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Travel and You

Navigating the Maze of Hotel Room Ratings

August 24, 1986|TONI TAYLOR | Taylor, an authority on the travel industry, lives in Los Angeles.

Hotels are frequently classified deluxe, first-class, standard, budget and others. These terms sometimes confuse the consumer unfamiliar with the differences between the categories, which are far from consistent throughout the world.

The same uncertainties can apply to the names given to different categories of rooms within the hotels themselves.

Words such as the much-used deluxe can be employed both as a noun and as an adjective. Promotional copy, including brochures, may indicate that you will get a deluxe room without being clear whether this is a room category, descriptive adjective or both.

Other terms for room categories may be standard, superior, moderate. Suites may have their share of categorization as well, with such appellations as mini, junior, alcove and executive versions.

Tour operators may use their own terms to describe hotel rooms involved in their packages.

Elastic Language

The prevailing method is to use language elastic enough to allow a good deal of scope in describing what type of room you will end up with. This makes it the task of the traveler to delve more deeply into these terms.

"You usually get what you pay for, but consumers should find out in advance what they're paying for," advised Dennis Koci, corporate director of front office and guest services for Hilton Hotels.

A rundown of Hilton's room-pricing structure, while not necessarily representative of all hotels, gives an idea of how the system works for one major chain.

Koci explained that there are generally five rate categories each for single, double or twin use. This can add up to 15 separate rate categories. For example, the Kona Hilton, a resort property, has A to E categories with A for standard, the least expensive, and E for deluxe oceanfront, the most costly. In between, there is B for medium, C for superior and D for deluxe.

A commercial property, such as the Chicago Hilton, might have an A-to-E setup, with A standing for minimum and E for the highest-priced rooms in the tower section (which provides additional services), B meaning standard, C court view and D a corner location.

"These rate categories can vary from hotel to hotel, even within a chain," Koci said.

Size, Location, Amenities

In general, Koci added, it's the size of the room, its location, bed equipment and amenities that account for the price differentials. "For example, a king bed for single occupancy would be priced higher than a single bed for single occupancy," Koci said.

Location of the room may affect the price when views are available, such as rooms facing oceans, mountains and urban panoramas as well as views of interior courtyards. There are also, of course, views of parking lots and other less inviting tableaux. What floor your room is on represents another possible pricing factor. "The higher you go, the more you usually pay," Koci said.

"Another thing consumers should realize is that the name of the room category no longer suggests the type of bed in the room. The trend today is to use bed equipment that accommodates single, double or twin occupancy whereas in the past a single used to mean a single-bedded room."

More hotels, depending on the physical constraints of the room sizes and the costs of remodeling these rooms, are therefore using two queen beds for single, double or twin occupancy, Koci said.

Some travelers also have a misconception about suites, Koci said. "The public thinks of a suite as an upgraded accommodation. While this may be the case, the hotel looks at it as two rooms, a bedroom and parlor, with either one or two doors to the hallways. In some cases, as the parlor may have a bed, the two rooms may be sold separately."

Suites, Koci advised, are more expensive because they involve more space, but they are not necessarily the best accommodations in the hotel. The size of the two rooms generally is the deciding point in the terminology used in describing the suite. Some suites may have more of an alcove than full-size parlor but still be called a mini-suite. There are suites with standard-size bedrooms (as well as one- and two-bedroom suites), but small parlors. Some parlors may be extra large to permit large cocktail receptions. One hotel's mini-suite could be another property's junior suite.

Definition Difficulties

"The industry has a genuine difficulty in defining accommodations when there are many hotels in a chain," Koci explained.

One of the trends today is for all-suite hotels, which makes it all the more pertinent to know what kind of suite is available.

As for making reservations, Koci suggested that travelers ask more questions. "Don't set yourself up for a simple yes or no response. Find out what the minimum and maximum room rates are as reference points, and then ask what are the differences among the middle rates. When a higher rate is involved, the room will be better, but make an effort to learn in what specific ways."

However, guests will probably be told when making reservations that the differentials are based on size and location. "At this point you should ask what is the size of the room and the type of bed equipment. With location, determine what floor and what view. For example, at a resort, ask if it's a partial ocean view, which can involve some body contortions to see something; an ocean view, which is a realistic look at the water, or an oceanfront view, which places you right up before the ocean."

Location on a floor can also be requested, either farther from or closer to the elevators.

"The more information you try to get, the more of an informed choice you'll be able to make," Koci said, "and the fewer surprises you'll get."

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