A simplification of requirements and greater focus on service delivery, user experience and expectation management are the main focus in an update to the current system which was launched in 2007
Abu Dhabi hotels get updated rating system focusing on customer experience
Abu Dhabi's department of Culture and Tourism has unveiled a more sophisticated hotel classification system which aims to make it easier for international tourists to make an informed decision about their choice of accommodation on business or leisure trips to the UAE capital.
Travel agencies and tour operators depend on the classification system when selling packages or advising customers, some of whom may be visiting a destination for the first time. Increasingly, travellers who feel their expectations are not met complain on sites such as Booking.com and TripAdvisor, and the new classification system will monitor and take account of such feedback when assessing hotels.
DCT said the changes are also part of efforts to support the hotel industry, its investors and improve profitability.
The existing system, which was introduced in 2007, is based on a long list of "minimum mandatory criteria" that hotels must fulfil in order to be able to operate, and "rating criteria" that reflect the quality of the hotel's facilities and services.
The updated system involves a simplification of the requirements "reducing certain costs and making it profitable for investors to build hotels in the emirate." "enhancement" of these two elements, in which a hotel can score a maximum of 900 points. 810 points or more are required for a hotel to be deemed five-star, and 450 out of 900 for a one-star, with a sliding scale in between. The DCT has also added three further elements, including a "guest experience index", the introduction of government-mandated "mystery shoppers", and the voluntary ability of hotels to describe themselves as an "airport hotel", "boutique hotel", "convention hotel", "family hotel", "luxury hotel" or "sustainable hotel" to make sure that they attract their target market, such as business, families or couples. The new hotel classification manual is available to view at https://tcaabudhabi.ae
Under the new guest experience index, online reviews will be taken into account with an online review score calculated with the help of a professional data analysis system. Should a hotel's guest experience index (GEI) fall below the minimum threshold for three months in a row, "DCT Abu Dhabi deploys a mystery shopper to validate the negative feedback by investigating the area of underperformance."
Reviews from over 100 online review platforms will be weighted per platform and per reviewer in order to arrive at a scoring. Platforms that do not verify reviews are weighted lower and the individual reviewer is weighted higher the more reviews he or she contributes to the platform. The guest experience index is only applied after the hotel classification has been awarded, and if a minimum final score for each respective classification is not achieved, the hotel will be subject to a "mystery shopping assessment" by an independent hospitality expert.
The DCT said the new system would be introduced in the coming months and "reflects DCT Abu Dhabi's commitment to further establishing Abu Dhabi as a world-class, 21st century destination of distinction" and was designed "to ensure that all visitors to Abu Dhabi's hotels are guaranteed a consistently high-quality stay."
Christian Baudat, the area vice president for Rotana, said the company welcomed the upgraded system and said it complemented Abu Dhabi's growing appeal as a world-class destination. "We believe that the new system will make it easier for visitors to choose a hotel that is best suited to their requirements and needs, which will enhance their overall experience in the capital."