Initiating or renewing one’s ranking can seem redundant especially the first time. In this article, I summarize the overall ranking procedure. Once mastered, you will see hotel ranking as a game.
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Hotel classification has a rather fragmented system in Europe. The ranking differs in Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy.
In France, hotel classification is based on a national level, delegated to private organizations and is a voluntary process.
To be considered as a hotel in the name of the Tourism Code (article D. 311-4), several requirements are necessary:
– To market per night.
– To market rooms (not beds) or furnished apartments (family room or suite).
– To offer in each room daily maintenance of the bed linen, daily maintenance of the room, supply of the bathroom linen.
– French classification is in one set. It excludes the mix of tourist accommodation modes (residence bed rentals, hostel beds, shared room).
For further questions relating to annexed buildings to the main building, the sharing of reception areas between a touristic hotel and a touristic residence, the Tourism Code guide details the appropriate regulations.
Step 1 : Study your Repositories
Ranking is based on three pillars: the quality of comfort of the facilities, the quality of the service in the establishments, and good practices in terms of respect for the environment and the welcoming of disabled guests.
In France, inspections are carried out on five tangible aspects of equipment:
- Hotel exteriors
- Reception hall and lounges
- Bathroom and Sanitary
- Specific equipment.
The classification sanctions seven intangible elements of service:
- Quality and Reliability of Customer Information
- Booking processing
- Reception and welcome
- Catering service
- Breakfast and drinks
- Accessibility for disabled persons and/or persons with reduced mobility
- Environment and sustainable development.
The first step is to understand the Hotel Grid linked to your category and the Control Guide that explains it.
Reading these 100 exciting pages will take up a good hour of your time but will make you more efficient in the coming weeks.
You will avoid unnecessary surprises during the visit, and perhaps the dreaded… counter-visit.
References can be downloaded from this page. They look numerous and boring. But reality, they each have their utility.
The table of categories is the very first document you should read. Depending on your category, it summarizes all the items not to be missed.
X : Red cross is a mandatory criteria.
X NCB : Red cross with an NCB is a mandatory criteria that cannot be offset.
VM : The abbreviation for Mystery Visit implies that the criteria must be validated during the mystery visit.
AJO : The abbreviation for Madatory Justification implies that the criteria must be justified during the visit.
O : The blue circle is an “à la carte” criteria, which is also called an optional point.
NA : NA means not applicable for your category.
The total compulsory points must be met.
The hotelkeeper can obtain only 95%. It is possible to lose 5% of the total however it is necessary to compensate with 3 times the amount in optional points.
These optional points are to be counted in addition to the optional criteria requested from the hotelkeeper.
The hotelkeeper must also obtain a minimum number of points in the “à la carte” or optional criteria:
In 1*, 195 points are mandatory.
In 2*, 232 points.
In 3*, 257 points.
In 4*, 334 points.
In 5*, 397 points.
There are 9 sacral compulsory criteria that cannot be compensated (ONC) that are not included in the compensation scheme but are specified in your reference system: 9, 12, 28, 60, 61, 76, 121, 122, 128.
- 9: The attire of the reception staff must be clean.
- 12: The bar area, the breakfast room, the lounge and the reception hall must be clean and in good condition.
- 28: The rooms are clean and in good condition (walls, floor, ceiling).
- 60: Bed linen is clean and in good condition.
- 61: Bedding is clean and in good condition.
- 76: All equipment and furniture is clean and in good condition.
- 121: All sanitary facilities are clean and in good condition.
- 122: In 100% of the sanitary rooms are equipped as follows: private bath or shower room with shower or bathtub, WC, washbasin, hot and cold running water 24 hours a day, mixer tap, lighting in working order.
- 128: All bathroom facilities are clean and in good condition.
The optional points are also regulated, in percentage to be reached according to the categories:
In 1*, 5% X 508 optional points: 25.
In 2*, 10% X 468 optional points: 47.
In 3*, 20% X 433 optional points: 87.
In 4*, 30% X 364 optional points: 109.
In 5*, 40% X 294 optional stitches: 118.
