What is afoot in China, a land that international hospitality operators would like to conquer and tame? Hoteliers there are doing a 180 turn after working so hard for their quality ratings. They want to downgrade, so they do not lose government business. According to eturbonews.com, “ Last year, China's local governments began prohibiting government officials from spending money at five-star hotels. In response, the nation's hotels took a unique step to preserve government business: dropping at least one star.” The effort by the state is to curb corruption and excessive government extravagant spending on luxury accommodations. Now, there are few plans for upgrades on the books, much less construction of new splendid facilities.
Let’s take a look. In the United States we do not have a nationally connected bureau to rate our accommodations. We have Forbes, AAA and any hotelier who wishes to bestow his/her own rating. There is that old argument – “My hotel is just as nice as the one down the street, so I am going to advertise my own competitive rating”. Since we have no authority in the industry, that hotelier can do just that. However, in other countries, like China, there are national standards and slots assigned for the type of operation you run. They take the rating endeavor out of the hands of private concerns. The Chinese National Tourism Administration ranks properties according to quality. Good luck there. You get twenty people in a room defining “quality” and you have 20 different interpretations. Somehow the Chinese have created a Rating System based upon facilities and service with one to five stars assigned.
Government business is big business. The US government had some embarrassments a few years ago with meeting sites and expenses, when the country was in the midst of a recession. Our hotel industry tried to adapt, uneasily.
The government can leverage a huge hammer here and anywhere else, so we can understand the luxury segment in China being more circumspect. However, trying to dismiss a Star Rating is not that easy. As the Wall Street Journal noted, according to the China Tourist Hotel Association, “’There’s no such thing as ‘downgrading stars,’ said a woman in the rating department who declined to be named. She explained that if five-star properties choose to change their ratings, they will be considered unrated.” That type of status is not easy to market. What of the Guest Experience and an informed Consumer?
John Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog 'A Guy Walks In'. LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.
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