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Members rely on us to select or recommend not only the best value hotels and resorts for their holidays, but also those properties that offer the best overall guest experience. Here's how we make our decisions and recommendations.
There is currently no international, standardized, hotel and/or resort rating system. Hotels and resorts in Australia and across the world have a variety of ways of establishing a "star-rating" to set customer expectations regarding the quality of their services, facilities and accommodation.
All ratings systems exist to try and establish a likely guest experience, to set an expectation as to the quality of accommodation, facilities and service.
Existing star-rating systems however, confine themselves to hotel features and facilities as well as fundamentals such as reception hours. Star ratings don't take other important factors into account such as guest opinions, staff attitudes, location, character, free inclusions, views etc. yet these are important factors in anticipating likely guest experience.
In order to achieve some uniformity and to broaden the inputs for assessing quality, we have developed our own rating system. It is based on the method first implemented for resorts in Australia around 2002 by Breakfree Resorts. We did this so that members can better understand and appreciate how we assess quality and value and why we select or recommend certain travel accommodation.
Gold, Silver and Bronze are commonly used and understood classifications. We use these to classify the majority of properties. "Diamond" standard is reserved for properties that offer exceptional quality and value.
See "Determining likely guest experience" below for more detailed information about the standards.
Self/externally rated as 5 stars. Average guest rating 4.6 or higher with 80% to 100% 5-star recent reviews. These are the best hotels and resorts in the world. Using the Philippines highest rating definition: "Reflects characteristics of luxury and sophistication. Facilities are deemed world class in every manner and services are deemed meticulous and exceeding all guests' expectations". Exceptional standard of accommodation including luxury king-sized bedding and other luxury bedding options, exceptional room decor, views from some or most rooms where available, high quality finishes and a wide range of facilities. Very high praise for staff is mentioned in reviews. The hotel is in a safe, central location, surrounded by places of interest and offers an authentic local experience in design. Is very good to exceptional value for money. Offers a unique and special experience that extends well beyond supply of accommodation.
Self/externally rated as 4 to 5 stars. Average guest rating 4.3 or higher with 70 to 80%+ 4 to 5-star recent reviews. Very high standard of accommodation including luxury bedding options, top-class to luxury room decor, views from some or most rooms where available, high quality finishes and a wide range of facilities. Very high praise for staff or host(s) is mentioned in reviews. The hotel is in a safe, central location, surrounded by places of interest and offers an authentic local experience in design. Is very good to exceptional value for money.
Self/externally rated as 3.5 to 4.5 stars. Average guest rating 4.0 or higher with 70 to 80% 4 to 5-star recent reviews. High to very high standard of accommodation including quality king or queen-sized bedding, quality room decor, views from some or most rooms where available, very good range and quality of facilities. Praise for staff or host(s) is mentioned in some reviews. The hotel is in a safe, central location, near to the main places of interest and offers above-average design. Is very good, to exceptional value for money.
Self/externally rated as 3 to 4 stars. Average guest rating 4.0 or higher with 50 to 70% 4 to 5-star recent reviews. Very good quality, clean and comfortable standard of accommodation including quality double or queen sized bedding, comfortable room decor, good range of facilities. Might or might not offer views from some rooms. The hotel is in a safe, central location or is in a good area within a short driving (bus or train) distance of the centre, and offers quality design. Is very good to exceptional value for money.
We only offer properties that fall into one of the above categories.
We place properties into one of the above four classifications according to how we rate them in line with multiple factors that determine likely guest experience as follows:
This will be how the property rates itself, or how it has been externally rated, and is an important consideration. We will use the common term "star-rating" for simplicity and ease of understanding.
Accommodation properties are either self-rated according a general classification system or externally rated. Hotels and resorts that self-rate should, and generally do, rate themselves fairly to either declare their superior quality or to set more moderate expectations. A property that offers very basic accommodation and facilities will get complaints and negative reviews if that property rates itself as 4 stars when it should be rated 3 stars, or possibly 3.5 stars. A property that rates itself as 5 stars is saying quite clearly: "We offer superior quality. You can expect the highest standard of quality, facilities and service."