These points may vary according to items 2, 6, 21, 22, 47, 164, 176, 187, 207, 209, 210 (special cases to be determined according to the institution).
I manage a 4-star establishment; I have a total of 334 mandatory points and 109 optional points to reach.
I am “allowed” to lose 16 mandatory points and I can make up for them by 16 X 3 = 48 optional points.
I can see the point scale in the fourth column from the left in my leaderboard.
As soon as the inspector arrives, he notices that my receptionists’ outfits are not clean: dirty hair, questionable uniforms.
This is a mandatory requirement that cannot be compensated for. ” 9: The attire of reception staff must be clean “.
The inspector immediately ends the visit and gives an unfavorable opinion. The ONC killed me.
Step 2 : Place an Order
Select your Organization
The very first step is to place an order with the accredited organizations.
In France, classification is managed by private consulting firms, which are authorized by the French Accreditation Committee (Cofrac).
They control the control firms through accreditation.
My advice is to establish a comparative estimate between three providers and to select the winner on the basis of three criteria, established by COFRAC, a bit like the principle of the Separation of Powers.
1. The audit firm is not your consultant
The firm is not authorized to provide technical assistance or advice to the hotel owner.
It cannot advise or provide technical assistance.
Advising consists of giving direct advice on the do’s and don’ts of the establishment’s classification. This position is the prerogative of consultants external to the firm.
The external consultant can explain the procedure to be followed and provide support tools (simulation tables according to category, information on pre-diagnosis). He can offer technical assistance on the Atout France platform.
If the consultant is your firm, your ranking is questionable, since you cannot be judge and jury.
2. The inspector is not your consultant
If your advisor is your inspector or mystery shopper, your ranking is questionable, since you cannot be judge and jury.
3. The inspector is not your salesperson
If the inspector is your salesperson and therefore has an implied interest in the success of your grading, your grading is questionable.
Once these three cumulative criteria are met, you can then arbitrate in terms of ratings.
A classification lasts 5 years and the durability of your operation is at stake.
Complete and upload your Pre-diagnosis
You have placed an order and you are completing your pre-diagnosis. This excel document is quick to complete from 1* to 3*, a little harder in 4* and 5*.
The first tab essentially lists the mandatory points according to your category; the second tab summarizes your room surface areas.
The pre-diagnosis serves as a basis for the inspector in his preparation for the day of the audit.
It will save you time when inspecting items and the smaller rooms will be visited first thanks to your declaration.
You can find it at the bottom of the Atout France website, depending on whether you are 1* to 5*.
Submit your request
Once your firm has been selected, you make your request on the Atout France platform, indicating the details
Step 3 : Plan Your Visit
You exchange with the accredited inspection body on the date of the visit.
Prefer a day with a low occupancy rate and avoid work periods.
Once the date is set, prepare yourself by rereading your inspection guide.
The day before, you informe your guests that an audit will take place.
The inspector arrives at the beginning of the day with a letter of accreditation certifying his or her identity.
He announces his presence and asks the hotel manager to perform the preliminary interview and then starts the audit.
On the morning of the visit, you have prepared a room inventory to facilitate his sampling.
He proceeds to visit the panel of rooms according to the total capacity of the hotel.
The inspector’s sampling is not random. It is regulated and must be complied with, in addition to the predefined volume of rooms, this minimum inventory:
At least one room per commercial typology.
At least one room per room capacity (single room, double room, etc. ….)
At least one room eligible for bonuses such as surface area, terrace… or other specific criteria.
The smallest areas per building are systematically included in the sampling. Hence the importance of a well-completed pre-diagnosis.
If the sample has not been fully visited, the inspector must justify why in the control report.
The deviation must never be more than 20% of the initial sample based on the hotel’s capacity (rounded up to the next whole number).
There is only one valid justification to refuse to show certain rooms: that they are out of service and are no longer being marketed. The inspector has the right to visually observe this to justify not including it in his sampling.
If it is not possible to visit the panel of clean free rooms required for grading, some rooms may be inspected at the starting/restocking stage.
Dirty “recumbent” or clean free rooms can be included in the sampling. The inspector will count the equivalent in your clean linen and towel stocks to assess the cleanliness of the linen and towels. The inspector cannot hold you responsible for the normal use of the room (water spraying, scattered papers).
If the inspector selects a room occupied by a client, you must speak with your guest to agree to have the room inspected in their presence or not. This may cause the occupant to jump up and down, but the hotel room is not considered private property.
A debriefing at the end of the visit is carried out by the inspector on the factual basis of the elements evaluated: expected, achieved, not achieved.
The debriefing is not intended to give a ranking opinion.
The result is communicated in writing.
Within a maximum of 15 days following the inspection visit, you will receive an inspection report consisting of an inspection grid and a visit certificate.
The report is filed on the Atout France website. You validate the computer version of this report on the dedicated platform.
The Mystery Visit
For hotels that require a 4* or 5* classification, a mystery visit also takes place. The visit takes place 15 days before or 15 days after the date of the official visit.
The mystery visit must take place 15 days before or after the audit.
It sanctions intangible service elements, the measurement of which would be biased during a sight audit.
Below are the elements that the mystery visit validates or invalidates:
- In 4* and 5 * – 65: The possibility of obtaining additional bathroom linen.
- In 4* and 5 * – 104: Acoustic comfort: the environment of the room is quiet (Absence of repetitive noises coming from the common areas or neighboring rooms).
- In 4 * and 5 * – 113: The provision of individual ironing equipment on request (Ironing board + iron mandatory). NB: The laundry service validates this criterion.
- In 4* and 5 * – 178 : The elements of the reservation are reformulated on arrival. Verification upon arrival by the mystery shopper evaluator. The elements that must at least be confirmed upon arrival are: length of stay, type of room reserved, rate, number of people.
- In 4* and 5 * – 179: The client is informed of his or her installation by clear indications. The elements that must be indicated at least on arrival are: the access path to the room, the breakfast service hours, the availability of the reception. These elements can also be stated when accompanying the “mystery shopper = evaluating organization” to his room.
- In 5 * – 180: The client is accompanied in his installation. (Systematic proposal in category 5*. )
- In 4* and 5 * – 181: The staff is able to inform the customer about tourist offers in the surrounding area.
- In 5* – 184 : The presence of a concierge service easily identifiable by the customer. (2 services are to be tested and verified during mystery visits. In general, the concierge service includes concierges, valet parking, baggage handlers, bellhops, hunters. The concierge is responsible for the organization of the customers’ stay and responds to every request during the stay : reservations, transportation, advice, shopping…)
- In 4* and 5 * – 185 : Luggage handling. (Systematic proposal on arrival and departure. The customer is free to accept or refuse. A display of the service does not validate the criterion).
- In 5 * – 199 : The “cover” service. (Preparation of the room for the night. )
- In 5 * – 209: The room service 19 hours a day, schedules must be posted. (Mandatory in category 5* for hotels with less than 50 rooms. For category 5* this criterion is changed to NA for hotels with more than 50 rooms).
- In 5 * – 210: The room service 24 hours a day, the schedules must be displayed. (Mandatory in 5* category for hotels with more than 50 rooms. For the 5* category this criterion becomes optional for hotels with less than 50 rooms).)
I run a 5* establishment with 63 rooms. The inspector arrives at the end of the day, around 18.30.
The baggage handler immediately offers to take charge of his luggage. The inspector kindly refuses because he prefers to keep his luggage with him.
My receptionist goes over the reservation during check-in: one night, in a classic room, at the rate of 300 €, for one person. He forgets, because a queue behind the inspector presses him, to mention the way to the room, the breakfast service hours, the availability hours of the reception.
During his accompaniment to the room, the inspector expresses the wish for an extra towel, which the room service will bring him immediately.
Upon arrival in his room, the inspector notices the mention of room laundry service; he does not make a request for table and iron.
