Hotel Online  Special Report
Validity of Online Hotel Ratings

April 2004 - In recent months we have seen a steady increase in TV and Internet ads touting online hotel booking opportunities.  They often offer discounted rates, a simple and easy 24/7 reservation process, and a star rating, often with glossy photos.  
My personal knowledge of online ratings is very limited; my experience with booking online is likewise limited.   My questions and comments are not intended as criticism of online ratings; they are simply questions I would ask before trusting a rating of unknown origin.  I know others ask the same questions because we 
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often get similar inquiries on our website.

The reduced rate can certainly be an valid inducement; use of 21st century technology at anytime is definitely convenient.   I do have questions about the photography and the star ratings.  How current are the photos?  Do they accurately depict the property, or do they show only the “best of the best”?  

Who says this is a 4 Star hotel?  Was the hotel actually visited and inspected by a human, or is this another example of hi-tech?  Do hotels pay a fee to be rated?

If AAA and/or Mobil rates a hotel, I know that a live inspector was there on site and actually looked at the facilities and dealt with some employees.  While I know that neither AAA’s  nor Mobil’s rating system is perfect, I do know they have a very good track record of evaluating hotels.  I also know their inspectors visit all approved properties annually, and I know that hotels do not pay a fee for AAA and Mobil ratings.  This gives me some assurance that their ratings are relatively current and objective, and that any incorrect ratings can always be adjusted on the next visit.

Do the online ratings offer the same degree of credibility?  Do these organizations send an inspector to each rated hotel?  Does he or she look at the physical facilities?  Do they stay overnight as an anonymous guest to assess the service and staff performance?

I have seen a recent TV commercial showing an “inspector” measuring various distances at a hotel.  I am unsure how many guests care how far Point A is from Point B.  I suggest most are more interested in knowing if the place is clean and well maintained, and if the staff is competent and cordial; those are certainly my priorities.

I predict that online hotel booking services are here to stay. This is a valid alternative to the traditional approach and is gaining popularity daily.  I might suggest that a comparison of online ratings with AAA and Mobil ratings would be one way to determine consistency and establish some credibility. As with all business transactions, “caveat emptor” springs to mind. 

Cheryl Griggs
Toll Free (877) 220-4260


Harry Nobles Hospitality Consulting
POC:  Harry Nobles
Phone:  757-564-3761
Fax:        757-564-0076


  • Former head of AAA Lodging/Dining Ratings Program. 
  • An independent consultant serving the hospitality industry. 
  • A Special Training Consultant to the Educational Institute, American Hotel/Motel Association
Also See: Resorts Ratings Redux / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / February 2004
Are Your Trainers Trained? / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Thompson Grigg /  January 2004 
The Language of Service / Cheryl Griggs / October 2003
Hotel Renovation Ideas vs AAA Ratings Criteria / Harry Nobles / October 2003
New Employee Orientation: Necessity or Luxury?  /  July 2003
Save the Best - Replace the Rest / July 2003
AAA and Mobil Ratings As a Sales Tool / May 2003
How Well Do You Know Your Competitor? / May 2003
Our Favorite Hotel?  / March 2003
The Current Value of AAA Hotel Ratings / Feb 2003
Stars and Diamonds; Some Similarities and Some Differences / January 2003
AAA's Delay: Good or Bad? / July 2002
Timing Is Everything, Or Is It? / July 2002 
Boutique Hotels: Have They Gone Too Far / May 2002
People Really Do Make the Difference / Jan 2002
What Is a Boutique Hotel? / Dec 2001
The Non-negotiable Traits of Leaders / Oct 2001 
How Important is Service? / Sept 2001
Front Desk Service Mistakes / Aug 2001
Food & Beverage Mistakes & How to Correct Them / July 2001
Bell Staff Mistakes & How to Correct Them / July 2001 
Attitude vs Aptitude / June 2001
Female Business Travelers' Expectations / June 2001
Is Outsourcing Your Training a Viable Alternative? / June 2001
Unique Identity + Consistent Service = Success / May 2001
AAA Standards vs  Guests' Expectations / May 2001
Are Your Guests Better Informed Than Your Staff? / April 2001
Are U.S. Hotels Rated Differently From Other North American Hotels? / April 2001
The Design Theme - AAA / Mobil Ratings Connection / March 2001
Attitude Can Make the Difference / January 2001
How Should Casino-Hotels be Rated? / Dec 2000
Does AAA Rate Resorts Fairly? / Nov 2000
Is Your Property Suffering From Design Deficiency? / Nov 2000 
The Future of AAA Ratings / September 2000
What Is Your Optimum AAA Rating / August 2000
If You Disagree With Your AAA Rating…../ June 2000
Are AAA Ratings Always Accurate and Objective / May 2000
Creating Atmosphere / Jan 2000
What is "Atmosphere"? / December 1999
Maintaining Your AAA Rating / Nov 1999
Earning a AAA Rating vs Maintaining a AAA Rating: Which Is More Difficult?  / Oct 1999
Can Outstanding Service Offset Hotel Physical Deficiencies in the Rating Systems? / Harry Nobles / June 1999 
Consistency: The Hallmark of a Fine Hotel / September 1999
Who Should Train Your Employees  / Aug 2000 
Mobil Travel Guide Announces 1998 Mobil Four-and Five-Star Award Winners / Jan 1998 
Key to Success: Training + Follow-Up / June 2000
The Legend of the Pineapple / Harry Nobles / Feb 1999 
To Harry Nobles Hospitality Consulting Index Page

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