Funding for VisitEngland Star Rating System Cut

Who will fund star rating?

British government support for VisitEngland hotel ratings scheme will be withdrawn following a declaration by the department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) that “consumer review websites offer the information consumers want”. 

The fate of the star rating system is now in the hands of VisitEngland.

James Berresford, VisitEngland’s chief executive, said, “As long as the national Quality Assessment Scheme remains beneficial to the industry, VisitEngland will continue to support it and ensure that it evolves to meet the needs of the industry and consumers.

However, he added “The use of social media and user-generated content will be key to this process. It’s clear from our research that the consumer of today is web savvy and uses a number of methods to aid purchasing decisions.”

In a later defence of the current objective review system, Jenny McGee, also from VisitEngland, said “Our star rating scheme is not in question at all. What we are looking at in our current review is how we can support the scheme in a reduced-funding environment.” She said this could involve higher fees for participating hotels.

Since 2006, the official star rating systems have followed the same common standards set by the government, determined by inspections to check the services and facilities provided, the hospitality of the staff, the food and the cleanliness. The proposed changes could lead to confusion if each establishment can choose which, if any, rating system they join.

Furthermore, Mr Beresford’s suggestion that VisitEngland may use unregulated third-party review sites could raise a storm of protest in the hospitality industry, as many hotels and B&Bs have learned to their cost that reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor cannot always be trusted. The problem is that there is no proof required that the person has stayed at the place they review, or that their review is even remotely reasonable.

Ufi of BHA

Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA) said: “As more and more people are now turning to third-party and consumer sites for feedback and ‘objective’ views on hotel products and services there are continued cases of non-bona fide reviews appearing which can inflict significant damage on hoteliers.

“Together with any discussion on star ratings, we should be ensuring that there are ways to ensure the validity of alternative consumer information. This is something which the BHA is actively pursuing.”

She added that an independent organisation such as the AA would be capable of running an objective, professional rating scheme as a private enterprise.

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8 responses to “Funding for VisitEngland Star Rating System Cut

  1. Crazy. Just at a time that Fáilte Ireland are encouraging a star system to provide a certain level of conformity. I consider this a shot in the foot for English tourism.

  2. I think you will find that VS courted for a while / are still courting TA with a view to using TA to deliver what VS charge us owners for. As I understand it, there was to be a trial to see how it worked and seems likely you have stumbled across it.
    VS are aware that if I am forced to use TA, I will cancel membership of VS immediately, and I know I am not alone in this stance.
    If VS want to run a QA system, then they should run it independently and on a fair, advertised, quality assured basis, and not take any notice whatsoever of ‘user review sites’. Charge what it costs, as this is almost irrelevant in the bigger picture.

    • The cheapest B&B and the most de-luxe 5-star hotel may get exactly the same rating on TA, but that does not mean they are in any way comparable. Only an independent inspection (despite the faults of the rating system) approaches a fair comparison.

      I would imagine that the only way to bring in TA reviews without raising a storm of protest would be to run both systems in parallel with the option to opt out of TripAdvisor.

  3. what did places like The Ritz in London, George V in Paris for example do to become famous before tourist ratings and the internet ?

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Funding for VisitEngland Star Rating System Cut | TripAdvisorWatch: Travel Review Sites in Focus -- Topsy.com

  5. I’ve got to agree, the Quality rating scheme should be funded by the industry via inspection charges. There should also be a choice as to who does your inspection as there is now i.e AA or Enjoy England. Giving it to one organisation is a licence to print money as you gradually wind up the fees.
    The current QA scheme needs to be kept but run in tandem with some sort of guest review system (not TripAdvisor). 6 months ago I suggested this on another blog:

    Fundamentals of a QA scheme for Hotels/B&Bs

    1. Inspections should be carried out against a written standard.
    2. All inspections should be unannounced and by an anonymous inspector.
    3. Inspection frequency should be determined by a risk assessment of the ‘level of standards’ vs ‘Guest reviews/feedback’. Those with higher standards (5 star) and lowest Guest satisfaction should be inspected more frequently than than those with lowest standards (1 star) and highest Guest satisfaction.
    4. A summary of the inspection findings (including date) and Guest feedback should be available for Guests when they are choosing where to stay.

    Benefits
    Save money on inspections by prioritising them.
    More potential Guests visiting Tourist board websites to find accommodation will attract more quality accommodation providers raising standards overall.
    More confidence in system from overseas visitors to Britain benefiting the economy.

    This is not rocket science and is based on how my previous employer managed other businesses providing them with products and services.

    • That would certainly be one way to go, Roland. VisitScotland have chosen to retain the star system – no idea how it is funded – but they also have TA reviews for SOME businesses. However, the majority of hotels and B&Bs don’t seem to have any TA reviews shown on the VisitScotland site. I wonder if it is an “opt-in” choice for owners? If so, it seems a half-cocked approach.

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