There are many, many things in the world that make little sense. There are lots of things that we simply cannot fathom, like for example
what is it going to take to make George Monbiot happy, without blowing the world up and returning to living in caves and eating dung? Fashion shows? What are the rules? Who on earth will ever wear any of the weird monstrosities that are paraded up and down the catwalk? A dress made of cling film with two strategically placed post-it notes on the chest? Not what I expect to see a mother of 2 wearing in the supermarket. I can’t work it out.
As you can probably tell my list of things that I can’t work out is quite lengthy, so maybe I’m just thick. Thick or not however, I simply cannot comprehend how the criteria that determines how many stars a hotel is awarded actually works. The facts that I do know are mind boggling.
The UAE, as you would expect, has many hotels. Some are national landmarks, some of them have the Belgian Café, and some of them are crap. I have stayed in hotels ranging from between 2 and 5 stars, and honestly, in some cases it is exceptionally difficult to tell the difference.
The first point I must make is that 5 stars is the maximum any hotel can ever be awarded, regardless of how much it cost and how pretentious and expensive the bar is. There are still people out there that think the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai and the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi are 7 star hotels. This is not the case. They are 5 stars. Yes they cost AED 5000 (£900) per night if you get a good deal, and don’t mind sleeping in the utility room, but they are in the same bracket as all the other normal 5 star hotels, that only cost AED 1200 (£200) per night. That knocks them down a peg or two.
To be a 5 star hotel it’s not just about having a marble entrance hall, a lift, a large room and a butler; you have to have your in-house reading material in both Arabic and English, except of course when you don’t. You also need to provide room service in exactly the same way that both 3 and 4 star hotels do. It must have a gym of a certain size that has never been specified and the swimming pool, which is optional, must be filled with water and not mud. To be awarded that coveted 5 star rating your hotel must also be located in a big city, or in the middle of nowhere, or even on an island where no one can get to. Car parks are optional.
To be a 4 star hotel you need to do exactly the same things as the 5 star crowd. In order to achieve 3 stars you need to do exactly the same as the 4 star lot if you like but if you don’t want to then don’t worry, it won’t matter. In order to receive 2 stars you don’t need to have a pool, although you can if you like, but otherwise you must offer all of the services already mentioned. If you only want 1 star then all you need is a roof and at least 3 walls. And a fan.
I have been to 2 star hotels that have been fabulous and to others that have been diabolical. I have witnessed excellent service, good staff, and nice rooms. I have also seen a maître d’ spitting on other guests children. I have been to 4 star hotels that have been terrible experiences but have also visited some good ones too. I have enjoyed a few 3 star hotels, and have in equal measure had some bad experiences. I have enjoyed the wallet crunching experience of a 5 star hotel but my worst ever experience of any hotel ever took place in one too. There are hotels you look at and say “that’s got to be a 5 star, it looks great” but it turns out to be a 2. The best hotel in the UAE that I have ever been to is a 4 star.
So really, how the hell does it work? Are the criteria just meaningless words on a pointless page? What is the point of spending $1 billion more on your hotel to give it 2 extra stars that don’t even exist? You could just build a normal one and be done with it. How much money do you think people have to spend these days? There aren’t enough Kardashians and Footballers in the world to fund your hotel for sure? I don’t understand.
My advice to prospective hoteliers then: aim for 2 stars. Fair rooms, TV’s that don’t receive BBC World News; build a decent bar that shows sports and with a live band that understands the concept of reason. Pay a little bit more for some decent staff and without knowing it you may very well get a 5 star rating, and you won’t even know how.
Of course, you could just buy the sign that says “7 star”, AED 45 from a small printers shop just off Al Suquiem Street…that’s what the others did.