Cheats in hotel checks, unintelligible criteria, small arrangements between friends, checks quickly and badly done, unhappy customers… move around there is nothing to do with hotel checks in the new hotel classification. Provided that we do figure in number of classified and in money.

We are not going to go back once again to the very accommodating approximation that constitutes the reference system of the new hotel classification which entered into force since 2009. By its requirements flush with the daisies (rooms for Lilliputians, without bathroom, without TV, without Internet access, without telephone, etc.), by its amusing set of points and optional criteria which can compensate for serious faults and by its very interpretable expectations, it allows practically all hoteliers to obtain their (s) star (s) without any real effort. And therefore without merit. Including requesting and receiving an additional star compared to the old classification.

The customer with absent subscribers

Beyond the rough grading grids, there are additional areas of concern that end up making this reform of hotel standards look like anything intended to fool its world . First of all, we still ignore customers. So, how to understand that hotels could have been newly approved, from a simple visit by a private audit firm (every 5 years), while these establishments are the object of many bad reviews on the sites? traveler comments (see screenshots) or have they been eliminated from the Michelin Guide?

Once again, not only has no one ever interviewed hotel guests when the new hotel classification was “put together”, but they continue to be ignored. Just as travelers do not have an email address, a forum and a toll-free telephone number to express themselves on classified hotels, as the Committee for the Modernization of French Hotels asks for posting in hotels since 2008.

The second problem lies fully in the diagnoses carried out by private audit firms, accredited by theCofrac. They are currently 50 for the controls of the ranges going from 1 to 3 stars (43 for the 4 and 5 stars) and they have received to date “only” the equivalent of nearly 5 million euros, against 3 times more expected and desired. The call for the private sector to carry out these checks around the stars was officially justified because the DGCCRF, which previously carried out this work, no longer wished to do so. Entrusting audits to firms with a commercial vocation entailed the obligation to make the hoteliers pay for them, where it was previously free. We even took the example of technical inspections of motor vehicles to justify this measure.

Did the fact of charging hotel checks around the stars move professional hotel organizations? Not at all. On the contrary, it was a godsend to make money off the backs of hoteliers by selecting firms and negotiating commissions. But there also opens up the possibility of finding domination over a verification system by assigning “suppliers” such as verification firms, when it was impossible to negotiate anything with the very serious DGCCRF. It is hard to see a firm referenced by a hotel group, and therefore guaranteed to earn money with it, to draw up negative reports on hotels belonging to this group. The patronage is expressed here in a thousand power.

Therefore, the first anomaly lies in the fact that each hotelier can choose the one who will check his hotel and can even negotiate the rate with him, since these have not been fixed in a uniform way. This commercial relationship, where the controlled puts in competition and pays its controller, can already put the chip in the ear on a procedure not very reliable and little independent. Especially since the hoteliers are informed of the arrival of the auditor – sorry, the chosen “service provider” – and only have to do what is necessary to make their hotel a little smarter than habit.

Cheating on all levels & conflicts of interest

As the firms work less well than they had hoped, because there are few hoteliers who have asked to be classified, and the auditors are numerous to share the pie among themselves, the rates fall. So much the better for hoteliers. But on the cabinet side, it’s a different story. Suddenly, many cheat to make profitable their missions sold at discounted prices . This results in rapid checks (fewer rooms visited than required by the procedure), eyes that close in the face of glaring defects, the employment of trainees or incompetent and poorly paid staff not declared to Cofrac who replace official auditors, or by systematically positive reports so as not to waste time in justification and to be able to move quickly on to something else.

Other accredited firms, to meet their costs, sell other peripheral services to their “verified”, beyond the checks on the stars, such as technical audits, training, mystery visits, studies of all kinds, etc., which is strictly prohibited in the agreement they signed with Cofrac. There should not be – in principle, right – a business relationship with the audited companies to avoid conflicts of interest and commercial bidding. But that’s in theory, because in practice, it’s exactly the opposite that happens, especially for firms referenced by hotel groups, chains or hotel unions.  

Atout France, which collects the complete files, finds nothing to fault with all these small arrangements between friends because its objective is purely quantitative: to collect and register as many new classified as possible in order to make believe that the new classification is a success. To get the message across, he no longer even speaks of a quantity of classified hotels but of rooms, which are more numerous thanks to the chains having been massively classified.

As for Cofrac supposed to be the policeman in hotel controls, the excesses of many audit firms seem to leave him cold, despite the denunciations made by their honest competitors, who are disgusted by so much clientelism. It goes without saying that all these cheats hurt audit companies who seek to do their job correctly and to serve the cause of a professional classification, already handicapped by a very poorly put together standard and a gas plant system.    

Ineffective visitation procedures

Beyond these drifts in an accommodating system, the visitation procedure is itself totally misguided. On the one hand, most accredited firms have no knowledge of the expectations of hotel customers. But, it is true that the customer’s opinion, the real one, the one who frequents hotels, the one for whom the stars are made, we don’t care. On the other hand, we do not see how it is possible to realize the qualities of a hotel if we do not spend the night there, during a complete stay, since the audits of 1 to 3 stars – yet the majority – do not provide for this option.

The noise being the first customer complaint pattern, which sees itself especially at night, how to check this when we pass a few hours to visit a hotel in broad daylight? The same applies to the temperatures of the domestic hot water not taken into account at the time of the shot in the evening or in the morning when everyone is taking a shower at the same time. And then, the standards require heating in each room but we do not measure for what result in winter, especially if we control in summer. There is also the breakfast not taken; how to assess it when you go to the establishment in the afternoon?

As for the rest, the auditors do not know how to estimate the level of foreign language proficiency of hotel staff or the reality in terms of the implementation of applications around sustainable development, however required in the standards. And examples of this type are legion, not to mention the fact that listeners are not very picky about hoteliers showing them the rooms they want to show them (” ah no, this room, I can’t show, it is occupied by a customer “). It is obviously generally those which are the least damaged or the last remade which one presents to the visit.

The Committee for the Modernization of French Hotels had organized an informative session which consisted – from photos of hotel facades – in having around ten accredited firms estimate the condition and level of cleanliness of these walls (i.e. ‘is in the criteria grids). The result of the judgments was of course uniform when the facades were new, but much more questionable when they were old, with very wide differences of appreciation. This shows how subjective the classification is and how much it depends only on the sometimes very hazardous and uncritical work of audit firms.       

The reform of the hotel classification is an ethical fiasco, guaranteeing nothing on this side. As for the hotel chains, it is however a success (Atout France can say thank you), but we do not understand why they needed it. Be that as it may, these new quantitative and above all not qualitative standards , which only progress through the number of criteria easy to meet, are also a failure in terms of excellence. There are splendid hotels that rub shoulders in the same range of shabby hotels. Customer comments andsupporting photos . At least it will have made some money for auditors, but not enough to their liking.

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