BY JAMES WILKINSON
Four years after a review was launched, AAA Tourism has finally announced that changes to the Star Ratings Scheme have been approved by an advisory panel of industry leaders.
“The calibre of the Industry Advisory Panels we engaged to help review and establish the new assessment criteria was a huge factor in the success of our four-year Scheme Review and the launch of our new scheme,” said AAA Tourism CEO Peter Blackwell.
“From the Federal Government and Tourism Australia to the TTF, major accommodation chains to independent operators, there has been a groundswell of support for an official rating Scheme that helps address the supply-side issues Australian tourism must overcome to compete on the world stage.”
Blackwell added “the old facilities-based model had “failed to keep up with consumer demand and had also led to the development of homogenised, over-rated accommodation product in Australia”.
“Put simply, the quality of Australian accommodation product was failing to match international standards, especially from emerging markets such as China,” Blackwell said.
AAA Tourism’s Industry Advisory Panel included representatives from Accor, IHG, Choice, Outrigger, Mantra, TOGA, Best Western, the Oaks Group and Stayz, along with the Accommodation Association of Australia, Tourism Accommodation Australia and Hosted Accommodation Australia.
The support of the Federal Government was also a key to the program’s ongoing success, Blackwell said.
“Our partnership with the Australian Government and T-QUAL demonstrates that the new Scheme is at the core of national supply-side strategies,” he said.
“More importantly, our new Scheme is positioned to take advantage of consumer demand for a trusted and truly independent source of travel information.”
Tourism Accommodation Australia’s Managing Director Rodger Powell said he was confident the new scheme will be welcomed by both the hotel industry and consumers.
“Like with any new scheme, a few wrinkles will need to be ironed out, but I am confident the AAA Tourism will listen to the industry and get it right,” Powell told HM.
“I am supportive of the scheme and we (the TAA) were involved in the industry consultation as were many of our members.
“The old scheme was focused on facilities, while the new scheme was based around a mass of research, driven by consumers.
“This will return the scheme to be aligned with the Australian and international markets,” he said.
But while AAA Tourism is saying the review has led to a “relevant and equitable scheme for the 21st century”, the Accommodation Association of Australia won’t endorse the changes until they have undertaken their own review.
Speaking exclusively to HM, Accommodation Association of Australia CEO Richard Munro said he won’t endorse the changes until he has seen it for himself.
“Our Association is testing the changes on a live hotel to see the merits of the new system,” he said. “We’re not waiting for feedback… we’re doing first hand testing in conjunction with leading Hoteliers.”
One leading Hotelier was also optimistic that the new scheme will work, but given the length of the review timeframe, he remains cautious.
“It would have been great to see this a couple of years ago, but the changes nevertheless are certainly welcome news,” a Hotelier, who wished to remain anonymous, told HM. “I’m looking forward to seeing how the industry takes it on board.”