Berlin - The number of stars a hotel has been awarded ought to be a fail-safe measure to gauge what level of comfort guests can expect for their money.
But how can you tell whether you're staying somewhere that truly deserves its star rating?
Now the hotel trade in Europe is cracking down on misleading star claims. European hoteliers have a cross-border website, www.hotelstars.eu, where guests can consult a checklist of criteria to determine what constitutes a one-star or a five-star experience.
The German affiliate of that service, the hotel and restaurant association Dehoga, has launched www.hotelsterne.de, where tourists can find a list of 270 criterian which hotels need to fulfil to achieve different star ratings.
If a customer doesn't think their hotel meets those requirements, they can complain online to Dehoga.
In summer 2016, customers ranked more than 8 500 hotels in Germany. More than half had three stars, with one- and five-star hotels making up the smallest number. Hotel operators' participation in the scheme is voluntary.
“With each higher star rating, the level of service and facilities has to get better and broader,” says Stefanie Heckel, spokeswoman for Dehoga. Criteria include a reading lamp by the bed and a breakfast buffet - without these on offer, a hotel can't even get two stars.
To get three stars, you need to have a telephone in your room, even if like most guests you prefer to use your own mobile phone. And for five stars, key services are a concierge and ironing service within an hour.
“Every hotel with a star rating gets a plaque which hangs at the entrance and shouldn't be more than three years old,” says Heckel. And most hang a certificate in the reception or the lobby too.
But visitors to other countries can't count on the same system. There is no consistent worldwide rating system for hotels. Just about everywhere, the stars are conferred by trade associations, not by the state.
Three stars in Spain aren't the same as three stars in Germany. Some countries use letters, while others don't have any ranking system at all. Dehoga has been trying for some time to establish a European star ranking via hotelstars.eu.