What is a hotel star rating system?

A hotel star rating system is a widely recognised method used to classify and categorise hotels based on their overall quality, amenities, services, and facilities. It provides a standardised way for travellers to gauge the level of comfort and luxury they can expect from a particular hotel. 

While there are lots of different types of hotel star rating systems used all over the world, they generally appear as a rating from 1 to 5 stars – the more stars, the better quality the hotel. Some rankings might also have half-stars.

Hotel rating system: Explained

Here’s what each star rating might mean:

  • 1-star: Budget accommodations with basic services and minimal amenities. These hotels are typically affordable and offer limited facilities.
  • 2-star: Modest accommodations with a slightly higher level of comfort and services. They may include additional amenities such as a restaurant, room service, or Wi-Fi.
  • 3-star: Mid-range hotels that offer a comfortable stay with a decent level of services and amenities. They usually have a restaurant, a bar, and may provide facilities like a gym or conference rooms.
  • 4-star: Upscale hotels known for their quality and extensive range of amenities and services. These hotels often feature well-appointed rooms, multiple restaurants, spa facilities, fitness centres, and more.
  • 5-star: Luxury hotels providing the highest level of comfort, elegance, and personalised services. They offer spacious and luxurious rooms, exceptional dining options, full-service spas, concierge services, and other premium amenities.

Traditionally, hotel star ratings have been used by travellers to help them pick the best hotel for their needs. Guests looking for luxury look for hotels on the higher end of the ranking scale, whereas guests with a strict might may go for lower-end hotels.

However, star rating systems are not the only ranking system that successful hoteliers need to focus on. The vast majority of travellers turn to online platforms like Google Hotel Finder and TripAdvisor to find their next stay.

Earning a top hotel ranking on these platforms (and many others) can be just as important, if not more important, than earning a particular star rating through the traditional rankings.

Why is the hotel star rating system important for small hoteliers?

Hotel rating systems are important for hoteliers for several reasons:

  1. Competitive advantage: A higher star rating can give small hotels a competitive edge in the market. Travellers often rely on star ratings as an initial filter when searching for accommodation options. A higher rating can attract more bookings and allow small hotels to command higher room rates, resulting in increased revenue and profitability.
  2. Guest expectations: Hotel rating systems set guest expectations. When guests see a specific star rating associated with a small hotel, they have a general idea of the level of comfort, amenities, and services they can expect. This reduces the likelihood of guests being disappointed or surprised by the hotel’s offerings.
  3. Quality control: Rating systems can act as a quality control mechanism for small hotels. They encourage hoteliers to maintain and improve the standards of their property to achieve a higher rating. This can lead to ongoing renovations, upgrades, and staff training to meet or exceed the expectations associated with a particular star rating.
  4. Industry recognition: Achieving a higher star rating can bring recognition and prestige to a small hotel. It can be seen as a mark of excellence and quality within the industry, leading to positive publicity and increased credibility.
  5. Online travel agencies (OTAs): Hotel rating systems play a crucial role in online booking platforms. Many OTAs prominently display star ratings, and travellers often use them as a decision-making factor when choosing a hotel. Small hotels with higher star ratings are more likely to be featured prominently on these platforms, increasing their visibility and booking potential.

Advantages of the hotel star rating system for small properties

Having a star rating on any platform – whether that’s an officially reviewed ranking provided by an industry body, or an automatically generated ranking system built from customer reviews (think Google reviews) – helps guests quickly and easily understand what to expect in terms of service and costs.

If you manage to achieve and retain an excellent ranking and rating, you can expect more bookings from people who are interested in paying a premium. Lower star ratings aren’t necessarily terrible – they still help guests quickly understand what your small hotel is about – but you’ll find that most hoteliers aim for higher rankings no matter what. And usually, that pays off!

However, remember that your star rating doesn’t define your small hotel. Customers will make decisions about which hotels to book by weighing up a lot of different factors. Price, location, facilities, branding, reviews, recommendations – they all play into that decision. Star ratings are just one part of that story.

Let’s take a look at how to master your rankings – both traditional and modern – and grow your revenue through earning and owning a top spot.

How the hotel star rating system works

Traditionally, star ratings run from 1-star through to 5-star. There are some exceptions – such as the United Arab Emirates having a 7-star rating system, but most of the time, 5-star is the best you can be and the higher price tag you can demand.

These star ratings are provided from a wide range of official and unofficial sources, again depending on the country that you’re in.

  • United States of America: The U.S.A. has official providers through Forbes and AAA, but many hotels advertise as “five-star” without actually having that rating from these bodies. 
  • Italy: Italian hotels are provided their rating by the government, with some set established criteria. However, different places in the country may have different standards – a 3-star Venetian hotel may not have the same requirements as a 3-star Neapolitan hotel, for example.
  • France: The French star rating system is governed by Atout France and COFRAC, with hotels requiring an audit every 5 years to retain their rating. Interestingly, a 5-star French hotel can earn the “palace” status, which is a distinct and separate grading.
  • Australia: Australians use the Star Ratings Australia system for official star ratings, though you’ll occasionally find hotels advertised as “six-star” – which is mostly a way of distinguishing themselves as the creme de la creme of accommodation, rather than an official rating.

