I am increasingly coming across holiday property owners who are fed up with the star rating systems in the UK. I am hearing words like “outdated”, “antiquated”, “irrelevant”.
Do we need something more modern and effective? Are holiday home owners unhappy to be lumped together in groups – surely all four star properties are not the same. Having an inspector come to the holiday home that you love and cherish, or is your main source of income and your business, with a clipboard and hundreds of tick boxes is not an experience any of us would enjoy. Holiday cottage owners may sit, biting their nails whilst this person goes around their property, waiting to be delivered a verdict at the end. It’s like being back in school cookery or woodwork classes but a thousand times worse. (I went to an enlightened school – we did both)
What are they passing judgement on in any case? Well, the quality of the property is what they will say. But they say nothing about the experience and that is surely what holidays are about. As one holiday house owner said to me “I don’t think my guests want to know that my cutlery is of a certain weight, they want to know that they are going to have a good holiday”
We, as a nation are becoming a little immune to star ratings these days. They are everywhere, just take a look at Amazon. But what do they mean? I will concede that Visit England have very strict criteria about what classes as good or very good but are these criteria interpreted in the same way by all their inspectors? More importantly are the categories transparent to the average guest? I fear not. All it says to Joe Public is that this four star is better than that three star, but is it? Better at what? Better quality, but the decor may be hideous. No guarantee that you as an individual family will have a good holiday there.
The holiday property owners I have talked to are far from alone in expressing this sentiment. John Penrose MP, Minister for Tourism spoke in a Radio 4 interview back in January about this very subject. Click here to read what he had to say. Even Visit England themselves have acknowledged the need for change and have changed their star rating system for hotels. May be self catering accommodation will follow.
So what is the alternative? We know that half of all adults search for holiday information online in addition to making online bookings (according to Mintel). They want to know that they are going to have a good experience. Hence the rise of sites such as Trip Advisor where people can access community review and peer recommendations. I certainly see the benefit in this system and it is clearly one that is in demand by customers but I do have reservations about Trip Advisor, even before seeing that programme on Channel 4! But how do you know that you are not reading a review by the holiday property owner themselves, or a good friend or an arch enemy, or a rival. How to make Trip Advisor work for you is a subject I will deal with in a separate blog. There are other similar sites for instance Mycottageholiday.co.uk. This site allows you to ask customers for reviews if they have stayed with you in the last six months (as does Trip Advisor) but also allows you to reply and they check all comments before they are published. It would appear to offer the holiday property owner more opportunity for redress in the case of a poor review than TA. I would be very interested to hear of anyone’s feedback on this site.
There is another option and that is to market your site through an agency that has a reputation of delivering the experience. One, where all properties are thoroughly checked but not just in a tick box way, but through the eyes of the guests and with the knowledge of what may make their holiday as good as it can possibly be. After all that is what its all about isn’t it? One that will give you a stamp of approval in their particular area of expertise – be that families, pets, cyclists etc.
Could that money you pay to Visit England, Scotland or Wales or the AA be put to better use in your marketing strategy? Tell us what you think? Do you use any of these star rating systems?