A regular traveler who has been to several hotels around the world’s popular cities can easily tell you the difference between the standards and star rating of a hotel. Yet the question is, is the star rating still as relevant as it was years ago?
First off, what is star rating and what does it mean for a hotel?
Wikipedia states that Hotel ratings are often used to classify hotels according to their quality. The development of the concept of hotel rating and its associated definitions display strong parallels. From the initial purpose of informing travellers on basic facilities that can be expected, the objectives of hotel rating has expanded into a focus on the hotel experience as a whole. Today the terms ‘grading’, ‘rating’ and ‘classification’ are used to generally refer to the same concept, that is to categorize hotels.
In Uganda; the Uganda Hotel Owners Association and the Uganda Tourism Board recently embarked on the process of grading hotels in the country, starting with those within Kampala city centre. This process is to assist in regulating hotel standards as well as make sure the properties adhere to the hospitality laws in the country.
What does the rating mean for a hotel? Who decides what stars the hotel deserves and if it is worth the grading it receives? Does the standard levied on Ugandan hotels apply when you are in the rest of East Africa or Africa? Who creates these standards? The grading and classification being done in Uganda is under the East African Community directive, meaning the regulating bodies in all different countries have to ensure that the standards are as uniform as possible for all their hotels according to what grading they receive.
Uganda Tourism Board, the body in charge of the standardised rating system in Uganda goes through the process of vetting hotels starting from their amenities, management, staff and infrastructure to make sure the hotels adhere to their regulations to stay in business and if they do not match up to the standards, some of these hotels are closed.
Vincent Agaba from Uganda Tourism Board says that ever since the grading and classification process started, they have seen a lot of improvement coming from most of the hotels. He continues to add that, “Of course they all can not start off as 5 Star hotels because there is always something missing, but along the way after full implementation, we will not have to do the grading since the hotels will see the importance of the regulations.”
The biggest number of hotels in Uganda especially those in the countryside have been operating below rating standards, but with continued inspections from the Uganda Hotel Owners Association alongside Uganda Tourism Board, there has been a number of improvements that make them operable in the industry.
The rating system can be seen to be vital for travelers especially when it comes to booking, the more the amenities that compliment the staff attitude towards customers, the better the rating the hotel receives and that is what most people look for in a hotel even if they are low on budget.
“There have been times when the ratings do not match up to the hotel when a guest checks in, but we can see that is improving over time,” says Victoria Acom the Travel Advisor for Jumia Travel Uganda.
A guest who is looking to stay long would rather pay money for a hotel that is very comfortable with the best service for them, than stay at a dilapidated structure where they are not sure about their security and well being.
This means that the grading is still as important as it was. Although the star system is still coming back to life in Uganda, there’s a hope that in years to come the hospitality sector will be one of the most well maintained and operated industries in the country.