In the South West there are more quality assured accommodation providers than in any other region in England. The different schemes can be confusing and it may seem as though getting graded wont do much to separate you from your competitors. So the big question is, with annual fees starting from around £220 for a small hotel, is it worth investing the money?
Getting quality assured provides your potential customers with a guarantee that if they stay with you they will enjoy a star rated level of service and quality of facilities that meet nationally recognised standards. Star ratings run from one to five stars with one star being basic but still good quality accommodation and five stars being luxurious facilities with outstanding service. The signage and emblems that you receive after successful evaluation are trusted and actively searched for by consumers, they will help set you apart from the un-graded non quality assured accommodation that is out there.
Not being quality assured means you are missing out on a huge amount of exposure. VisitBritain produce over 40 visitor websites worldwide that attract millions of visits a year from domestic and overseas consumers. They operate an ‘assessed only' policy which means that only quality assessed businesses are entitled to be listed on these websites with details, an image and links to your own website. These graded businesses are also entitled to take part in VisitBritain's national and international marketing campaigns.
You could however argue that with 68% of the UK population now using the Internet, the idea of official gradings is outdated. Potential visitors are able to research accommodation in far more detail than they once could and sites such as TripAdvisor have now replaced the need for gradings. Visitors are no longer as reliant on official star ratings in order to feel confident about the investment that they're making. This is true also.
The challenge for individual businesses is to look at who their visitors are, how they research and find their holidays. It's all very well finding a tourism businesses own site without the use of tourist board site - but how important is the endorsement of an official grading on that website to prove that the businesses is of a particular quality. Is that a further and final reassurance that will ensure the visitor makes contact, makes a booking and is happy to hand over their credit card number?
A major advantage of quality assurance is the access to the wealth of support and know-how that the schemes have developed. When you have been evaluated your inspector will provide you with your star rating and a report containing detailed feedback and advice. Both schemes offer plenty of up to date information on how to increase your star rating and ultimately the standard of your business. Opportunities include getting your business listed in guidebooks, print and online marketing as well as listings in TomTom and Google Maps. You will gain access to expert advice, training and workshops, advertising opportunities, regular newsletters and many continually developing opportunities that will help you keep your finger on the pulse and one step ahead of your competitors.
The key benefits of getting assured are proving that you are a quality business and the access to the advise, support and opportunities to improve your quality. Since October 2007 the numbers of assessed accommodation providers in the South West with one and two star ratings has decreased while the number with three stars have increased. More and more tourism businesses have recognised the benefits of getting quality assured, 58% of the region's rated accommodation now have 4 stars.
Estimates are that tourism is worth £8.9 billion to the South West with 10% of the region's population employed in the industry. It's vital for the future of many people's livelihoods that we continue to drive up quality - and shout about it - to ensure that visitors keep returning to this part of the world.
For more information on Quality Assurance click here.