The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa's new plaques. Photo: Supplied

One of the first things that most patrons look for when they’re about to make a booking at a place of hospitality, are the rating stars of any facility. These stars that are coloured in the SA flag’s colours have come to be very valuable. But most importantly stand between the difference utilising a service or simply walking out.

But what does one, three or even five stars actually mean?

The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa, the institution that is responsible for rating these institutions has been on a mission to educate South African travellers and businesses on the importance of getting graded.

According to Darryl Erasmus,  Chief Quality Assurance Officer, Tourism Grading Council of South Africa explained that there are several benefits to being graded, but also understanding the importance of grading.

Darryl Erasmus,Chief Quality Assurance Officer of the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa

“We are responsible for utilising a system, in this case we use the star grading system, to o an assessment of a property against a set criteria that is internationally benchmarked,” Erasmus said.

He added that the outcome of the grading would be beneficial for both the business and potential customers.

“The stars are an indicator for a property that they can position themselves in a particular market both from a pricing and expectation prospective. For future clients or travelers, they can use these gradings to plan according to their level of affordability or standards they want to encounter when they get to a product,” he added.

He added that gradings in the country happen every 12 months, in order to ensure that the grading is relevant.

“We do this for a good reason because if a property owner doesn’t have a detailed focus on the maintenance of standards and the maintenance of the property, the standards can slip quite quickly. We focus also on standards in terms of the quality of furniture and fittings, and the building itself, but we also focus on service. During the course of the year, we monitor to ensure that the service level doesn't drop below star grading we’ve given the property,” he said.

Erasmus added there were added benefits to properties being graded, that include a network of business support services that business can get access to once they are graded.

“At the grading council we have what’s known as the basket of benefits, which is business support services. Because 85%of our graded establishments are the small and medium enterprises, we have ensured we have support services available to them to ensure that we minimise the costs of doing business and making profits. We also want them to become more sustainable,” he said.

Erasmus explained that the services include procurement services, i.e. supplying businesses with discounted stock, such as linen; merchant services etc. He said the idea behind this is to ensure that businesses don’t spend too much money on running their businesses, and they can tap into the resources of the council.

The council also organised for all of their independent five star-rated businesses to display at the council’s ‘Lap of Luxury Pavilion’ at Tourism Indaba that happened last week. The idea behind this, Erasmus said, was to  open up the opportunity to network with a large variety of services for these businesses.

A Universal Access plaque by the Tourism Grading Council that shows if a facility is equally as accessible for persons with disabilities. Photo: Supplied

Erasmus said however that recourse is available for clients who feel an establishment’s rating does not match the facility or the service provided.

“Beacuse we’ve given this product stars and attached our brand to it, we have to defend it. If somebody went to an establishment but didn’t receive an experience in line with that grading, we have a client liason office that works with travelers or products who have challenges of this nature, and we find through a process, solutions to these challenges,” he said.

“We encourage anybody who has had a challenge with a graded establishment to go onto our website, [email protected] to share with us their experiences or photographs or compliments if there are any,” he said.

For more information on gradings or how to get graded, visit: