DOT releases new hotel ratings system

By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo, Special to the BusinessMirror

Posted at Jun 28 2012 04:18 PM | Updated as of Jun 29 2012 12:18 AM

MANILA, Philippines - In a bid to upgrade the tourism accommodations in the country, as well as align these with international ratings standards, the Department of  Tourism (DOT) has adopted a new “five star grading system” as part of its newly issued National Accommodations Standards.

DOT Memorandum Circular 2012-02 signed by Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., on May 2, also institutes a points-based rating system “based on inventory, availability, condition and quality of a specific facility, as well as its service,” tourism officials said.

The new DOT accreditation guidelines have been most anticipated by the accommodations industry as it will have a bearing on whether their establishments will be patronized by more guests.

In a text message, Tourism Undersecretary for Tourism Regulation Coordination and Resource Generation Victoria Jasmin said: “The application of the standards is effective immediately but the assessment [of accommodations] will start in the last quarter [of 2012].”

She added that the accommodation establishments will first assess themselves based on the criteria and requirements under the new regulations, “after which a third-party audit will be done to determine compliance with the new standards and if the self-assessment is right.”

Based on the results of these assessments and ratings, the DOT shall then issue the accreditation certificate to the establishment via the regional office which has jurisdiction over said establishment.

The highest number of points that can be garnered by an establishment, for a five-star rating, for instance, is 1,000 points. A budget hotel or one-star facility, on the other hand, needs to garner a minimum of 251 points in its assessment.

Under the new accreditation regulations, there are five levels of accommodation standards ranging from one to five stars:

a. One Star: 25 percent to 40 percent achievement (251 to 400 points)—These enterprises appeal to budget minded travelers. There is a limited range of facilities and services.

b. Two Star: 40 percent to 55 percent achievement (401 to 550 points)—These enterprises appeal to the tourists seeking more than basic accommodation. They offer expanded facilities and higher level of comfort.

c. Three Star: 55 percent  to 70 percent achievement (551 to 700 points)—These enterprises offer a very good level of accommodation. There are more spacious public areas, higher quality facilities and a greater range of services.

d. Four Star: 70 percent to 85 percent achievement (701 to 850 points)—These properties are upscale in all areas. Accommodation is refined and stylish. Service is responsive, often including an extensive array of facilities.

e. Five star: 85 percent to 100 percent achievement (851 to 1,000 points)—These properties reflect the characteristics of luxury and sophistication. The facilities are world class in every manner and the meticulous service exceeds all guest expectations.” (Rule II, Book 2, MC 2012-02)

Jasmin said establishments that don’t conform to the new standards “will be given time to comply depending on the magnitude of the deficiency.”

She added that if said establishments are not able to correct their deficiencies within the required time period, “the Mayor’s Permit will not be issued and therefore they can no longer operate.”

DOT officials said the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (German Technical Cooperation) assisted the agency’s Office of Tourism Standards and Regulations “in conducting a series of consultation workshops with tourism stakeholders in key destinations in the country,” prior to the formulation of the new accommodations standards.

In Davao, for instance, the DOT regional office held several consultations “with our hotel and resort associations spread between 2010 and 2011 to thoroughly explain the transition to new standards as well as underscore the implementation of mandatory accreditation of all primary tourism enterprises that include hotels and resorts as indicated in  RA [Republic Act] 9593 or the Tourism Act of 2009,” said Arturo Boncato Jr., regional director for the Davao region, in a separate interview with the BusinesMirror.

He said there is a “marked difference” between the old and new accommodations standards. Under the old regulations, “the classification was based on an inventory checklist approach focusing on the existence of facilities offered by the enterprise.”

He added, under the new accreditation guidelines,  “quality of service” will also be given importance by the third-party auditors, as much as the quality of facilities.

The assessment covers a lot of ground ranging from the visibility of a hotel sign in the evening, the use of professional security services, staff grooming, lighting in public areas and lounges, quality of bed linen and mattresses, cleanliness of the public and private washrooms to facilities for persons with disabilities, functionality of kitchen appliances in apartment hotels, and quality of guest services.

In a memorandum to Jimenez  in January, Jasmin said “all primary tourism enterprises should be accredited by the DOT prior to operation, hence, they should comply with the DOT’s minimum requirements,” The memo was prompted by BusinessMirror’s story on the National Statistics Office’ 2009 Survey of Tourism Establishments in the Philippines.

The survey, which was released only that month, showed that 548 of the 1,475 “accommodation establishments” surveyed did not offer essential tourism services such as laundry, airport transfers, spa/massage therapy services, tour services, medical services, cultural and recreational shows, among others.  The survey was jointly undertaken with the DOT.