Who’s in charge of hotel rankings?

It is a question we are always being asked! So we thought would be a good idea to run through it.

In the UK, the most popular rating systems are run by the AA and Visit Britain. Both those systems use the same criteria to rate properties and award the same number of stars to the same properties.

What is the ranking criteria?

  • All a one-star hotel must do to satisfy the AA or Visit Britain criteria is provide en-suite facilities and breakfast and have a designated breakfast and dinner eating area. The staff must be “courteous, informal and competent.”
  • A two-star hotel must do the same, but with a restaurant or dining room that serves breakfast every day and dinner most evenings.
  • A three-star hotel must have staff who are smartly and professionally presented, and the restaurant or dining room must be open to both residents and non-residents. Quirkily and, some might say, old-fashioned-ly, they should also offer guests a choice of how their eggs should be cooked, including boiled, scrambled, poached, and fried.
  • To receive a four-star rating, the hotel or guest house must provide all of the above plus professional, uniformed staff, well-appointed public areas, and offer lunch in a designated eating area.
  • For five stars, the criteria gets even stricter, including everything we’ve just listed plus greeting guests at the hotel entrance and providing a wide range of extra facilities including giving guests a complete “orientation” of their room and the hotel, providing multilingual assistance, and ensuring there is “undercover access” (which could be anything from a covered walkway to a concierge escorting them with an umbrella) to any accommodation that is separate from the main building. The big part of a 5-star rating is, of course, that the hotel must provide “luxury”.

What counts as luxury?

Tricky question. The AA and Visit Britain are constantly redefining what “luxury” means. For example, once upon a time 80% of a five-star hotel’s rooms had to include a bath but now they just need to include a shower of “excellent size and quality”. They also no longer need to have a restaurant that is open for every meal. Instead, the 5-star rating is now based on the quality of the food and service the restaurant provides.

Is a hotel’s ranking as important as it used to be?

That’s another tricky question, and the honest answer is probably “not so much.”


Because a lot of tour operators and booking websites have created their own ratings systems based on their own analysis of the hotels featured on their platforms and the feedback they receive from their customers. Also, the AA and Visit Britain rating system only applies to hotels within the UK. In other parts of the world, including most of the rest of Europe, the one-to-five-star criteria can be very different and, in some countries, not as demanding. There can also be self-styled ratings that a hotel creates for itself or is awarded by a smaller independent organisation.

Even though the AA and Visit Britain ranking is still unquestionably a big assurance, within the UK, of the level of service and facilities a customer can expect from their hotel, a 5-star rating is not the be-all-and-end-all it used to be. Also, as we mentioned at the start of this blog, a 5-star rating doesn’t necessarily guarantee the hotel will meet every customer’s 5-star expectation. You could be a hard-working, high-achieving one-, two-, three- or four-star hotel and still deliver five-star quality. When you do, you can be sure that people will notice and word will get around. That’s the beauty of customer review platforms like Trivago, Hotels.com, and TripAdvisor.

At the end of the day, although “luxury” is still an essential component of that 5-star ranking, the AA and VisitBritain definition of luxury is ever-changing and coming more and more within a three or four star hotel’s reach. What never changes, though, is the level of service and professionalism every hotel, regardless of its ranking, needs to provide.

So long as you have the very best staff working for you, provide the best accommodation and facilities you can, and never stop striving to make what you offer even better, the one, two, three, four, five-star ranking is just a number.

It’s the quality of your staff that is most important, because they’re the ones you’ll always be dependent on to keep your customers happy and make your business a success. When your customers are happy, they’ll tell their friends and associates and give you great reviews on the booking sites.

At Prime, we’ve always got the staff and candidates who will ensure your hotel provides it.

To find your next ideal team member, or for first-class staffing solutions for short or long-term cover, contact our friendly expert advisors on 020 7580 4398 or email info@primerec.co.uk and we’ll do the rest.

We look forward to working with you soon!

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