Contributor/ The Vulture
Time was, when five star meant something. It meant mahogany, gin in silent, smoky rooms, doormen with a talent for secrecy. Now, five star means an extra couple of noughts on your bill and the same print of a ship leaving harbour in full sail that you saw in Hong Kong. Or Melbourne. Or Liverpool. If it’s five star boutique then there’s probably an armchair somewhere in the room upholstered with a hilariously garish print.
So what’s the point of stars? Well little to none. Back in the day when we used to huddle around the radiogram listening to the news from London, choosing a hotel meant poring through the AA guide. Other guidebooks got wise to the money-spinning (and free meal) potential, stuck with the one-to-five ratings system and, the more it spread, the more quality was lost. These days, you can pretty much put whatever rating you fancy above the door and no-one will question it.
No-one will take note of it either, which is one of the reasons why the likes of TripAdvisor have been such a roaring success. OK, some people who comment on there are crackers, but if you take the Wisdom of the Crowd – and TripAdvisor does, every time someone complains to them about a review – then a reasonable feeling for the hotel in question can be gauged.
However, a recent report from BDRC Continental suggests that we don’t believe mainstream review sites any more either. The study found that, of the around 1,000 adults questioned in January, the proportion stating that they trusted the accuracy of online review sites had dropped to 45% in 2014, from 52% in 2013. This, author Jon Young, director at BDRC Continental, concluded: “May be as the review sites seek to monetise their visitor numbers by adding bookings to reviews”.
After having-been-there-before, peer endorsement was the most important method by which people chose a holiday. Proper peer review too, not just some nutters who complain professionally about the colour of their toast. From actual friends or trusted figures, who you know something about.
So now we’re back to relying on our mates to tell us where to go. It’s a slippery slope since the days of the leather-bound AA guide. If your confidantes are anything like mine, the whole hotel-choosing event will degrade into a marginally fancier version of Hot or Not.
Of course Hot or Not – or variants thereof – gave rise to Facebook. And one of those is quite enough, thanks.