Rating hotels and restaurants – what it means

Simply put, classification and ratings of hotels, lodges, motels, tented camps, villas, cottages and serviced apartments and restaurants are a winning formula for the owners, guests and the tourism industry.
Isaac Sebakijje
Isaac Sebakijje

Simply put, classification and ratings of hotels, lodges, motels, tented camps, villas, cottages and serviced apartments and restaurants are a winning formula for the owners, guests and the tourism industry. Until now, hotels and restaurants have been classifying themselves without standards. Classification of these facilities is a prelude to selling the East African Community as a single tourist destination. All member states of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi completed the mandatory training for assessors based on the criteria set by the common code of conduct in the region. The training was developed by EAC Sectoral Council on Tourism and Wildlife Management. Today, the one to five star grading exercise is underway and it is a truly a milestone for the industry in uplifting professional and service standards.

Owners of classified and rated facilities now have a tool to use for their sales and marketing purposes. The rating will inform prospective customers about the physical and material features of the facility such as location, services, size of rooms, cuisine, amenities, style, décor and staff competency. TripAdvisor, the international travel guide website will pick up on these ratings along with testimonials received from clients and issue recognition certificates accordingly. The star ratings and TripAdvisor recognition certificates can be displayed proudly and prominently on business premises, included in printed materials and also proclaimed on websites. For as long as the facility maintains or exceeds these standards the star rating together with other in-house marketing strategies will allow the business to effectively attract the demanding segments of the domestic and international market. It is one way of building customer confidence and satisfaction.

For patrons of these facilities such as tourists, travelers, conventioneers and others, star ratings indicate quality assurance once they choose East Africa as their destination. Today’s informed travellers use the internet to find and even book their accommodation and restaurants online. Travel and tour operators and hotel agencies worldwide such as Expedia.com use the same system or other available means to determine what facilities to recommend for their customers. Unlike in the past, choice is no longer based on price alone but also on officially reliable information. Therefore, tourists and others will no longer be influenced by glossy pictures of advertisers and sales pitch that may not be representative of quality. Star ratings have been welcomed by all as an answer to anxiety and disappointment that is common when very little is known about the hotel or restaurant reserved for travel.

Public and private stakeholders in each member state must support this exercise as it will enable tourism facilities to be marketed with credible regional and international recognition. The classification and star ratings of hotels and restaurants are in harmony with the integration of East Africa. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared seven tourist wonders of Africa. Four of those wonders (Serengeti, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro Crater and River Nile) are found in East Africa. Therefore, the region is on the radar of tourists and other travellers. According to Mr. Shedrack Mashauri, the EAC Secretariat Principal Tourism Officer, tourism is expected to rake in $15.93 billion by 2020 up from $7.1 billion in 2010 for the region’s gross domestic product.

In order for the rating system to work as intended, the process must be devoid of any corrupt practices. However, all this comes at a cost. There will be financial and human resource challenges for many smaller establishments seeking to upgrade their properties for certification. Financial institutions must assist in providing affordable loans to proprietors who need funding. Governments must provide incentives and tax breaks to those who may be struggling to upgrade their facilities. Since the whole plan revolves around quality, establishing service levels and competence among staff will take center stage. Governments and public sectors must work together to facilitate education and training throughout the industry.

Member states have agreed that when participating in international tourism fairs, tourism boards will feature as the “East African village”. Therefore, in order for the playing field to be level, no single country in the community should be left behind during the rating process.

The writer is a hotelier and tourism specialist

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