Holiday planning

Hotel star ratings explained: Your guide to choosing the perfect stay

Photo of Jacob LewisPhoto of Jacob Lewis
By Jacob Lewis

31 May 20245 min read

A resort hotel swimming pool in Turkey

Choosing the right hotel is one of the most crucial decisions you'll make when holiday planning. It can be the difference between a memorable, comfortable stay and a disappointing experience.

However, navigating the world of hotel star ratings can feel like trying to decipher a secret code. A five-star resort on Croatia’s coast looks perfect, but elsewhere the same hotel is listed as four stars or by another rating system entirely.

Here, we'll demystify hotel star ratings to help you understand what they really mean and how important they really are. That way you can make an informed choice for your next trip.

What are hotel star ratings?

Hotel star ratings are used to classify hotels based on their quality, amenities and level of service. The ratings typically range from one to five stars, with one being the most basic and five being the most luxurious.

Who determines hotel star ratings?

Hotel star ratings are assigned by various organisations, such as government tourism boards, automobile associations or independent companies. In some countries, like the UK, the ratings are standardised, while in others, like the US, multiple rating systems coexist.

Are hotel star ratings consistent worldwide?

No, hotel star ratings are not consistent worldwide. Each country or region may have its own criteria for assigning stars, which can cause discrepancies. For example, a four-star hotel in one country might be equivalent to a three-star hotel in another.

What can I expect from a one-star hotel?

One-star hotels typically offer basic accommodations with limited amenities. You can expect a clean, comfortable room with essential furnishings but don't expect luxury features like room service or on-site dining options.

What is usually available in a three-star hotel?

Three-star hotels generally provide a comfortable stay with a range of amenities. These may include an on-site restaurant, room service for snacks and drinks, a fitness centre, swimming pool and conference facilities. Rooms are usually well appointed with modern furnishings and amenities like wi-fi, an ensuite bathroom and a TV.

What sets a five-star hotel apart from the rest?

Five-star hotels offer the highest level of luxury and service. You can expect spacious, elegantly designed rooms with premium bedding and bath products, 24-hour room service, multi-lingual concierge services and top-quality dining options. These hotels often feature spa facilities, multiple pools and other high-end amenities.

Do hotel star ratings reflect cleanliness and hygiene standards?

While cleanliness and hygiene are important factors in the overall guest experience, star ratings do not specifically focus on these aspects. However, higher rated hotels are generally expected to maintain higher standards of cleanliness and hygiene to meet guest expectations.

Are hotel star ratings the same as user ratings on booking websites?

No, hotel star ratings and user ratings on booking websites are different. Star ratings are assigned by official organisations based on specific criteria, while user ratings reflect the subjective opinions and experiences of individual guests.

Do all countries have a one-to-five star rating system?

While the one-to-five star rating system is the most common, some countries may have variations. For example, Dubai has a seven-star rating for the Burj Al Arab hotel and France has a ‘Palace’ distinction for hotels that exceed its five-star criteria.

Can a hotel's star rating change over time?

Yes, a hotel's star rating can change over time. Hotels may undergo renovations, upgrades, or changes in service quality, which can lead to a reassessment of their star rating.

Do star ratings take into account a hotel's location or proximity to attractions?

Star ratings mostly focus on the hotel's amenities, services and overall quality, rather than its location.

Are star ratings the best way to choose a hotel for my holiday?

While star ratings can provide a general idea of a hotel's quality and amenities, they should not be the only factor in your decision-making process. Consider your specific needs, budget and preferences, then read reviews to get a feel for a hotel's strengths and weaknesses.

Does the EU have a universal star rating system?

No, the EU does not have a universal star rating system that applies to all member countries. While the Hotelstars Union, founded in 2009, has made efforts to standardise hotel ratings across 21 European countries, major tourist destinations like France, Italy and Spain still maintain their own rating systems.

You can find Hotelstars’ official criteria for assigning stars here.

Where was the first hotel star rating system invented?

The modern hotel star rating system traces its roots back to the early 20th century. Taking its cue from the star system used to categorise brandy, the UK’s Automobile Association began recommending hotels to its members in 1905, which evolved into a more formal rating system by the mid-20th century, focusing on amenities and service quality. The one-to-five star rating system laid the foundation for the hotel classification standards we know today.

How does TravelSupermarket set its star ratings for hotels and are they accurate?

TravelSupermarket uses a trusted service called GIATA to ensure our star ratings for hotels are accurate and up to date. GIATA is the same service that major companies like Google, Tripadvisor and large tour operators rely on for correct hotel information. This means we can provide reliable star ratings you can count on when booking your next holiday.

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