What makes a great five star hotel?

Let’s be clear. I am aware of the fact that there are ‘six’ and ‘seven’ star hotels in the world.

What you may, or may not be aware of is the fact that there is no universal international standard of grading hotels.
Most countries work on a grading up to a maximum of five stars, others have a diamond rating and others work on other types of grading.

What is universal though is that there is a limit to the scale; meaning that in essence there is no way to quantify more than a five star level.

The most famous is the Burj Al Arab in the emirate of Dubai. It claims to be the worlds first seven star hotel.

Burj Al Arab

Pretty isn’t it? The architect and engineering consultant for the project was Atkins, the UK’s largest multidisciplinary consultancy. The hotel was built by South African construction contractor Murray & Roberts. The hotel cost $650 million to build and opened it’s doors on the 1st December 1999. It billed itself as the world’s first seven star hotel despite there being no precedent for such a claim. HotelClub Travel Blog details more such examples of presumption.

A coincidence that each of these examples is in the Emirates or Asia listing countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia and Dubai? All are the result of ground breaking designs and world beating luxury I’m sure but when you try and ‘out do’ your competition by creating your own star or grading rating it seems like they are trying too hard.

The Burj Al Arab has attracted criticism as well as praise, these are some of the criticisms; “both the hotel and the city, after all, are monuments to the triumph of money over practicality. Both elevate style over substance.” Sam Wollaston writing in “The Guardian” described the hotel as “…fabulous, hideous, and the very pinnacle of tackiness – like Vegas after a serious, no-expense-spared, sheik-over”.

Yes, that was pretty much my impression also. More money than class or taste is a very common occurrence in the world of super luxury hotels.

My motivation for writing this article is more about creating an awareness rather than simply listing an exhaustive list of all of the requirements for five star level grading. If you’re interested in such a list you’ll find one here.

I am more interested in sharing my views on what it takes to maintain those standards, how the staff need to be trained and directed and what sets some five star hotels apart from the thousands of others.

Anyway, coming back to my point about what makes a great five star hotel. There are standard requirements to qualify as a five star hotel. These are some of them:

For a five-star rating a hotel needs a concierge, valet parking, a fitness centre/gym and a beauty spa. Many of these hotels also offer other services such as a casino, lounge or nightclub
  1. The staff at a five-star hotel is expected to be the best they can. The hotel should have a high ratio of staff to guests.
  2. Service in a five-star hotel is above average. The hotel should offer Reception, Concierge, Housekeeping and Room Service 24 hours a day.
  3. For a hotel to be rated with five stars, it must have expensive and quality furnishing and decorations such as 400-count sheets. The rating also requires that in-room video, a CD/DVD player and a bath and shower in the bathroom.
  4. The hotel itself should have more than one restaurant at the location and the restaurants are expected to offer a variety of gourmet dining options.
A five star grading/rating is not presented without consistent service over a long period. Rarely is a facility granted this accolade on opening day. The industry knows that a certain standard is expected, customers know what to expect. A rare few boutique hotels will even serve a limited clientèle and remain unconcerned with rating competition since they trust in their establishment and the fact that consistent high levels will ensure guests return regularly.
In a nutshell quality, service and consistency are all that matter in five star hotels. It really is that simple.
What is it that will make a guest return to the same hotel year after year? Why do people who have a huge choice of hotels from five star to ungraded choose what they choose? When you have hotels that charge a wide range of prices, albeit all fairly high, why do people show loyalty to a particular brand or hotel? Again; as with what matters in five star hotels, the answer is very simple; quality, service and consistency.
Let’s break it down:
  • Quality – Relates to furnishings, fittings, amenities, décor, food and beverage, staffing, vehicles and logistical system
  • Service – I consider this to be the most important of the three. Without excellent, experienced and well trained staff you will never maintain five star standards. I have seen it at every stage of my career and there has never been a single statement with more truth. With the right staff in the correct roles you WILL achieve excellence. Unlike physical attributes great service costs nothing. Training a staff member costs nothing. Motivating a staff member costs nothing. Ensuring that your guests receive the very best attention and service costs nothing.
  • Consistency – Obviously this means getting it right every single time. Every single napkin is folded the same way, each bed made and turned down the same way. Every meal prepared, plated and served in same way. Repetitiveness can be painful for the untrained and inexperienced staff member, but for those of us who have lived it for years and years it becomes second nature. Achieving great service consistency WILL make your hotel great; not maybe or could; this is guaranteed.
Think about what ruins your experience in a five star hotel:
  • Is it arrogant, unfriendly or badly trained staff?
  • Less than impeccable room cleanliness or facilities?
  • Bad service in the bar, restaurants or other public areas?
I think that these three choices cover 99% of what people complain about when staying a hotel. Do you think it is a coincidence that 2 out of 3 are directly related to service and training? Trust me it is not a coincidence at all. Human error, lack of training and lack of effort accounts for the vast majority of complaints.
What five star hotels do differently is minimise the risk of failure within the many aspects of a guests experience within the hotel. By training new staff to the expected levels and reinforcing these to existing staff, these levels excellence can be achieved and maintained over and over again. I’ve often said that the hotel industry is not rocket science. Anyone can do it. With the right attitude, motivation, training and management structures all is possible.
So, the main reason people complain is directly related to lack of attention to detail and training? You’d probably be surprised to learn that any service issue that you’ve experienced can be resolved by training and increased knowledge.
From my own personal perspective I know that while I may not be the perfect individual; I have flaws and issues like everyone else; however my training and experience sets me apart from the masses. Why do you think a prospective employer is so keen to view your previous work record when considering employing you? It’s because at each stage of your employment history you make and learn from mistakes and become a more complete employee.
This is the difference within five star hotels. They do not; or at least should not, hire staff without relevant five star experience. As an employer you want the most intelligent, educated and experienced staff that you can afford. At this, the pinnacle of hospitality, it would be negligent for them to hire staff who do not have the required knowledge and experience.
This is what I think it takes to make a great five star hotel:
  • Great location
  • Beautiful building and façade
  • Luxurious and extravagant décor, amenities and equipment
  • A variety of restaurants that are trendy, but most importantly good value for money and resistant to changing trends
  • An excellent, preferably Les Clefs d’Or, Concierge member or team
  • Experienced, knowledgeable and regularly re-trained management and staff

It’s so simple, but you’ll be surprised how many five star hotels cannot get it right.

I am Concierge.

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9 responses to “What makes a great five star hotel?

    • Thank you for your feedback. I hope that my passion and interest for the industry does show through in my writing style. This blog is still very new, and I hope in time to become more eloquent and cover more varied topics.

  1. wow!! looks very elegant and sophisticated , looking 4ward to visit there on my vacations……:-) looks like a very relaxing place , and soon i wanna witness the elegance of that place.

  2. IMHO…What makes a 5 star hotel is a very high ratio of friendly and helpful staff to guest ratio. This is difficult and expensive in countries where labor costs are high.
    It is less about things at the hotel which should be standard and expected than about trained staff. You should expect 5 star restaurants at 5 star hotels and resorts.
    There really aren’t many real 5 star places and there names should not be mentioned on the internet—-LOL

  3. Its like you read my mind! You appear to grasp a lot approximately this, such as you
    wrote the guide in it or something. I think that you simply can do
    with a few p.c. to drive the message house a little bit, however other than that,
    that is magnificent blog. An excellent read. I’ll definitely be back.

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