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What are hotel stars?

Anyone who has booked a hotel is familiar with the 1- to 5-star ranking system. However, it is unclear what these stars mean specifically—for example, what is the difference between a 3-star and 4-star hotel? Why do different countries have different standards for hotel stars? And who determines the criteria required to gain a certain star rating? Read on to find out. 

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What do the hotel stars mean?

Hotel stars are way of classifying hotels based on defined criteria. Every five years, the criteria are reviewed and adjusted if necessary, often to keep up with rapidly-changing technical standards. The assessment usually covers the following areas:

  • Infrastructure

  • Interior of the rooms

  • Reception area and common spaces/rec rooms

  • Service

There is basically no international hotel star ranking standard, which is why the quality of hotel based on hotel stars or other rating symbols may differ greatly from country to country. For example, a luxury hotel on the coast of Greece may not have the same standards as a comparable hotel with the same number of stars in the U.K.. In some countries, several rating systems are used.

Given this, do hotel stars have any significance at all? Yes, as there is a system in place across the globe wherein a maximum of 5 stars are awarded to hotels, sometimes with subclasses. This classification rates 4- and 5-star hotels as luxury hotels.

In Europe, hotel classifications are prescribed by law in the following countries:

  • Belgium

  • Denmark

  • Greece

  • Italy

  • Malta

  • Netherlands

  • Portugal

  • Spain

  • Hungary

In all other European countries, an evaluation can be done on a voluntary basis.

What are the standards for a 5-star hotel?

Since 2009, the Hotelstars Union, which belongs to HOTREC (the European umbrella organisation for hotels, restaurants and cafés), has awarded hotel stars across Europe. An incomplete list of the requirements for a 5-star hotel are as follows:

  1. Reception open 24 hours

  2. Multilingual staff

  3. Safe (in the room)

  4. Personalised greeting (flowers or other gift)

  5. Bellhop

  6. Ironing and shoeshine service

  7. "Undercover" guests (unannounced visits for test purposes)

  8. Minimum score: 600