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Posted by Henry Harteveldt on January 25, 2011
UK newspapers reported on Monday, January 24, 2011, that UK tourism minister John Penrose stated the government is considering phasing out government-sanctioned star-ratings of various lodging accommodations in favor of traveler-written reviews.
That's an idea ahead of its time.
Currently, representatives from various UK tourism authorities like VisitEngland, VisitScotland, and the Automobile Association (known in the UK as the AA) anonymously visit and assess hotels, B&Bs, and even campsites. These reviewers grade each establishment on a scale of one to five stars, using a process and criteria discussed here.
Tempting as it may be to use traveler-written ratings and reviews -- which the UK's Department for Culture, Media and Sport considers to be more "truthful '' -- it's too soon to abandon the government-set standards. Why?
More than seven in 10 online travelers in Europe and the US now participate in social media. Clearly, travelers are interested in sharing ideas, opinions, and information about all topics related to their trips via social media. As more travelers engage in social media -- and engage more often -- the creation, readership, and value of traveler-written ratings and reviews will increase. What the UK proposes may not be practical now, but three years from now -- 2014 -- provided there are an adequate number of travelers writing reviews, it may indeed be practical for the UK government to move from its own star-rating system to one based on traveler-written ratings and reviews. And this is clearly a wake-up call to other organizations, whether government or private-sector, that provide lodging ratings/reviews -- your days are numbered. One caveat: There must be a "fallback" procedure so smaller lodging establishments who receive no ratings/reviews, or businesses that don't receive a valid number of regularly updated reviews, have the ability to be graded by an accredited organization in order to remain competitive.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the "comments" field below. And, as always, thanks for your time.