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Hotel Ratings

Don't be unduly swayed by hotel citings of high ratings or classifications.

Hotels work hard as a rule to earn and keep high ratings, but such classifications are based on many values, not all of which may necessarily be significant to each and every guest. The classific- ations are the opinion of a classifier which may be the tourist office of a nation, a hotel association, an auto club, guide book publisher, etc. The ratings made by Mobil Travel Guides and the American Automobile Association are the best known domestically.

Hotels, for example, are rated on their amenities and recreat- ional facilities, not just rooms. Among criteria used in making such assessments are size of rooms, decor/furnishings, public areas, hospitality services, staff attitudes, maintenance/house- keeping, sanitary standards, etc. Classifying system may have tech- nical/operational points that might entail the size and placement of elevators as well as public rooms. To illustrate, a hotel with luxurious rooms could still conceivably receive a lesser rating because its restaurant didn't serve three meals a day, or the hotel didn't have a restaurant open all year.

Hotel meals are often more expensive than outside establish- ments, and if you're going to be eating out most of the time, the property's culinary possibilities may not be important to you. But they can play a sizeable role in the hotel's classification. In the same vein, if you're not likely to use a golf course, tennis courts, or other hotel amenities, you might want to take this factor into consideration when planning your accommodations. Sim- ilarly, why pay -- as all features enter into the rate you're levied -- for a rococo ceiling in the ballroom when you may never see it (or particularly want to see it), or for the availability of 24-hour room service when you're not likely to use that service.

Keep in mind that not all rooms or wings of a hotel are nec- essarily the same in quality. I once stayed at a four-star estab- lishment (with five stars the best in this rating system) and was shunted from a new-wing room with a balcony and a fireplace to a room in an old-wing without these features -- but the same price.

The fact that a domestic property is classified at all prob- ably signifies that the place is relatively decent as most class- ifying systems start from "good" and go up from there.

Internationally, classifications tend to be similar around the world, but different meanings may apply to the same words. The word "deluxe" generally signifies the best, but the characteristics that compose the best may not be the same in Calcutta as in Copen- hagen. First-class usually suggests top-grade, certainly including a bathroom. But travelers in other parts of the world may be more impressed with other potential aspects of a room, such as the charm and elegance of decor and furnishings than with such a functional quality as a bath fixture.

Your best course of action is to zero in on what you want from a hotel. It may well be that your desires are more easily satisf- ied than you realize, which can mean saving some money. If you use a travel agent, ask what the classification, if any, used for hotels in your itinerary really mean. Don't just accept the des- criptions in brochures and ads. Does the hotel warrant the design- ation? What has the agent heard about it if not personally familiar with the property? Where is the hotel within the city or area? Will you be given a room on a run-of-the-hotel basis or with a committ-ment to a special area/price category?

You can also contact the the tourist office of the city/state/ country and try to learn more about the rating system and an indiv- idual property. Generally, there are three base terms: deluxe, first-class, and tourist/standard/economy/budget, with sub-categor- ies in each section. It's quite possible if you're aware of some of the finer points not to detect any great difference except when it's time to open your wallet/purse at check-out time.

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