Hotel Online  Special Report
Four Star vs Mobil Four Star

Harry Nobles  - February 2006

What do these terms really mean?   Are they synonymous, or is there a significance difference? 

I chose to publish this article because of several recent inquiries and requests for help and clarification.  These calls and emails have come from hotel operators, attorneys, and members of the media; apparently not all the media is involved in the “mystery shooting” investigation surrounding Vice President Cheney.

The questions often involve agreements and contracts between developers or lenders and operators.  The typical agreement requires that the property be operated as  a “Four Star” hotel; the contract does not specify a “Mobil Four Star”, just  “Four Star”.

The request I get most often is to define a “Four Star”; what does it mean?

What are the requirements for the rating?   My answer is always the same: I can define a “Mobil Four Star” hotel, but not a “Four Star” hotel.  In my opinion, a Four Star rating is vague and arbitrary while Mobil has set some specific physical and service standards for the Mobil Four Star award. 

The designation of a Mobil Four Star rating indicates that the property has been inspected, evaluated, and officially rated by Mobil for inclusion in its Mobil Travel Guide.  A hotel can, and often does, refer to itself as “Four Star” with no such justification.  Likewise, online reservations companies often assign their client hotels a “Four Star” rating. They do this because Four Star is what I call a “generic” term which I do not believe is protected by any copyright or trademark law; the term Mobil Four Star probably is protected. 

I advise my clients who are considering any operational contract with a designated rating” clause to specify the Mobil Four Star or AAA Four Diamond rating because both organizations have specific written standards that are definable and measurable.  It is therefore possible to determine if a property is being operated as contracted.

Since I do not dispense legal advice, interested parties, such as lenders, owners, or others should consult an attorney before entering any agreement that requires the other party to operate and maintain the property at a specific rating level.  I would, however, suggest seeking a legal advisor who understands the difference between Mobil Four Star and Four Star.   In my experience, the general terms “Four Star”, “First Class”, “upscale”, “luxury”, etc. defy objective definition, and are therefore of no value, particularly in court.

I would therefore recommend you avoid these terms, and stick to the more definitive and objective Mobil and AAA ratings.


Harry Nobles
Direct line: (757) 564-3761

Also See: Rating Condominiums / Harry Nobles / January 2006
AAA Five Diamond Lodgings; Chain vs Independent / November 2005
Katrina & Rita: Silver Lining or Opportunity? / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / October 2005
Our Dream Hotel / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / July 2005
Losing a Diamond or Star / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs /  March 2005
Ratings vs Guest Satisfaction / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / February 2005
Our "Pick of the Month" / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / November 2004
5 Star vs 5 Diamond: What’s the Difference? / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / November 2004
Strategic Alliance Announced, Committed to Hospitality Excellence / August 2004
Family Resorts: Suggested Strategies / Cheryl Griggs / July 2004
Are Small Resorts Unfairly Treated by the AAA and Mobil Rating Criteria / July 2004
Designing For Optimum Global Ratings / Cheryl Griggs / June 2004
QualAsia Formed to Provide Authoritative Organization to Inspect and Evaluate Hotels Across Asia; Harry Nobles Appointed Chairman of New Asian Hotel Rating Service / May 2004
Validity of Online Hotel Ratings / Cheryl Griggs / April 2004
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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