The Middle Eastern state of Jordan has launched a new hotel classification system, providing food for thought to other countries looking to improve their systems.

Hotel classification standards vary widely around the world and can be exceptionally confusing for travelers. Although most establishments use the one-to-five star rankings, there are no international guidelines on how they should be used, leading to discrepancies in standards between hotels of the same "ranking."

Jordan's new system aims to eliminate this discrepancy by focusing on services as well as facilities. At the base of all star levels are a set of standards to ensure the basic needs regarding safety, hygiene, and comfort are met. Past this, a further set of "optional" points allow establishments to obtain a star level by customizing their services for business travelers, luxury offerings, spa facilities, etc.

Three Jordan hotels have already been classified under the new system, and a team of ten assessors are now working their way around the country to reclassify all of the hotels in the country by January 2011.

"Today tourists expect more and advancements in technology are setting new standards for tourism products," said a spokesperson. "This new hotel classification system will ensure that Jordan can compete on an international level and that the tourism experience meets and even exceeds visitor expectations."

The Hotelstars Union, a European group of hotel associations, was formed in 2009 to try to formalize star rankings in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. It has laid out its definition of expected services at different star levels, such as the provision of soap and bodywash at one star level or fresh flowers in rooms and a one-hour pressing service at five stars.