What's in a star? Well, lets first see what is a star?
a. A self-luminous celestial body consisting of a mass of gas held together by its own gravity in which the energy generated by nuclear reactions in the interior is balanced by the outflow of energy to the surface, and the inward-directed gravitational forces are balanced by the outward-directed gas and radiation pressures.
Eish, that's a bit heavy. Let's just say its the twinkling points of light in the night sky.
b. An artistic performer or athlete (also often sommer any everyday person) whose leading role or superior performance is acknowledged. Alternatively one who is highly celebrated in a field or profession.
That is slightly closer to what I am aiming at.
c. A graphic design having five or more radiating points, often used as a symbol of rank or merit.
Now we're getting very warm.
So what am I trying to get to? In the case of this post, star grading of tourism establishments in South Africa.
In this day and age with everything getting more and more expensive and everybody feeling the pinch ever so slightly (or more than slightly in a lot of cases), finding real value for money is a priority. This is also true in the tourism sector and specially when it comes to accommodation. Now value for money doesn't necessarily mean cheap. Paying R200 for accommodation is cheap, but landing up in a room with cockroaches swimming backstroke in the bathtub, somebody's dirty tissues in the bin, a cigarette butt in a glass (and its a non-smoking room!) and stains and hair in the bed doesn't mean you got value for money. I would probably say its a disgusting rip-off and the place should be closed. But how do you know when you book, doesn't matter if its cheap or not, what kind of quality you will get and if it is value for money? By checking if an establishment is star graded. And not just a couple of hand drawn stars by the owner's six year old niece, but the genuine thing as can only be awarded by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.
The relaxed courtyard area of the four star Winchester Mansions Hotel in Cape Town
The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA) is a business unit of South African Tourism and the only officially recognised quality assurance body for tourism products in South Africa. The TGCSA has over 50 qualified Grading Assessors who carry out grading assessments in all nine provinces. The star grading done by TGCSA is recognised the world over and is only awarded once an independent quality assessment is completed and approved.
A room at the four star Winchster Mansions in Cape Town
Don't think once an establishment received their star grading they can just let go of their standards and slip into that cockroach backstroke establishment I mentioned earlier. Nope, not at all. Every establishment has to be reassessed on an annual basis to make sure they maintain their standards. This assures me and you, as consumers, that the quality of what we book is up to scratch. What you pay for it is your own choice as each place decided their own price but nobody forces you to go with the most expensive place you can find on the net.
Sharing with new friends - One of the dorms in the four star Atlantic Point Backpackers
in Cape Town
in Cape Town
All establishments that get graded receives on of five star gradings. One, two, three, four or five stars. Duh! LOL! An establishment that receives 1 star is very basic in the facilities that they offer while 5 stars means a place that offers all the bells and whistles all wrapped up in ribbon. Who can receive 5 stars I hear you ask? Well, anybody really and not just that plush 10 storey hotel with its beautiful sea views, spa and in-house restaurant that has its own Gordon Ramsey trained chef. There are grading criteria for all the different types of accommodation meaning that anybody, and that includes hotels, lodges, country houses, guest houses, bed and breakfasts, self catering establishments, caravan parks and campsites, backpackers and even conference facilities, can receive a five star grading if that is what they strive to.
The pub at the four star Atlantic Point Backpackers in Cape Town
When grading is done a number, and I mean number as in a whole long checklist, of criteria is taken into consideration. The whole building and all its facilities, the rooms, bathrooms, breakfast (and dinner) quality and presentation, floors, ceilings, lighting, aircon / heaters, beds, bedding, towels, televisions, room fridge, coffee making facilities, furniture and even the hangers in the wardrobe to just mention a few. Lets not forget service as well. Service plays a very big roll in the grading process.
Stunning mountain and ocean views from the pool deck
at the four star Ocean View House in Cape Town
at the four star Ocean View House in Cape Town
I've mentioned what we as consumers will get when we book a graded establishment, but what does the establishments themselves get. First and foremost they get graded and receive their stars in the form of a plaque and a certificate to display at Reception. That really should be enough, but wait, there is more. Said in my best infomercial voice.
Graded establishments have direct access to millions of global travellers through TGCSA's strategic online partnerships with booming travel sites like TripAdvisor. You may say that anybody could be on TripAdvisor. True, but TripAdvisor automatically displays an establishment's star grading if they are graded.
They also benefit from huge savings on Search Engine Optimisation, as all Graded Establishments automatically receive top results on Google Search. I'm still a little green about SEO's so contact them if you don't get it cause they will explain it to you better.
Being graded also connects them with potential travellers through TGCSA close business association with South African Tourism and the huge Investments they make.
There are other advantages for establishments as well. Read more about them all here.
In the lap of luxury - One of the rooms at the four star Ocean View House in Cape Town
Why do I know all of this? I was lucky enough to be invited on a blogger trip to Cape Town, along with two other bloggers, by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa. The purpose of the trip was to get the TGCSA message out a bit more via social media. Each of us three bloggers stayed in a different four star establishment and we got to compare, tweet and write about our experiences. @Ethekwinigirl stayed at the four star Winchester Mansions, @ShellsPemBroke at Ocean View House and yours truly, @FireflyAfrica - for those who didn't know my Twitter handle - at the four star Atlantic Point Backpackers.
Disclosure: I visited Cape Town as guest of the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa during a fully hosted blogger tour. I received no additional remuneration to write this post and all views expressed are my own.