GENEVA Whether travelling for business or pleasure, trying to figure out Europe’s hotel star category system (often confused with the stringent Michelin restaurant stars) can leave many scratching their heads in confusion.
Switzerland was the first to institute a non-government form of hotel classification in 1979; this greatly influenced similar systems in Austria and Germany. In 2010, the European Hotelstars Union was created to harmonize the various rating guides. It currently has 15 members, including Switzerland – but not France.
Stars are normally awarded in ascending order depending on room size, view, noise and location. Critics say the system penalizes smaller, older hotels that may lack a critical element such as an elevator – perhaps one reason France has not joined Hotelstars.
According to Hotelstars, every room in a one-star hotel must have a private bathroom, TV and public access to a telephone. In France, the focus is on room size (more than 9m2, excluding bathroom), while lift access is only required for higher floors.
At the upper end, a “superior” rating for a four-star hotel is for amenities such as a sauna or gym. These are not mentioned in the five-star rating, but probably taken for granted. The main perk of a five-star hotel continues to be its appearance. On this the French go one better, having introduced, in 2012, a “Palace” category within its five-star rating for “buildings of prestige”. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.
Hotel star criteria
European Hotelstars ratings:
* Private bathroom, TV, breakfast, table, chair, soap, telephone access
*** Bilingual staff, drinks available in room, internet access, heater in bathroom, hair dryer
***** Multilingual staff, 24-hour room service, PC/internet in room, safe, valet parking, minibar, ironing service, personal care products, flowers or gift in room.
French government ratings:
* Room at least 9m2, continental breakfast, public or private bathroom
*** Room at least 13.5m2 including private bathroom, internet access, separate hotel salon
***** Room at least 24m2, A/C, room service, TV with international channels, plus a variety of extras such as minibar, bathrobes and safe