A New Hotel Ranking System for Egypt
by Jimmy Dunn
The Minister of Tourism has issued a ministerial decree adopting new regulations for the classification of hotels in Egypt. These regulations were set by a committee consisting of tourism experts under the direction of Mr. Fathi Nour, Chairman of the Egyptian Hotel Association and Consultant to the Minister of Tourism, with the participation of private sector hotel experts and Mr. Ahmed El Nahas, Chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Federation, an international hotel expert.
We at Tour Egypt would like to salute those responsible for these changes in the hotel ranking system in Egypt. We see this as not only a welcome change, but also one that reflects a wider, more modern and progressive attitude of today's tourism leaders in Egypt. Furthermore, this is an important move in the Egyptian hotel industry, and tourists need to be aware of these changes.
It is well known that the former classification system dates back to 1982 and that this system has encountered, during the past years, many criticisms that made it incompatible with the development of the hotel industry in Egypt. The new system will more closely conform to international standards, though, Fathi Nour stresses that the committee has taken into consideration the recommendations of the International Hotels and Restaurants Association, IH&RA, which provides that each country should develop a classification system appropriate to it's own circumstances and that an existing global classification standard for all hotels cannot be established.
The new classification system has introduced, for the first time in the Middle East and Africa, a system of assessment in two phases. The first deals with the infrastructure, equipment, appliances and tools available within the hotel. The second specifically addresses the quality of service, which is carried out through an evaluation system using "Mystery Shoppers", an internationally recognized practice where reviewers make undeclared visits to hotels. This system will be administered by international companies under the supervision of the Egyptian Hotel Association and the Ministry of Tourism.
Older hotels that are currently classified may not be affected in the near term. They will retain their old rankings, but new hotels will be subject to these new regulations. Their star classification will include the letters NN (new norms). However, older hotels may request a re-evaluation according to the new specifications. Tour Egypt believes that many of the older hotels will, for marketing purposes, choose to be re-evaluated.
The classification includes, for the first time, new types of hotel service, such as Elite Hotels, which are also called Boutique or Design Hotel. These are normally small hotels with less than 50 rooms, designed to give a unique experience to their guests.
The new regulations will also apply to Floating Hotels, better known perhaps to tourists as Nile Cruisers. Their classification in particular, at times, has been problematic and inconsistent.
The benefits of this new system will not only aid tourists in their selection of accommodations, but the hotel industry in Egypt as well. It will eliminate the phenomenon of lowering prices as the only means of competition. For example, in the old system, many hotels with exceptional properties (and considerable investment in those properties) had to compete with sometimes far more inferior properties that had the same star rating. The only way that the superior hotels could often compete is through pricing, which had the affect of eliminating profits and thus over time, the superiority of those hotels. The new system will also lead to an equitable market distribution between different grades of hotels.
Another target of the Ministry of Tourism is increasing the level of service provided by hotel employees, and this new system is expected to vastly improve those levels, as well as promote the training of hotel employees.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this system is that it conforms to international standards for hotels. It is also a very objective system, leaving little room for subjective evaluation that might be influenced by the mood of an inspector.
The Egyptian Hotel Association has announced the new specifications of the new system as as follows:
The old hotel classification system that dates back to 1982 ranked hotels into five categories (one through five stars). Hotels were also divided into five kinds, consisting of: Cities, Villages and Off-Shore Leave Hotels, Resorts Hotels, Floating Hotels and Camps. Under the new system, the one through five star system will remain, but the star ranking will be followed by the NN, indicating that the hotel has been ranked under the new system. However, the kinds of hotels have been increased to six, and now include: Cities and Resorts Hotels, Floating Hotels, Boutique Hotels (small and distinctive), Environmental and Ecological Hotels. Note that the new system ends the distinction between City and Resort Hotels.
The two part evaluation includes:
- Environmental assessment and equipment (consisting of the infrastructure, that is, the hotel itself, including components such as restaurants, bars, swimming pools, etc. and the hotel equipment).
- Evaluation of the level of service (undeclared visits or Mystery Shopper), within 6 months from the date of initial operations.
70% of the marks are for the infrastructure and equipment and 30% are for the level of service. The hotel must receive 80% (as a minimum) of the total marks allocated to the category star rating.
Though the system is somewhat complex, covering almost every aspect of hotel operations, some additional explanation might help.
For infrastructure and equipment, the evaluation examines specific items, such as the building itself, the rooms, the restaurants and the reception area (among others). Within each of these main items, secondary items are also examined. (though we have not been provided with specifics on secondary items, we would suspect, for example, that in a restaurant secondary items might include seating, kitchen equipment, etc). Points are then awarded for each item and secondary item. For City Hotels, 41 items are assessed and given up to 164 points and 137 secondary points. Each of these primary and secondary items will be awarded a maximum of 6 points, though the lack of secondary items could lead an item to register negative points.
The level of service will be assessed through undeclared visits by a Mystery Shopper employed by international specialized companies under the auspices of the Egyptian Hotel Association and the Ministry of Tourism.
The level of service will evaluate the reservation service (containing 30 items), service outside the hotel and car parks (7 items), reception (22 items), rooms (59 items), room service (23 items), restaurants (54 items), public areas (30 items) and departure or check-out (31 items).
The Egyptian Hotel Association is involved in the evaluation committees for both the structure and equipment, and for the level of service. Evaluations must be approved by the Minister of Tourism, the Head of the Hotel Control, and the Chairman of the Egyptian Hotel Association.