A few weeks before the deadline (July 22, 2012) beyond which hoteliers will have to withdraw any reference to their old classification (blue signs), here is a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) corresponding to this subject which still puzzles and disconcerts many hoteliers.
1. Why a new classification?
The previous one dated back to 1986 and was even already obsolete when it was launched! With more than 200 mandatory and optional criteria, the new classification launched in 2009 exceeds the old one, which only had about forty. But this only affects the number of criteria and not their qualitative aspect, which is very low .
2. Who developed it?
These are the 5 hotel unions, under the guidelines and writing of the Accor group . The classification has been validated by the Ministry in charge of tourism and it is Atout France which follows the procedure.
3. How was it developed?
In a closed room, without questioning the hoteliers and without any customer surveys . All the competent bodies were excluded from the debate: CCI, consumer associations, tour operators, guides, DGCCRF, etc. It is therefore a corporatist tool, which turns its back on the interests of hoteliers, their customers and French tourism.
4. What is the difference compared to the old classification of 1986?
The new classification is valid for 5 years against a definitive classification previously. These are private audit firms, which can be chosen from a list, which carry out checks every 5 years in place of the DGCCRF. Access to the classification is now paying (you have to pay the audit firms). It is necessary to make a pre-diagnosis, before the control. The criteria are calculated in points defined arbitrarily: it is possible to compensate for defects observed in the compulsory criteria by points gained by optional criteria. For example, a hotel deemed dirty will be able to erase this serious defect by the presence of a billiard table, luggage trolleys and a changing table … The 5th star has replaced the 4 star luxury. Finally, if a minimum number of 6 rooms was required to be classified according to the new standards, from June 2012, there will no longer be any obligation on a minimum hotel capacity. In short, a classified hotel can have 2 rooms!
5. Is it compulsory to be classified for a hotel?
Fortunately not. No more than before. Everyone is free to ask or not their classification . We narrowly escaped it, because Accor wanted to be called a “hotel” and operate it, you had to be classified. But anyway it could not have been legally imposed.
6. Where are we in the ranking?
The least we can say is that the new standards, launched in 2009, are not a success. As of May 22, 2012, only 4,751 hotels had obtained their new star (s) for a total of around 20,000 hotels in France, or barely 23% of the offer. And again, Atout France can thank the chains since to date, nearly 1,250 of their units are newly classified (including 864 for Accor), or 26% of starred. On 22/5, the breakdown was as follows: 1 star: 271 hotels – 2 stars: 1,363 hotels – 3 stars: 2,217 hotels – 4 stars: 715 hotels – 5 stars: 185 hotels. More than one in two hoteliers have requested an additional star compared to its previous ranking, most of the time without any additional investment.
7. What is the procedure to be followed to be classified?
It’s a gas factory! Basically, a pre-diagnosis must be carried out from a printed grid or on the Internet ( www.classement.atout-france.fr). In most cases, your CCI can help you for free(paying for a pre-diagnosis is abnormal and unnecessary). Then, you have to choose one of the 48 firms accredited by Cofrac (42 for 4 to 5 star hotels), to whom you will give your pre-diagnosis and who will visit your hotel using a reference system adapted to the desired classification. . In 4 and 5 stars, the control takes place in the form of a mystery visit. A minimum of points must be achieved by the mandatory and optional criteria according to the target category to obtain its classification. From June 1, 2012, the completed file must no longer be sent to your prefecture but to Atout France (possible by computer files), which will confirm the classification. You can then fix the red (or gold for the 5th star) sign on the wall corresponding to your new classification.
8. How much does it cost?
The prices for verification visits are not regulated in any way. As firms are rarely overloaded with inquiries, prices are still very negotiable. Above all, they are very diverse and as much to say it, made with the head of the customer, even if it is also necessary to take into account the number of rooms of each hotel. From 1 to 3 stars, the prices of the observed visits range from 190 € to 650 € and for 4 and 5 stars, including the mystery visit, it varies from 900 € to 2,600 €! To date, the verification visits will have brought in nearly 3.2 million euros in fees to the verifiers, including a portion to Cofrac which accredits them.
9. Can we display stars without having requested the new classification?
No. As of July 22, 2012, any hotel which has not requested its new classification must remove all references to its previous stars (sign, edition, communication, etc.), under penalty of being prosecuted for false advertising.
10. Does the new classification approach international standards?
No. Some people want us to believe it, but the French hotel classification is, for example, far below international standards in terms of guarantees of quality and adaptation to travelers’ expectations. For example, HotelStars, adopted by 11 European countries, requires in all rooms and in all categories, TV, bathroom, telephone, Wi-Fi access, etc. what our French standards do not require.
11. Have customers, travelers and tourists been consulted?
No. No hotel customer has been interviewed by the authors of the new classification, neither before, nor in preparation, nor after. We decided what would be good for business and leisure travelers without even asking their opinion. However, the stars are made at the outset for the 27 million customers who frequent our French hotels. Suddenly, many of their expectations and needs are not met in terms of equipment and comfort in new standard hotels. This observation has been verified in the numerous studies carried out and distributed at the request of the Committee.
