Hotel rating system in Qatar

The Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) has recently completed the first phase of an innovative, new hotel classification system which will raise service standards in the industry and provide greater transparency for the country's future visitors. The step comes with Qatar moving forward rapidly in its tourism development, with ever more hotel accommodation becoming available and Doha's new international airport also taking shape.

The ratings system is being carried out in two phases with all hotels initially being assessed on core fundamentals such as their service and facilities provision, quantity and size of rooms and hygiene levels. This stage is now virtually complete, with all properties having been assessed, and hotels will receive their respective classifications by the end of the summer. The second phase, due to be undertaken early next year, will reward hotels for any particularly special services or exceptional facilities they offer.

Five star ceiling
Speaking to AME Info, the QTA's Acting Director General, Jan Poul de Boer, said the ratings scheme was a means by which to inform tourists of what was on offer in the country's hotels and it was not intended to open up the possibility of trumping some of the region's supposed six or seven star offerings.

'We have given ratings up to five star level. We do not want to go into the realms of what they are doing in Dubai by going up to six or seven stars for example. This will just lead to a less transparent market and it will not really portray what the consumer is looking for.'

The implementation of the first phase was carried out very swiftly and the QTA received good feedback on the initiative from Qatar's hospitality sector. De Boer said the new policy has also been welcomed by prospective investors in the Qatari hotel sector as they now have a clear idea of what is expected by way of services and facilities at various levels of the market.

'We have set out for hoteliers the various criteria that we require, as a governmental body, from different ranked hotels. So, if investors come in with a lot of money and they want to build a four star or five star hotel for example, they can come to us at the QTA and we will effectively offer them a one-stop shop. We can tell them exactly what we expect from the type of hotel they want to build. We have already had some major hotel groups knocking on our door asking for these guidelines.'

Foundation for the future
With Qatar's tourism development still in the 'initial phase of the tourism life-cycle' as de Boer describes it, the QTA was keen to set down a framework for future development, especially with more than 7,000 hotel rooms currently being developed in the country.

'We are expanding very quickly now in Qatar with more accommodation due to come online. It is good to have this sort of foundation for the future sustainability of the sector. It benefits visitors too of course as they will come here knowing exactly what to expect.'

One of the most imaginative aspects of the new system, which will be implemented in the second phase, involves the voluntary assessment of hotels on more qualitative factors. The upshot of this will be that a three or four star property can still compete with more luxurious hotels if it offers something special.

'All hotels, in addition to their one to five star assessment, will also be given an initial bronze rating and they can try to distinguish themselves by moving this up to silver or gold if they offer particularly good facilities or services. So, this means you can then have a four star hotel with a gold ranking, due to its quality of service, set against a five star hotel with a bronze rating.'

Annual assessments
While many of Qatar's hotels will possibly be proudly displaying shiny plaques outside their establishments within a couple of months, indicating their new star ratings, no operator will be able to wrest on its laurels.

'Every hotel will undergo an annual check to make sure standards are being maintained and the ratings are being sustained. We have trained a number of Qatari nationals as hotel inspectors and they will carry out the assessments.'

Qatar's hotels are currently running at an average occupancy rate of around 75 per cent and last year revenue per available room spiked by around 20 per cent, so the new system is being imposed on all already effective and successful sector but de Boer sees long-term benefits.

'We have never done this before but when we get it right, it will definitely be to the benefit of all stakeholders. This has been a combined and collective effort to raise the standards of the sector'.