When it comes to rating hotels, besides the star system, there are: diamonds, letters, flags, and keys. Not all that popular, especially in Europe. But isn’t it pretty messy for most of the guests? How many people can guess, what a hotel category is, if they don’t see stars to count at the main entrance or at reception?
Let’s try to help by going throug the variety of accommodation types in Germany, and the official stars requirements.
Private Rooms (Privatzimmer), Appartements, Holiday house (Ferienwohnung)
This must be the most practical accommodation to fit low budget. Those are mainly private homes and could be booked at several web sites, which offer direct contact with the hosts. It is clear that there are no specific requirements and the level of service depends on the owners.
Youth Hostels (Jugendherberge)
This type of accommodation, popular not only in Germany, is mostly for young people. Of course, it does not mean that adults cannot use it, but anyone over 27 pays a surcharge. Youth hostels date back more than 100 years. There is a “Youth Hostel Association” with more than 500 members, in Germany alone. The word “Herberge” is literally translated as “Mountain Hostel” (not to be confused with and translated to “Mr. Berge Junior”). The Youth Hostels always have canteen, bistro or cafeteria, and sports facilities. Generally the prices at the Youth Hostel are low, but this does not mean that a SGL, DBL or even Family room cannot be booked. The furnishing is surely not poor, just the opposite, many of the hotels are modern. In 2006 Germany saw 13 completely refurbished, or new buildings of that kind.
There are more than 5,000 Pensions in Germany. This is basic accommodation located mainly in suburbs or outskirts. A typical pension would be a house with 5 to 20 beds, owned and managed by a family. The service includes breakfast and cleaning. There is no kitchen. In a sense, it could be described as a low-cost hotel.
Gaststätte, Gasthaus and Gasthof
This is a house with a pub, brewery or a restaurant at the ground floor and rooms at higher floor/s. It is also often called Hotel – Restaurant. The names of this type of accommodations are structured in a similar manner – It includes “Zum”, Zur” or very often the name of the Family that owns it. They are most common in small towns or villages.
No! This is not the biggest hotel chain in Germany. A hotel which has “Garni” in its name is one and the same with a small hotel, but offers only Breakfast. There is no restaurant and no lunch or dinner. Many Garnis are family-owned and rooms are upto 50 EUR per night.
From here on start the star categories published on http://www.hotelsterne.de/, far more precise, than the loose understanding we get from the generic description of the former categories.
One Star Hotels*
The rooms in a one star hotel should have en-suite private shower or bath and WC. A remote control color TV is a must, which sounds a bit retro and surely must be updated. The cleaning is also obligatory. There should be a reception desk with a fax and a phone to which surely has to be added Wi-Fi. It is not clear how long should a one star reception be available. Not just breakfast, but extended choice of breakfast is necessary in a “No Smoking” breakfast room, or one big enough to have separate smoking areas. Range of drink are also require and last, but not least – Storage facility, which we all know is in use when a guest has to check-out, but his flight departs late in the afternoon.
Two Star Hotels**
The two-star property includes all the features of the one star plus per person seat or place to seat in a room, reading light, bathroom towels and linen shelves. Sanitary products should be available to buy. With two stars comes the required credit or debit card payment option. In fact, “All major credit and debit cards” should be accepted.
Three Star Hotels***
The three-star hotels should have at least 10% No smoking rooms and a reception open 14hrs per day, but accessible 24/7. The staff must speak at least two languages, which is too much, not necessary and most important not possible. Seating for small groups near reception – this depends on the size of the hotel and should be valid for hotels with more than 25 rooms. Luggage service is a nice extra, but should also depend on the number of rooms. Common room requisites are: En-suite minibar or drinks, In room telephone and internet access (not required for 1 or 2 stars), Bathroom heating, hair dryer, tissues, Large dressing mirror, suite case rack, safe, sewing kit, shoe cleaning utensils, laundry and ironing service, Extra pillow and blanket on request. Courteous and professional response to customer complaints is what you should expect here. Do not take this for granted with lower class accommodation.
Four Star Hotels****
A 4 star reception works 4 hours longer than a 3 star. Lobby with a seating area, drink service and bar is a must. Besides breakfast buffet and minibar, there should be room service. In the rooms: Armchair (or couch with side table), bath robe, slippers on request. In the bathrooms: Shower cap, nail file, cotton buds, make-up mirror. Internet-PC or Internet-Terminal and “À la carte” restaurant should be availabel to all hotel guests.
Five Star Hotels*****
A Luxury hotel has 24/7 reception, multilingual staff, concierge and doorman. Entrance hall with seating and drinks service. With 5 stars you get personal service – a greeting with flowers, or a present in the room. Room service is 24/7. Internet should be available in all rooms, sadly, but not stated whether paid or free. Body care products, qualified IT- support service, selection of cushions, in bed central room light on/off control , en-suite safe, one hour ironing service, shoe cleaning service. Here comes the most exciting – regular mystery men checks. Wow! This would sound a bit disturbing for those staying in lower class.
Nowadays people book what they see on a web page. Did you ever notice, while browsing a hotel site, that it’s really hard and sometimes impossible to find the star rating? So what is the purpose of stars if they stay hidden?
Hardly anyone would be happy to book a room through a nice web page to later find that the hotel doesn’t match their expectations. At the end of the day, all requirements that come with the awarded star rating are intended to enforce the level of service. The service a hotel offers, starts with the booking experience. In our view, the star category should be mandatory on every hotel websites, visible and clear.