Welsh Government

Star quality grading

1. Introduction

Grading stars are a recognised sign of quality.  They provide reassurance to guests that your business has been fully inspected before they check in.  We know for a fact that guests consider star quality grading important when choosing somewhere to stay.

There is information here on:

  • how quality assurance schemes work,
  • the benefits of joining,
  • how to apply and more. 

2. Benefits

Join our grading schemes for:

  • an independent assessment of what guests can expect to find at your accommodation
  • a report showing your strengths and outlining areas for improvement, with individual scores for each assessed area of your business
  • access to ongoing support and advice from the grading team
  • a certificate and free sign to display
  • use of the Visit Wales star grading logo
  • access to Visit Wales marketing opportunities including an entry on the Visit Wales website

3. Accommodation - introduction

We award a rating between one and five stars based on the facilities available and overall quality of the experience. There are three elements we look at:

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

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

Once all aspects are assessed 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 one aspect of the business has not, by scoring high marks, driven up the overall percentage into the next star rating level, giving a false impression to the guest of the overall quality.  It is vitally important that the quality of the key areas matches the overall grade of the business.

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

4. Accommodation - schemes

We can assess the following types of accommodation:

Hotel accommodation -  large, small, country house, town house and metro style hotels

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

Self-catering accommodation - houses, cottages and apartments that 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, touring and camping parks 

Hostel and hostel type accommodation - group, activity, backpacker and bunkhouse accommodation, and camping barns

Campus accommodation - the campus scheme covers the universities and colleges that are able to accommodate visitors during the vacation periods

Alternative accommodation and single caravans - not star rated and covers accommodation such as wigwams, tipis, yurts, single caravans and accommodation that cannot provide facilities or services associated with mainstream accommodation. Good practice guidelines are also available

Bygone era accommodation - Letting accommodation provided within buildings either of historical or cultural significance of “Listed” status

5. Attractions

The Visitor Attraction Quality 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 are not quite sure whether full VAQAS is right for you, you can always opt to join our listed scheme.

6. Listed Scheme

If you do not want to be star quality graded but want to work with us, the listed scheme is available to all tourist accommodation and attractions in Wales. It is lower in price than our full, star quality grading and Visitor Attraction Quality Service schemes.

The listed scheme is available to all tourist accommodation and attractions for a period of 12 months at a cost of £90 inclusive of VAT or £48 for hostels and alternative accommodation.

To be listed, you will need to comply with a code of conduct and we will undertake a visit to confirm the availability and serviceable condition of essential facilities and services appropriate to the type of business. 

Businesses opting for listed will have an entry on the Visit Wales website

7. Activities

Rather than offering our own accreditation inspection 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 in terms of sustainable activity tourism and good practice and standards of customer care.  It also gives us all confidence that risk managed, high quality activity provision is available across Wales.

8. Advisory visits

Not quite ready for a full grading inspection? For accommodation providers there is an option for an advisory visit where we give you face-to-face advice towards achieving a specific star grade. The advice given offers an insight into your visitor’s experience and expectation. It will highlight the strengths and weaknesses within your business so that you can enhance customer satisfaction. 

If you are new to grading, the advice is invaluable if you are trying to achieve a specific grade. It could also save you money, as you will know what is required before your official grading visit. The advisory visit can also be requested prior to any intended expansion or refurbishment works, to help tailor the works towards achieving a specific grade.

These visits are tailored to suit your individual business needs.  We will give an accurate reflection of current standards, but will concentrate on specific advice on how to improve.

We are also able to undertake advisory visits at tourist attractions.

There are two types of advisory visit:

  • Walk and Talk involves a visit to your establishment and verbal advice - £119.40
  • Full advisory, with a visit to your establishment, followed by a full written report - £297.10 

Please email or telephone us on 0845 010 8020 to discuss your requirements or to arrange a visit

9. Apply

Accommodation and attraction providers should refer to the criteria document for your type of business.  These give the full criteria list of each star level and what is required.

Then apply and pay for your grading online using a form that can be completed in stages, as and when you have time. 

Once you submit, we will send you a receipt and then make arrangements for your grading visit to take place.  Different arrangements apply depending on the type of accommodation. After your visit you will receive a grading report and confirmation of your grade.  You will have an opportunity to discuss recommendations with your quality adviser. Your free grading sign, and/or certificate, will be sent to you.

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

10. Logos and Signs

As part of your Visit Wales star quality grading, we will automatically send accommodation and attraction providers an electronic version of the appropriate grading logo to use on marketing materials. It will be sent to you by email following confirmation of your grade.

Make sure you include the logo on any websites, social media profiles, any hard copy literature and business cards.

