Hotel classification systems in the Middle East need a “huge overhaul” to enable continued growth of the tourism sector, hotel owners in the region said.
The owners acknowledged that hotel ratings were necessary for consumers, but that the development of the systems behind them needed to be better co-ordinated by all stakeholders.
Seven Tides Hospitality managing director Michael Scully told Hotelier: “Hotel classification systems are very much needed as they give the public a benchmark to look to. However, depending on the region they need a huge overhaul and very often only concentrate on facilities and aesthetics and not on the cultural aspects in order to promote tourism — a point that is very important in this region”.
Alain Debare, general manager of Kuwait-based Action Hotels, said that the main issue affecting owners was the inconsistency of classification systems
“The current classification systems are very inconsistent across the Middle East. Current classification systems are administrative and are often show a disconnect between the reality of market needs and brand development,” said Debare.
“As an example, Sharjah has introduced new regulations for the size of hotel rooms where the requirement is greater than that of Dubai for the same product. This is a major barrier to entry for mid-market properties as it makes most projects unviable.
“It is clearly time for authorities to participate in an open dialogue with owners, operators and customers in order to allow some flexibility in regulations,” Debare suggested.
Anil Bhardwaj, director of A.A. Al Moosa Enterprises, agreed that “greater co-ordinations” was necessary.
“A more uniform classification system is required across the world with increasing globalisation. Today a brand may have significantly different properties in the same category in one continent to another,” Bhardwaj observed.
“Greater co-ordination between the key stakeholders in our region would be useful, including owners, operators and the government. Co-operation on a national level should improve and evolve into co-operation at a regional level to present the Middle East as a co-ordinated whole tourism market. That would give a new impetus to tourism growth,” he asserted.
Atlas Hospitality managing director Siegfried Nierhaus added that owners needed transparency when it came to understanding hotel classifications.
“What we strongly recommend is that the hotel classifications systems are made more accessible, communicated to industry players, regularly and timely,” said Nierhaus. “The more transparent the information is, and easier it is to get relevant information, the more value of these systems will increase in industry.”