online? Well, they are not always a precise way to compare one hotel to another. The problem with these star ratings is that there is no one governing guide that all of them fall under. Some are simply created by the visitors that take the time to rate each listing at that individual site. What is wrong with this scenario? A hotel could have a five star rating, but that rating could have been built by a very small number of visitors, even just one or two, while in real time, there are many more dissatisfied customers, they just have not visited the site or taken the time to record their low rating. On the flip side, a hotel that has as low a rating as it could get, could be suffering from the same sort of discrepancy in accurate rating. They might have had a single disgruntled customer leave a bad rating, while hundreds of satisfied customers arrived home from their stay just too busy to pop online and leave some positive ratings at the various websites that list it.
You can compensate somewhat for this error rate, by checking the rating of any place you plan to stay, at several different sites. Read any personal reasons that people might have taken the time to note, on why they recommend a hotel or do not recommend it, taking the information they provide for what it is, somebody’s personal experience with said property. Expedia.com offers Traveler’s Opinions, which are written by people who have stayed at the hotels in question, and are put together to provide an overall satisfaction rating, which even though they are not starred ratings, might actually be even better. The score is broken apart into four categories including Hotel Service, Hotel Condition, Room Cleanliness, and Room Comfort. By also showing the individual ratings for each of these all-important features, besides the total cumulative figure, you can better form your own opinion according to which features are most important to you.
Sites that provide such descriptive information, along with reasoning behind their scores, are the best way for you to form an opinion without first hand knowledge of your own.
For sites that do not allow personal descriptions, check to see if they do offer any information on how their ratings are arrived at. Often ratings may equal something as simple as the listed amenities that each hotel offers, while other ratings may equal information that is much more descriptive. Information such as the ratings that inspectors have given the property, or a combination of several different factors, including the rating of visitors, amenities provided, and inspections by outside agencies including the cleanliness of the property. Unless you know what the ratings are built on, the ratings mean very little.
If you have found a rating system, whether a star or some other type of scoring system, such as the one at Expedia.com helpful, be sure to take the time to share your own experience, whether good or bad, with any future customers by taking the time to record your own score once your stay is finished.