Several Abu Dhabi hotels face a downgrade of their star ratings over the summer as the capital's strict new classification system comes into effect. Within weeks, every hotel in Abu Dhabi will have to display a plaque issued by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) showing its official new rating, which is determined by a long list of stringent criteria, from the "bounce" of the mattress to how well the flooring matches the rest of a room's decor. "Some hotels have been downgraded," said Nasser al Reyami, the director of tourism standards at the ADTA. Mr al Reyami declined to give details of how many, and which hotels, have been downgraded. Previously, there had been no government-regulated classification system for hotels in the emirate, he said. Eighteen months ago, the ADTA issued a detailed manual to hotels and hotel apartments listing the strict requirements they had to meet to achieve a certain number of points, which would determine their rating. The agency scrutinised all aspects of the hotels - from whether the television was high-definition, to the appearance of the furniture, to whether the room was cooled before the guests arrived. After inspections, the authority issued its ratings in January, and gave hotels that had been downgraded six months to make the necessary changes to recover their status. "Now every hotel knows exactly how many stars they are," Mr al Reyami said. Some hotels were upgraded after they made necessary changes and scored more points, he added. Some hoteliers contacted declined to say whether they had been downgraded by the ADTA, but said the agency had told them to make certain changes and add particular features under the new system. "A lot of the five-star hotels originally got downgraded in the system because it is such a tough new regulatory system," said Kamal Fakhoury, the director of operations at the Cristal Hotel, a four-star hotel that opened in the capital in April. The Cristal Hotel, originally planned as a four-star hotel, did consider trying to get enough points to become a five-star property, Mr Fakhoury said. "We could technically hit the five, but the problem would then be that maintaining the five becomes very costly," he said. "We thought with most of the competition moving into the city in the next couple of years being five-star, strategically for the owner we were better off sticking with the four." Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH) - the capital's largest hotel owner with properties including Le Meridien and Hilton in Abu Dhabi, and which owns and manages Al Diar Hotels - said last month it would focus on redeveloping its existing hotels to prevent them being left behind. In creating the system, the ADTA took examples from 35 international destinations to use as guidelines. Mr al Reyami said the system was designed to raise the bar for the quality of Abu Dhabi's hotels, and that the guidelines would be updated every two years. The system was also designed to set standards for developers building new hotels in the capital. Abu Dhabi is aiming to double its number of hotel rooms in the next three years, as the capital hopes to bring in 2.3 million guests by 2012. Abu Dhabi's revenue per available room is among the highest in the world due to the shortage of rooms in the capital. "We are aiming to have the highest standards in the world," Mr al Reyami said. Hotels would be able to request a review of their ratings at any time and would be inspected three times a year, he added. Mr Fakhoury said: "There is no uniform system worldwide, so each country and city develops its own ratings system. "So what could be a five-star hotel somewhere in Europe is really only a three-star somewhere else. As far as requirements go, this new Abu Dhabi system is very, very tough." firstname.lastname@example.org
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