1. Introduction

Grading stars are a recognised sign of quality. They provide reassurance to guests that your business has been checked-out before they check in. Guests consider star quality grading and/or an approved rating as important when choosing somewhere to stay. 

There is information here on:

  • how quality assurance schemes work
  • the benefits of working with Visit Wales
  • how to apply and more.

All Visit Wales Quality Assurance services are free of charge.

However please note:

  • Hotels and Guest Accommodation businesses will be required to cover the full costs associated with overnight stays in order for Visit Wales Quality Advisers to star quality grade serviced accommodation. This includes the cost of the allocated bedroom for the Quality Adviser and the cost of any food tested for the purpose of the visit (Dinner, Room service (if applicable) and Breakfast).
  • Tourist Attractions will be required to cover entrance fees and associated costs (retail and food/drink purchases) in order for the Visit Wales Quality Advisers to quality assess the tourist attraction.
  • At the application stage you will be asked to complete a voucher to confirm your agreement to refund any relevant costs. The voucher will be presented to you following the quality assurance visit in order for you to process a refund.
     

2. Benefits

  • Quality Assurance and Approved schemes are official, credible and recognised by customers as an indication of quality and level of services they can expect to receive
  • Being quality assured by Visit Wales gets your business benchmarked against other Welsh and UK businesses to help you develop that competitive edge
  • Being quality assured can improve your guests’ experience through providing guidance on best practice and current market trends
  • The Approved scheme offers re-assurance to your customers that you meet a minimum set of criteria to work with Visit Wales
  • Our experienced Quality Advisers can advise you on a number of aspects connected with your business, e.g. website health check, signposting to industry experts etc. 
  • Your business will be listed and be searchable on visitwales.com (in accordance with the privacy notice available during registration)
  • You will be supplied with Visit Wales certificates and electronic logo/s to use in your marketing
  • External Signs are available at an additional cost
  • Advice and support is available throughout the year

3. Accommodation

Visit Wales award a grade between 1 and 5 stars based on the facilities available and overall quality of the experience. 3 elements are considered:

Quality – we assess every aspect of the business and give a score that equates to a quality level description between 1 and 5 points :

Excellent......5 points
Very Good....4 points
Good............3 points
Quite good...2 points
Acceptable...1 point

Once all aspects are assessed the scores are totalled and a quality score for the whole of the business is calculated. 

Consistency - we check for consistency in key areas. We do this to ensure that not one aspect of the business has, by scoring high marks, driven up the overall percentage into the next star grade level which would give guests a false impression of the overall quality. It is vitally important the quality of the key areas matches the business’ overall grade.

Facility requirements - we check to ensure that all additional facilities/services required at a particular level are present and available. We also check facilities and services at all preceding star levels.

If you do not want to be star quality graded but still want to work with us, the Approved scheme is available for all types of tourist accommodation including single caravans and attractions.

To be Approved, you will need to comply with a code of conduct and meet the minimum entry level requirements for your sector. We will undertake a visit to confirm the availability and operational condition of essential facilities and services appropriate to your business type.

We quality assess the following types of accommodation:

Hotel accommodation 

Guest accommodation - bed and breakfasts, farmhouses, guest houses, guest accommodation, restaurant with rooms and inns. 

Self-catering accommodation - houses, cottages and apartments which are let on a self-catering basis.

Serviced apartments - usually in purpose built blocks with an extended range of services.

Holiday villages - a variety of accommodation types on a large complex. A range of facilities are also available which may or may not be included in the tariff.

Holiday Caravan, touring and camping parks

Hostel and hostel type accommodation - group, activity centres, and bunkhouse accommodation 

Campus accommodation - covers universities and colleges who are able to accommodate visitors during the holiday season.

Glamping accommodation – covers accommodation such as wigwams, tipis, shepherd’s huts, tree-houses and yurts. Although quality assessed, no star rating is awarded.

The Approved scheme criteria is available for all types of tourist accommodation including single caravans. 
 

4. Attractions

The Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme (VAQAS) offers a consumer-focused quality assessment to identify strengths and highlight developmental areas. It does not attempt to grade attractions, but will assess each on its own merits. 

As part of the assessment we check pre-arrival leaflets, websites, promotional material, price checks and accessibility. We will interact with individual members of staff without revealing who we are so that we experience exactly what your customers may find. We assess every facet of the visit from the welcome, the customer service in the café, right through to how easy it is to leave the car park.

If you do not want to be quality assessed but still want to work with us, the Approved scheme is available for all types of tourist attractions.

To be Approved, you will need to comply with a code of conduct and meet the minimum entry level requirements for your sector. We will undertake a visit to confirm the availability and operational condition of essential facilities and services appropriate to your business type.
 

5. Welcome Awards

Visit Wales have introduced a series of new Welcome Awards which have been designed to sit alongside our current and very successful Cyclist and Walkers awards. The purpose of the Welcome Awards are to acknowledge those businesses who have provided added facilities, services and information to meet important specific tourism clientele requirements.

In order to decide on what awards would best suit the consumer and provider, we have looked at the current markets, trends and those particular areas of consumer needs and wants which have become increasingly important in attracting visitors to Wales. Consequently, the following awards have been developed.