12. Are customers still looking at the stars?
No, practically more. Barely 18% of French and foreign hotel customers say they still look at the stars when choosing a hotel *, but they take them as one criterion among many others. They were still 64% in 2009 ! It is the Internet that has shaken everything up, where the stars no longer have their place. 93% of travelers prepare their hotel stays via the Internet where price has become THE benchmark for 76% of customers * to determine a choice of hotel, but also its actual category.
13. Is the new classification reliable and credible?
No. 52% of travelers agree that the stars are unreliable ( only 12% believe they can be trusted ). It must be said that what it imposes is not very convincing and the fact that one can compensate for serious defects by points gained by the presence of optional criteria does not give a great credibility to the system.
14. Are the new classifieds all good and beautiful hotels?
No Alas. Pitiful hotels have been newly classified which coexist with excellent establishments, in all ranges. However, it seems that the new standards should push the hotel industry to improve … It must be said that the criteria are approximately 1/3 very interpretable, that the audit firms do not necessarily do their job well and in particular are not all impartial (since they are paid by those they control) and the quality requirements are very minimalist . So, it is difficult to hope to bring together only good hotels. It should be added that Atout France wants to increase the number of classified and shows little regard for newcomers.See our article .
15. Will unclassified hotels die?
No, of course. Those who have an interest in seeing as many hotels as possible are willingly spread this misinformation to scare people. Not being classified is not carcinogenic! Since 93% of hotel customers go through the Internet to choose their hotels *, price has become the first criterion for hotel choice and customers no longer look at the stars and do not see any reliability in them, to be classified or not does not pose a commercial problem. No hotelier can claim without lying or without being mistaken to have gained customers thanks to his classification.. Finally, there are so many high quality hotels that do not wish to claim their new standard stars, and so many mediocre hotels that have obtained them, that this will eventually bury this topic. The stars are now totally outdated and hoteliers now care more than their customers. Only good hotel service and good marketing can make a hotel work properly, as with any business. We should no longer expect anything commercially from the stars.
16. Should we follow the example of the chains which are asking for their new stars massively?
No, since once again the customers – who alone count – are no longer interested in the stars. It is strange that the Accor group insisted so much on asking for the classification, with an additional star, followed by its main competitors, while… it never displays its stars in its communications and on the Internet. It’s contradictory. What the chains do is not always a good example to follow and they do not always have very smart marketing. And finally, when you have a well-known brand, no one looks at the stars of hotels.
17. What about the hotel lists of voluntary chains, Tourist Offices, CDT and CRT?
If their promoters want to keep credibility, they will have to adapt to the reality of the field where high quality hotels may not be voluntarily classified beyond July 2012. Also, editing lists according to the stars will be quickly absurd . Their lists will have to take this new situation into account. Not to mention that voluntary hotel chains often have internal rankings that are unrelated to the stars. And what about the Internet? It has been a long time since the Internet puts the spotlight on hotel stars, or in any case, they have become a possible criterion, but now little used (4% of search modes *). There are even ratings assigned by travelers themselves that have nothing to do with official stars. What to confuse even more the tracks.
18. Do I have to request an additional star?
Just because the chains do it and the repository is minimalist in its content doesn’t mean you need to ask for an additional star, which is often easy to obtain and effortlessly. For customers who still see the stars, there is a risk of exiting the market and in any case not gaining in activity. As for taking advantage of one more star to significantly increase its prices, it can be quite simply suicidal; especially if no improvement is made to the offer. 56% of hotel customers find that hotels are too expensive , 28% that hotel prices have increased too much and 1 in 2 seek to limit their hotel stays for this reason *.
19. If it is not commercial, what would be the point of being classified?
Certain local authorities (to grant subsidies) and Oséo (to award loans / guarantees) require, before any transaction, that any hotel be classified. This is the only logical reason that could push a hotelier to request its classification. On the other hand, if we ask for a red sign to put down its local competitors, to please its mayor or its union, believing that it is a trophy or a guarantee of quality, in order to hope to win customers, … that may be bad reasons and we will be disappointed. Read our article on the 10 bad reasons to ask for a hotel ranking .
20. Why do we want to push hoteliers to be classified?
There are many stakeholders who want as many hotels as possible to be classified: CCI, CDT, CRT, Atout France, hotel unions, chains, L’Hôtellerie-Restauration newspaper… and of course audit firms (paying). Their motivations are either political (to prove that the reform of the previous government is good) or backward-looking (they do not measure how much customers and travelers are no longer interested in the stars and that it is the price that has become the benchmark) , or again for purely commercial reasons. Or these three reasons at the same time! It is clear that each hotelier is free and responsible for his choices, that we must resist the threats that we read here and there and the attempts at disinformation from each other.
* Figures from studies on Coach Omnium clienteles .
Also read our other article on the same subject .