Bad reviews on travel websites like TripAdvisor or Booking.com could soon count against local hotels’ official star rating, the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) has said.
The government agency, which regulates the hospitality sector and other tourism businesses in Qatar, said today that it is introducing a new hotel classification system aimed at making ratings more fair and transparent.
Starting this month, hotels and hotel apartments will be evaluated on their public areas, guest rooms, guest bathrooms, quality of service, food and beverage offerings, room amenities and environmental sustainability, the QTA said.
Additionally, inspectors will analyze comments and ratings left on 130 hotel review websites and incorporate those findings into their final grading report.
Online reviews sometimes paint an incomplete picture of a hotel, but they are increasingly being paid attention to by businesses and customers alike.
For example, last year, Bahrain-based data analytics firm Tagmemics analyzed more than 10,000 TripAdvisor reviews of luxury hotels across the GCC to demonstrate its ability to uncover consumer sentiment.
Its sample of Qatar hotels only included three facilities, with the W Doha ranking the highest.
Under QTA’s new ranking system, hotels may be required to introduce changes or rectify deficits found by inspectors by a certain deadline. Those that fail to make the improvements will be re-graded and risk losing a rating star.
While hotel star rating systems are used all over the world, critics note that the criteria is inconsistent from country to country.
Under previous sets of criteria in Qatar, a hotel needed a lounge or reception hall of at least 60sqm, at least two restaurants, a 60sqm temperature-controlled pool and a shoe polish machine, among other amenities and features, to qualify as a five-star facility.
Speaking to the Qatar Tribune last fall about the upcoming system, Hassan al Ibrahim – QTA’s chief tourism and development officer – said the new ranking system would also look at hotels’ “social” sustainability and require operators to include Qatari food on their menus.
“We also want hotels to take part in national events, such as the Qatar National Day,” he added.
Last summer, the QTA also took an interest in how heavily local dishes were featured on the menus of hotels during Ramadan.