Our Welcome Awards are:

  • Families - Excluding visits to friends and relatives, families represent the largest segment of holiday trips taken in Britain. 
  • Pets - An important market as it is estimated that nearly 50% of UK households has one pet or more. Some customers’ choice of holiday destination is determined by the ability of taking their beloved pet with them.
  • Anglers - With Wales’ extensive coastline and a great number of well-known fishing rivers as well as a great number of wild and fishing lakes it is no wonder that fishing related holidays in Wales is an important tourism market.
  • Bikers - Wales is well provided with wonderfully diverse road routes which suits all levels and experiences of person and machine. 
  • Cyclists - Wales has over 1200 miles of National Cycle Network- additionally Wales can boast world class mountain biking centres, freeride hotspots and wild country rides to suit all levels. With such facilities, Wales is a mecca for cyclists.
  • Walkers - Wales has become an increasingly popular walking tourism destination and has over 1386 miles of the finest walking paths in the world to explore our outstanding natural scenic landscape. 
  • Golfers - Wales was the home of the 2010 Ryder Cup and can boast to have over 200 golf courses ranging from historic seaside links to beautiful manicured parkland resorts to attract the keen golfer.
  • TV/Film - Wales has become an important location for TV and film productions with a number of high-budget productions including Sherlock, Doctor Who, Sex Education and His Dark Materials being “Made in Wales”.
  • Motorhomes - Travelling around Wales to enjoy our natural landscape environment and its heritage/culture has become an important tourism sector in Wales. 

To apply for any/all of the above Awards, choose your specific business sector type:

Please note if you have a single business or multi-sector businesses, there is no limit to the number of Welcome Awards that you can apply for, providing that you meet the respective criteria. You will need to apply for each sector individually. Simply complete the appropriate pdf forms and send to quality.tourism@gov.wales

Your application(s) will then be assessed. If successful, you will be sent a certificate, electronic logo and Window Sticker for each successful Welcome Award application which you can display at your business and in your marketing literature. 

At your next assessment/accreditation visit, your assessor may take the opportunity to verify your Welcome Award criteria compliance.
 

6. Activities

Rather than offering our own accreditation for activity providers, we recognise national accreditation schemes. You will need to self-certify your accreditation details.

Qualifying businesses will get a listing on the Visit Wales consumer website. 

For further information and to complete the self-certification form, go to the Visit Wales consumer website.  

This approach provides visitors to Wales with a simple way to select activity providers based on their ability to deliver safe and effective industry practice.

It also allows us to recognise activity providers that meet our expectations of sustainable activity tourism, good practice and standards of customer care. It also gives us all confidence that risk managed, high quality activity provision is available across Wales.
 

7. Apply, pre grading advice and guidance

Accommodation and attraction providers should refer to the criteria document for your type of business, as listed under section 3: Accommodation. 

If you are interested in applying, please email quality.tourism@gov.wales and we will forward an application form and relevant information.

  • Once you submit your application, we will then make arrangements for your Quality Grading or Approved visit to take place. 
  • Different arrangements apply depending on the type of accommodation. 
  • After your visit, you will receive confirmation of your rating. 
  • You have an opportunity to discuss recommendations with your quality adviser. 

Please note: if you are already a participant in one of the schemes we will automatically send a renewal request to you. 

If you are not quite ready for a Quality Assurance assessment, we would be happy to discuss your needs and requirements in an initial telephone call.

Please email quality.tourism@gov.wales or telephone us on 0845 010 8020 to discuss your requirements.
 

8. Certificates, Logos and Signs

Visit Wales Rating, Approved schemes, and Welcome Awards
We will send accommodation and attraction providers electronic logos and certificates. Window-stickers are also available for all Welcome Awards.

If you wish to purchase a sign to display at your business see our options and prices.

Information on Brown and White directional signs is also available.

9. Appeals Procedure

In the event that you want to challenge a decision regarding your rating the guidance document has information on:

  • how to appeal
  • who to appeal to
  • the appeal procedure

10. Handling consumer complaints

Even the most efficient tourism business is likely to receive complaints. Whether about its facilities, products or the service provided to customers. There are a number of benefits to any tourism business from identifying dissatisfied customers and handling complaints effectively.

Download the factsheet produced to help businesses handle complaints from customers successfully.
 

11. Visit Wales Branding

Some properties that come out of our rating schemes continue to display Visit Wales branding (signage, certificates, window stickers, text reference and/or logos) or claim to have a Visit Wales star rating when they are not entitled to do so.

Displaying Visit Wales signage, certificates, window stickers, text referencing and/or logos when no longer participating in our schemes is an offence under The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and is misleading to potential guests. 

We regularly monitor the use of signage, certificates, window-stickers, text referencing and/or logos. With the assistance of Trading Standards, we investigate any matters concerning improper signage and ensure appropriate action is taken.

If you find any establishments that are not in the scheme but are displaying Visit Wales Branding in any form, we want to know about it. Contact our team, in confidence, on 0845 010 8020 or email us at quality.tourism@gov.wales