Resort apartment complexes can be difficult to assess. Most so-called resorts in Australia and some properties in places like Hawaii are buildings made up of individually owned apartments (aka. condominiums) managed by an on-site manager or a letting agent. The rental pool (apartments/condos available for holiday rental) can be made up of several standards of rooms (apartments). Fully-owned complexes in Australia and elsewhere tend to offer similar standards of accommodation across the board.
Managers of older resort apartment complexes in Australia tend to establish a self-rating that reflects the average standard of apartments, considering how many have been recently renovated. They often compare to other similar properties in the area when establishing a rating. Unfortunately some try to compete for business based on setting a higher-than-reasonable star-rating. This is important to understand and something to observe. Newer holiday apartment/resort complexes (up to 12 years old) usually offer a higher, more consistent and reliable standard.
We read guest reviews all day every day and have become attuned to assessing properties based on guest feedback. In general, a high percentage of favourable recent reviews means the property is worth consideration when we are selecting accommodation for travellers. We also look at the review trend going back over time.
A property that has had some negative reviews in the past, where the management has responded positively to those reviews and/or explains how the reviews occurred, and where there is progressive improvement in guest ratings, indicates a well-managed property where the owners and management takes guest reviews seriously and do their best to ensure guest satisfaction. A property on the other hand that has several, recent, apparently authentic negative reviews and few positive reviews with little or no management input will not get our approval.
Reviews for many properties contain feedback about staff and hospitality in general which we take into account. Hospitality is a key factor that might not make a difference in the decision to book a certain hotel, but most definitely makes a difference in guest experience, which is after all, the end result of a stay. As previously stated - likely overall experience is what we are trying to predict.
These days price, guest ratings, images, location, and free inclusions are the primary methods by which people make decisions about hotel and resort accommodation. After perhaps filtering their possible choices by price (affordability), guest ratings and images are the key points for deciding between a range of potential options. Images have the greatest impact on quality perceptions.
Some hotels go to considerable lengths to make sure their rooms present very well in pictures. They get professional staging and photography done. Some use models to subtly add to the image of the property and its facilities. When a property goes to these lengths, they are saying to the world: "You can expect this standard of accommodation, facilities and attention-to-detail when you stay with us." The French are by far the best at this.
Many hotels and resorts cannot be bothered spending any money on professional photography, preferring to take pictures with poor lighting using a mobile phone or other camera with inferior results. (Many Australian "resorts" fall into this category, although they are starting to improve.)
A Gold standard property in Prague, Austria will be vastly different from a Gold standard property in Darwin, Australia. Therefore an assessment is made according to local standards as well as international standards if relevant. If there are one or more properties in a location that could be classified Gold then the quality of accommodation, facilities and services of each will be compared against the best of those available.
Most travellers want to be centrally located, close to the main attractions. They ideally want interesting views and accommodation that has some level of authentic character-styling that captures the essence of the location. Plain vanilla hotel rooms have their place, but authentic, unique and thoughtful styling gains points in our assessment of quality.
Daily breakfast is an important selling factor and hotels that include breakfast in most room rates get a special tick from us. It is a wise hotel manager who appreciates how much free breakfast affects choice.
Google and Trip Advisor images supplied by guests are considered along with Google Street View images. Street view and guest photos enable us to see the more real version of how the property looks. Street appeal plays an important role in establishing first and lasting impressions and this is an important consideration for higher-rated properties.
Some hotels are centrally located and look good from the photos but when we assess the street view they lose points. When you approach a hotel from the street, it needs to look good and you want to feel like you are in a very safe area. Ideally the hotel will be near the sea, a park or a river or other places of interest as well as restaurants and shops.
In any location (city, town, village, suburb) where there are competing accommodation providers, there will be hotels that have established a price point and inclusions that make them excellent overall value-for-money offerings.
All of the above factors consider quality. Overall value weighs up the quality variables against the money required to get that quality. Value affects a property's ranking and can elevate a property into a higher classification. For example: One top-class hotel might charge $400 per night for a standard room, but if you can get a room at a similar standard hotel for $200 per night, then the alternative property offers vastly better value for money and their ranking should reflect that value.