After noticing the 24-hour room service display, he orders by telephone and then returns from his room. He checks with the concierge for the best selection of restaurants in the area and their schedules. The concierge provides him with the appropriate information. He sips a drink at the hotel bar.
When he goes back upstairs, he validates a perfectly executed cover service, without having to ask for it: his bed is prepared for the night, his curtains are sufficiently drawn, the towel he used to dry his hands has already been replaced. The paper ball he threw in his basket has disappeared.
The inspector is quietly having dinner with his meals prepared on the spot by Room Service.
The next day, he wakes up a little tired, disturbed by the music in the bar of the hotel until midnight.
Before having breakfast, the inspector asks at the reception desk for a walking route to the Louvre and finds his answer. He asks the concierge for a second service: to bring his luggage down to him at 9.10.
He concludes his visit by presenting a voucher at the reception desk for the overnight stay (accommodation in a classic room) and meals (room service and breakfast).
At the end of the mystery visit :
Item 209 is not applicable, as my capacity is greater than 50 rooms.
The inspector was able to validate items 65 – 113 – 178 – 180 – 181 – 184 – 185 – 199 – 210.
The inspector invalidated items 104 (Acoustic comfort) – 179 (Clear indications): 5 points + 2 points = 7 mandatory points lost, or 7 X 3 = 21 optional points to be made up during my audit.
If the Opinion is Favorable (Audit + VM in case of 4* and 5*)
The ranking notice will be published within 48 hours to three weeks on the Atout France platform.
At this time, and only at this time, you will be able to display your beautiful sign at the entrance of your establishment.
If the ranking is a free and voluntary process, the display of the ranking, once validated, is mandatory.
The operator of the graded establishment is required to affix a sign indicating the assigned grading. While grading is not mandatory, the posting of the sign is mandatory for the establishment that is graded.
Tourism Code and decrees
If the grading is unfavorable (Audit + VM in case of 4* and 5*)
If, as a result of the inspection, the conclusion is unfavourable for the requested grading, there is nothing tragic about it. You have three strings to your bow:
- The Documentary Appeal
The documentary study of the supporting documents given a posteriori (paid invoices, etc) justifies the treatment of the nonconforming criteria. Example: the invoice for the purchase of adapters.
- Recourse with on-site visit
A visual report is necessary for the treatment of the nonconformities to allow a reprocessing of the nonconforming points. Example: the repair of joints in bathrooms or the (re)commissioning of an elevator.
- Reprocessing in lower category
The number of missing points cannot be made up for the requested category. A classification in a lower category may be possible.
Timing: The timeframes for the above mentioned steps are clearly stated here.(lien)
Fining: Avoid non-compliance fine with the rules relating to the classification: 15 000 €.
Other key regulations
Among the other regulations incumbent on hotelkeepers are the following obligations:
Safety, Health, Accessibility
Concerning these three points, a specialized firm that masters the trade is recommended. The delegation does not exclude control.
Before the opening of the establishment, it is imperative that a visit is requested from the safety and accessibility commission at the town hall (in Paris at the Prefecture).
The file includes a safety notice, a notice of accessibility for handicapped persons, site plans, ground plans, realization plans, a certificate of commitment. Since February 1, 2005, the inspection visit has been mandatory every 5 years for establishments with sleeping rooms.
The safety and health requirements for hotel establishments are listed here.
Accessibility concerns the number of rooms to be adapted, the characteristics of the adapted rooms, the toilet, the accessibility of the washbasins and sanitary facilities, etc.
For the ERP (Establishment Receiving from the Public), in the case of works subject to building permit, I attach, in support of the declaration of completion and conformity of works (DAACT), a certificate of compliance with accessibility rules.
The file is drawn up by a technical controller or by an architect other than the one who designed the project. In this case, the accessibility of my establishment is questionable, since one cannot be judge and party.
– Tourist tax
– Noise pollution
– Liquor licences: These also cover the sale of alcohol in minibars.
– Tourist package: One night in a hotel with a museum pass or a show? The package has to be declared to Atout France who will register it, as I act as a tour operator. I inform my insurer to know the risk impact of such a package before marketing it via my booking engine.