There are additional logos available for the ‘Cyclists and Walkers Welcome’ schemes, again these will be sent out automatically once your grading adviser has confirmed your award.

There are also a range of display signs available to purchase.  Displaying your stars on a sign is an effective way to show your commitment to providing independently tried and tested good quality accommodation.

For more information on these and on Brown and White signs view our Signs guide.  To apply for tourism signage download the form.

Please note: You are only entitled to use the logos provided and any signs made whilst you hold that grading and for the time period that it relates to. If your grading status lapses, or you are provided with a replacement logo, you must remove your expired logo/signage - from websites/literature walls etc. By showing a logo of an organisation that no longer exists in that form (e.g. Wales Tourist Board), or a standard that you are no longer entitled to use, you are breaching Trading Standards legislation and risking prosecution. 

11. Mystery Shopper

Our mystery shopper service gives fresh perspective on your business to help you monitor current performance and plan improvements. It is an independent review service open to hotels, guest accommodation and restaurants with rooms currently participating in the Visit Wales grading scheme.

The mystery shopper costs between £110 and £360 per visit. Costs depend on the number of visits per year plus the cost of dinner, bed and breakfast at the standard rate. One of our assessors will stay overnight incognito at your hotel to test and observe the level of service and facilities on offer.

We will provide verbal and written feedback on aspects such as: booking and arrival procedures; maintenance; cleanliness and comfort of bedrooms and public areas; quality of food and beverages served; courtesy of staff and the standards of service; standards of cleanliness and maintenance, and courtesy of staff in overseeing the guest's departure.

For further details, download the information and application form for mystery shopper visits.

12. Cyclists and Walkers Welcome schemes

The cyclist and walkers welcome awards scheme, with their own specific logo; help to show a particular market that your business is equipped to meet their needs.  These award schemes are open to businesses that are part of our star grading schemes.  There is no additional charge for this accreditation.  

You will need to be able to satisfy the requirements as detailed in the checklist documents. Our quality advisers can verify during your grading visit.  There are separate criteria documents and checklists for self-catering and serviced businesses and for caravan parks.

Cyclists and Walkers Welcome Scheme Scheme Guidance
Caravan Parks Cyclists and Walkers - Criteria
  Cyclist – Check List
  Walkers – Check List
Serviced and Self Catering Cyclists and Walkers - Criteria
  Cyclist – Check List
  Walkers – Check List

 

13. Appeals Procedure

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

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

14. Tourist Information Centres

Graded properties are entitled to promotion through  the Tourist Information Centres (TICs) network in Wales, and the rest of the UK.  To find your nearest TIC go to the Visit Wales consumer website. Your local TIC will display details of your property, free of charge. Your details will also be included on the accommodation lists used to respond to general enquiries.

TICs also offer a bed booking scheme for visitors who are on the move, and need somewhere to stay in another area. An excellent source of last minute business.  Keep your local TIC up-to-date and informed of any vacancies you may have, the staff will then be able to direct bookings your way. The TIC will charge the customer 10% of the total bed & breakfast or self-catering value, which you then need to deduct from your customer’s bill.

15. Quality Wales

Quality Wales is an annual lifestyle magazine for people working in the tourism industry in Wales.  This is where we showcase tourism businesses making a go of it in today’s competitive climate.  If you would like a hard copy please email visitwales.communications@wales.gsi.gov.uk with your requirements

Issue 9 of Quality Wales is now available.

Quality Wales - Issue 8

16. Handling consumer complaints

Even the most efficient tourism business is likely to receive some complaints regarding its facilities, products or the service provided to customers by employees. Other customers may be dissatisfied with some aspect of what is provided, but may not actually make a complaint. 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.

Some of the information you will find includes:

  • The benefits of successful complaint handling
  • The value of complaints
  • The causes of dissatisfaction
  • Methods of obtaining customer feedback
  • Preparing a policy for handling complaints
  • Dealing with serious complaints
  • Dealing with complaints face-to-face
  • Dealing with telephone complaints
  • Dealing with written complaints
  • Responding to online and social media reviews
  • Empowering your staff
  • Stopping problems recurring
  • Training in complaint handling

17. Improper signage

Some properties that come out of the grading scheme continue to display Visit Wales signage or claim to have a Visit Wales star rating when they are not entitled to do so.

Displaying Visit Wales signage when no longer participating in our scheme 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 and use our quality assessors to report back to us. 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 logos on their website or signage at the property itself, we want to know about it.  Contact our team, in confidence, on 0845 010 8020 or email us at - quality.tourism@wales.gsi.gov.uk

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