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The star rating process for hotels in Europe is overseen by the European Hotelstars Union, with 21 member countries participating in a standardized rating system. Hotels can achieve from one to five stars based on 247 criteria spread across five categories. Each criterion is assigned points based on its significance, ranging from 1 to 20 points, with mandatory criteria for each category. Hotels that meet all mandatory criteria and offer exceptional service can receive a “Superior” suffix. While most countries use the common classification system, some nations like France and Portugal have their own systems, while others like Finland and Norway have no star classification at all.

The process for obtaining a star classification typically involves hotel owners filling out a self-evaluation questionnaire, which is then reviewed by the Hotelstars Union. An on-site audit is conducted to ensure the hotels meet the criteria and if satisfied, the relevant star classification is awarded. However, hotels that do not meet the criteria may be asked to remove stars if falsely advertised, or they may not receive any classification at all. Hotels can also be classified as “without restaurant” or “garni” if they operate without a restaurant while still meeting the star criteria.

Despite claims of hotels offering 6 or 7 star services, European HOTREC member countries classify hotels exclusively on a traditional five-star scale. 5-star Superior ratings can be awarded to outstanding establishments within each category but hotels cannot accurately describe themselves as having more than 5 stars. Classifications are valid for up to six years and must be reevaluated after this period. Hotels looking to improve their rating can make necessary adjustments and investments to reach the standard of the new rating category and undergo another audit to move up a level.

Star ratings are important for both hoteliers and travelers. While hotels benefit from increased visibility and added value for money, travelers use star ratings as a key criterion for choosing a hotel. The international harmonized system offers comparability of offers across borders and is particularly useful in a digital age where online booking portals use star ratings as a key search filter. While guest reviews are common, booking sites are increasingly relying on star ratings to market hotels. HOTREC emphasizes the importance of the classification system and the benefits it provides to both travelers and hoteliers in the modern world where the online presence is crucial for success.

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