Hoteliers could lose some of their coveted stars following an "agreement in principle" by the Quality Review group to introduce a system of common standards for British accommodation in 2006.
Currently, tourism bodies for England, Wales and Scotland use separate systems that can give hotels different ratings under each scheme. Scottish and Welsh star systems are related to quality, while the English system awards stars to hotels based on facilities, services and quality.
Chairman of the group Alan Britten said: "There will be instances where they will [lose stars], but not very many. We've levelled the standards and we haven't levelled down."
He added that some hotels could actually gains stars.
The number of operators affected by the new unified system will not be known until the review group completes its task of "calibration" later this year, following a consultation process with consumers and industry.
Tourism minister Richard Caborn said introducing a unified ratings system across Britain was central to the Government's goal of increasing the UK tourism market from £76b to £100b a year by 2010.
"This is not about beating [hoteliers] over the head with a big stick, it's about a system of benchmarks," said Caborn. "We're addressing structural weaknesses in the industry."
For more on the new grading system see next week's Caterer.
Review group's key recommendations - A system of common rating standards should be introduced throughout Britain in 2005-06.
- Budget hotels should be graded separately under a new category, travel accommodation.
- Internationally branded hotels should, after inspection, display a plaque demonstrating that they have undergone quality assessment.
- An entry-level standard should be created for properties which fail to register on the current star ratings systems, building on the Fitness for Purpose scheme.
- A high-level advisory group should be created to unite key grading criteria such as skills, transport, training and planning.
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 27 May - 2 June 2004