Abu Dhabi hotel star system launched

The capital's new hotel rating system makes its debut with the Emirates Palace unveiling its five-star plaque.

ABU DHABI // The capital's new hotel rating system made its debut yesterday with the Emirates Palace unveiling its five-star plaque. The system has taken the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) two years to develop and is designed to raise standards at Abu Dhabi's hotels and create some consistency for tourists. Previously, there was no official classification system in Abu Dhabi, with hotels able in effect to rate themselves.

This led not only to criticisms that some star ratings were hard to justify, but also to the phenomenon of the "seven-star" hotel - a grading that has never been officially recognised. More are receiving their plaques this week, and all hotels and hotel apartments in the emirate will have to display the signs by the end of October, in time for the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Nasser Al Reyami, ADTA's director of tourism standards, said the new system would reassure visitors of the standards they could expect, adding that some hotels had been downgraded relative to their previous, self-awarded ratings.

The classification system draws on elements from similar systems around the world and awards between one and five stars, using criteria that range from service standards to the quality of the furniture and the power of the hair dryers and the number of sets of curtains covering the windows. Mr al Reyami said most hotels had improved as a result of introducing the system, and confirmed there was a possibility of introducing more categories later.

"There is nothing in the world for six or seven stars as part of a government system," Mr al Reyami said. "We have something in the future that we need to do - something above five, but we haven't started yet. There is a plan that there will be something above five-star." Janet Abrahams, the executive director of sales and marketing at the Emirates Palace hotel, said. "While Emirates Palace is often described in the media as seven-star? it is not an official rating currently in hospitality classifications."

Out of 63 hotels in Abu Dhabi, 16 have been classified as five-star, 15 as four-star and 13 as three-star, according to the ADTA. Hotel apartments are classified as deluxe, superior or standard. Hotels were initially rated at the beginning of the year and then given six months to make the necessary improvements if they wanted a higher grade. James Young, the general manager of the Crowne Plaza, Abu Dhabi, said: "Since the first classification inspection we have worked hard to move the hotel to a five-star rating, through a combination of investment and operational improvements."

The hotel, which initially fell just short of the five-star rating, received its plaque yesterday. Improvements included new televisions and hair dryers in rooms. The Cristal Hotel, which opened in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, said it had decided against opening as a five-star hotel because of the cost involved in maintaining that rating, and opted to become a four- star instead. However, its website still claims five stars.

"Really I just think [the system] raises the game for everyone," said Kamal Fakhoury, the Cristal's director of operations. "Of course, there is extra cost involved, but I guess that's the price you pay to get a five-star in Abu Dhabi." The system will be reviewed every two years, and hotels will be inspected three times a year. rbundhun@thenational.ae