SEEING BEYOND THE STARS

This summer we had a protracted correspondence with a guest who felt we were mis-representing ourselves online by claiming to be a five star hotel.

Anyone who has stayed at the castle will know that we are anything but and actively eschew such monikers having fallen out with the national star rating system several years ago. Why? Not because we weren’t getting five stars but precisely because we were.

Every year since we opened our doors we were rated as five out of five as Guest Accommodation (or B&B if you prefer), firstly by the AA and then VisitEngland. In the early years, to make things easy for travellers we had five diamonds to clearly distinguish us from a hotel which had stars and clearly five diamonds for Guest Accommodation was very different from five stars for a hotel.

Then, in their wisdom the national rating bodies – the RAC was also in on the game at the time – decided to create some new categories such as Inn, Townhouse, Restaurant with Rooms, B&B, Guest House and to ‘harmonise’ everything by making all rating in all categories stars. This was supposed to make things simpler for travellers.

Really?

Now prospective guests were confronted with a pub with rooms with the same stars as The Dorchester or a seaside guesthouse with the same rating at the Hilton on Park Lane. Unless they were familiar wth the different types of establishment they were screwed. Confusion abounds.

At the same time came the rise of Tripadvisor, Booking.com. Google reviews, all awarding their own user-cum-web-algorithm generated star ratings. More confusion and the ratings at which our guest took exception.

On balance we prefer to rely on these user-generated ratings because they are from real guests like you and account for the good and the bad to create an overall score.  But we also have little control over how they portray us. On their own they don’t explain what sort of experience you’ll get, the level of service or what facilities are available.

We don’t advertise any ‘official’ ratings from anyone else because we don’t pay for any ‘official’ ratings but there are many hotels who are happy to display a star rating without being totally transparent about what their stars are actually for. More than ever it seems, in a world awash with information, it is ‘Buyer Beware.’

But take heart. If stars, scores or green Tripadvisor blobs leave you scratching your head, you’ll find a healthy clutch of awards on our hall table and on our walls but you’ll have to visit us to appreciate them.