Hotel star system to lose official backing

The official star-rating system used to rank hotels in Britain is to lose state backing this week, after claims that customer reviews posted online are more reliable. National tourism agencies, such as VisitEngland, grade hotels from one to five stars, but the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) says collective rankings more accurately reflect holidaymakers' concerns. The current system is also considered to work against smaller hotels, which often receive just one or two stars because they cannot offer the same breadth of services as a large hotel, even if their standards of service, accommodation and food are judged very favourably.

A DCMS spokesman confirmed yesterday: "We are going to be publishing our tourism strategy next month and in that we back a consumer-led system like TripAdvisor rather than traditional star-rating systems."

Hotel owners who believe they have been unfairly judged online will be worried by the withdrawal of what they consider to be a more objective system. But the spokesman said: "You do get a broad range of opinions on online reviews. The feeling is that because there are so many reviews and they are so widely used that you do find a mean. You can see what effectively the average opinion is. It is because so many people do them, that is their strength really," he added.

John Penrose, the minister for tourism, added: "The official ratings systems are too often unreliable and unfair not only for the industry but for the consumer, too. So we will encourage any rating schemes or customers websites that improve the quality of information which visitors can use to choose the right holiday for them."