I remember when I was eight years old and traveled with my family to Cancún, Mexico. We stayed in a four-star hotel, and yet still had cockroaches running around the room. It certainly seemed at the time like the star system standards were different between the U.S. and Mexico. As it turns out, there is no world standard for hotel star ratings. Systems for ranking hotels and motels differ from global region to global region, between countries, and even within those countries. What then, can the tourist or international businessperson do to better decipher which hotels are worth staying at, and which ones to avoid?

The old standard used to be four stars. If you were staying at a four-star hotel, you knew you’d be lying in the lap of luxury. Then, there was the release of five-star hotels, and currently, there are six and seven-star ratings for some hotels in the Middle East. A ten-star hotel has even been planned in a Middle East location. The problem, however, is that what the stars actually represent is difficult to decipher, and hotels have been accused of promoting increased star ratings as a way to generate a greater sense of prestige among potential guests.

In Europe, for example, a hotel may get stars based on its leisure facilities, but not on when the actual property itself was updated and/or refurbished. Thus, you might be staying in a hotel with an infinity pool, but the building itself hasn't been renovated in years. As for rating systems, no global one yet exists. In the U.S., Forbes Travel rates all of the hotels based on a star system. They also rate some international venues, but the standards they rate them on are different than their U.S. ones, which generates confusion. In Europe recently, seven countries met and agreed upon a standard for rating hotels, in hopes of establishing a set regional standard for Europe.

What makes the international ratings even more confusing is simply the fact that different cultures value different amenities. While Americans might value having an ice machine on their floor, Europeans may place a greater value on the view the room provides. The challenge for hotel rating systems, then, is to establish a singular global system which rates hotels based on different factors, while providing a scale for how it weighs these factors. This will give travelers a basis for making their own judgments on how a hotel can best suit their needs and wants.

Also, don’t forget that globalEDGE provides lots of great resources for those who are travelling or living abroad!

Share this article