Hotels and vacation rentals: What stars say about quality

WIf you are looking for a hotel online or in a travel agency, do not reach for the stars. But he pays attention to their number. “They are the hotel’s currency,” says Markus Luthe, Managing Director of Dehoga German Hotel Classification. In Germany, this society monitors the criteria according to which stars are awarded.

Above all, hotels that are not known by their brand names use the classification. However, it is not the same everywhere. Most countries in the world rate their hotels according to their own national or regional standards.

It’s different in Europe: since 2009 there has been an attempt to standardize the stars. Under Hotrec Hospitality Europe, the European umbrella organization for hotels, restaurants and caf├ęs, 19 countries have joined a Hotelstars Union.

In addition to Germany, these include Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and Malta. They all share a classification system for their hotels: 247 criteria based on which one to five stars are awarded.

Criteria are regularly put to the test

“Every three years, a commission of experts checks whether the criteria have been complied with,” says Luthe, who is President of the Hotelstars Union. More than 21,000 hotels across Europe are taking part in the voluntary classification. “In Germany it is currently 35 percent of all hotels,” says Luthe. That’s a good 7,000 houses, most of which have three stars.

The criteria are adjusted every five years, and the current catalog is valid until 2025. There are minimum criteria that must be met for each additional star, as well as a point system that is used to evaluate the facilities, quality and service.

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A particularly large number of points are awarded for large rooms and beds, a pool or childcare. A charging station for electric cars and a sustainability certificate also have a positive effect. If the hotel scores more points than the star category specifies, it may use the addition “Superior”.

Classified hotels must always be clean and well-kept. The equipment must work, there must be no renovation backlog. But how exactly are the stars different? An overview:

One star: simple equipment, daily cleaning

Hotels with one star offer simple rooms with shower or bath and toilet. Bed, table, chair and cupboard – you don’t need much more furniture. But there are a few extras: Internet in the room and a TV. In the bathroom there is a bath towel and soap or washing lotion per person. Anyone who stays here can also be sure that the room will be cleaned every day.

Two stars: There is a breakfast buffet in the hotel

From two stars upwards, the reception staff must be at least bilingual. There is a breakfast buffet every morning. The furnishing of the rooms seems a bit more comfortable. For example, a reading light by the bed and more storage space for clothes are mandatory. A bath and hand towel is also provided for each guest.

Three stars: middle class with more comfort

With three stars, additional services are added: Reception must be available 24 hours a day. On request, the luggage can be transported, the laundry washed and more pillows organized. In the room there is a luggage rack, a bedside table and more seating. It also has a telephone, hair dryer and dressing mirror.

Four stars: lift, hotel bar and room service

From four stars a guest lift is necessary. The lobby is larger, more comfortable or leads directly into a hotel bar. In the room there is also an armchair or a couch and a side table. The TV shows an international program. A minibar, 24-hour drinks room service or a maxi bar on the floor provide cool drinks. Bathrobes and slippers are available on request.

Five stars: Guests can expect luxury with lots of extras

If you book five stars, you get the highest level of comfort. Whether concierge and shuttle services, small welcome gifts in the room or 24-hour room service for drinks and food: all guest wishes are fulfilled in these hotels. Valuables can be stored in the safe.

Suns on travel portals or in catalogues

So much for a rough insight into the criteria for awarding stars by the Hotelstars Union. However, suns, diamonds, boxes or dots can often be found on travel portals or in tour operator catalogues. “They have nothing to do with the criteria for awarding stars,” says Markus Luthe, adding: “They may only be used if the awardee explains what they mean.”

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Rip off on travel portals

You have to know that organizers often carry out their own evaluations based on national standards and their own observations. It can happen that hotels in the organizer’s category do not correspond to the star classification of the country.

Therefore, you should take a close look at the explanations for the classifications. In the case of package tours, the star country category must be visible before booking and on the travel confirmation.

Apartments also have stars – but different ones

An exception applies to holiday apartments, holiday homes and private holiday rooms with up to nine beds. The German Tourism Association (DTV) awards them their own eight-pointed stars.

“We assess the accommodations a little more deeply, for example we also look at the cutlery and crockery in the cupboards,” explains Patrick Berger, who heads the classification department of the DTV.

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The focus is on quality and equipment. From three stars, for example, WLAN is a must. From four stars a dishwasher and bed linen. Unlike the hotel stars, there is no Europe-wide association for holiday homes and apartments. DTV stars only apply to German holiday accommodation. Around 40,000 are classified according to the association, most of which are offered by private landlords.