Every official rating system will have different categories that must be adhered to. Some split these further into subcategories, with some being mandatory for a rating, while others take a more linear approach. Regardless, the higher the star, the better the hotel is officially ranked.

Examples of online hotel rating systems

While star ratings from providers like Forbes can be helpful, the reality is that many hotels do just fine without an official rating. Instead, they rely on ratings built from reviews by actual customers and guests. You can find these on Google My Business, TripAdvisor, Booking.com, and many others.

These star ratings have many, if not all, of the same benefits as a traditional star rating. They quickly indicate to your guests about the quality of your small hotel, with a solid score providing a powerful piece of social proof that you are worth booking with.

Furthermore, these types of star ratings more directly reflect the actual experience of the guests in your hotel. A 3-star hotel (via the traditional model) could earn 5 stars from actual guests, because the guests had an awesome time. They didn’t go around with a clipboard, ticking off boxes. They gave you 5 stars because they felt they had a 5 star experience, regardless of how many amenities your hotel had.

hotel star rating system
Hotel star rating system | Learn how this small hotel increased direct bookings

Ways you can boost hotel rankings

Whether you’re gunning for a higher traditional star rating or want to improve your online ranking for your hotel on Google, there are some consistent strategies you can follow to improve. Here’s the quick breakdown:

1. Optimise your hotel website

By optimising your hotel website and listings to ensure that they appear on the first page of regular search engines like Google and metasearch engines specifically for hotels, you can encourage more guests to book with you and eventually provide you with (hopefully positive) reviews. You can’t get a rating without some experiences to be rated!

2. Provide exceptional guest experience

Both star rating systems are built partially or entirely on the actual experience of your guests. From the Burj al Arab in Dubai to The Plaza in Manhattan, five-star hotels provide the most luxurious and incredible guest experiences in the world.

If you want to match them, it’s often all about the little touches. Think high-end toiletries, robes and slippers, a selection of daily newspapers, blackout shades, excellent amenities and a fast, simple and straightforward check-in service. Make life easy for your guests, and you’ll quickly find your ranking improved.

3. Encourage and respond to all kinds of guest reviews

This is one of the online rankings. Hotel reviews are the bread and butter of OTAs, and a poor score in this arena will mean that not only will guests be put off from booking with you, but you may also find you don’t appear on searches at all! 

Negative reviews should be seen as an opportunity to respond to criticisms and demonstrate that you are open and are listening to the needs of your guests. You aren’t just responding to the individual who wrote the review: you’re responding to anyone who might read it in the future too.

4. Leverage on the power of social media

Social media is an incredibly powerful way to advertise to potential guests through both paid advertisements and organic posts. Hotel social media marketing is also fantastic at building a community around your small hotel with news, updates, upcoming events, and otherwise connecting with your guests.

An excellent social media presence provides you with multiple opportunities to stay top-of-mind, encouraging repeat stays and repeat reviews, growing your ranking.

5. Always improve your small hotel’s performance with smart analytics

If you don’t have a hotel management system that can dig into the who, what and when of your hotel business, you’re missing a trick! With the right analytics, you can find out what your guests really need and want from your small hotel to improve your reviews and rankings.

Plus, remember that rankings are only part of the equation – price is just as, if not more, important. Competitor insights and analytics will help you remain competitive as you improve your rankings, letting you know when to raise or lower your rates in response to demand

Empowering small accommodation providers to improve their hotel ranking

Little Hotelier is a leading hotel management platform designed specifically for small hotels. We help you tackle everything, from front desk functionality to revenue management to housekeeping to analytics and, of course, guest experience.

Star ratings and hotel reviews are crucial for success in this business, so we’ve made it easy to ensure that you can keep the entirety of your hotel managed through a single, streamlined, easy to use interface.

Here’s just a taste of what Little Hotelier could do for you:

  • Boost hotel rankings and guest experience: Little Hotelier empowers small hoteliers to improve their hotel rankings by efficiently managing guest reviews, online reputation, and distribution channels. Enhance guest experience and attract more bookings to elevate your hotel’s standing in the industry.
  • Streamlined direct booking management: With Little Hotelier, access an all-in-one platform for seamless direct booking management. Simplify operations, save time, and maximise revenue potential by effortlessly handling reservations, availability, rates, and guest communications in one place.
  • Boost revenue and ROI: Drive revenue growth and achieve an impressive ROI of 63x by leveraging Little Hotelier’s advanced features. Optimise pricing strategies, increase bookings by up to 46%, and boost profitability for your hotel business.

By Shine Colcol

Shine is the SEO and Content Manager of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. With more than five years of experience and expertise in content strategy, creation, and management, Shine has produced informational content across various topics, mostly around improving daily operations and increasing business metrics. She aims to share well-researched articles in hopes of helping bed and breakfast owner-operators win more bookings and gain more control of their small property.