What a 5 Star Hotel Rating Actually Means

When many of us think of a five-star hotel, we envision a world of unparalleled luxury and extravagance. However, this is a common misconception! This is because hotel rating systems normally accounts for facilities rather than service.

In addition, ratings differ from country to country meaning that a five-star hotel in one place could equate to a three-star hotel in another.

So, what exactly do hotel ratings mean, how does it differ across the world and how can you make sure that what you’re booking is actually a great quality hotel?

Limak Lara Pool 5 Star Hotel Rating
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What is The Star Rating System?

Independent bodies or government tourism boards will award star ratings to hotels as an indicator of their standard of facilities.

So, it may come as a surprise for some, but hotels are more heavily assessed on their facilities rather than the experience they offer. A quick check-in or friendly service will have little impact on a hotel’s ratings.

Generally, one star is given to hotels with more basic facilities, with 5 stars awarded to exceptional hotels, with pools, laundry service and other amenities.

Notably, the idea of what ‘exceptional’ actually means will shift from country to country and culture to culture. So, who exactly defines the meaning of luxury, and how are hotels assessed?

5 Star Hotel Ratings Explained

Unhelpfully, there is no universal rating system. Instead, each country will have its own rating system and requirements that hotels will need to meet in order to be granted those much lusted for 5 stars.

However, generally hotels will be awarded 5 stars if they meet baseline requirements and have facilities, like a restaurant, concierge, and 24 hour room service and front desk.

Therefore, 5 star hotels around the world will be similar in some ways, but individual countries will have extra, specific requirements within their rating system. And some of them may surprise you!

A 5 hotel rating meaning will change depending on the country. For example, British 5 star hotels are required to have a bathtub in most of the rooms. Whereas Portuguese 5 star hotels are required to have some kind of recreational activity, like golf or tennis, on offer.

Restaurant buffey Hotel rating meaning


In the UK, the rating of hotels is done by an independent organisation called the AA (Automobile Association) or VisitEngland, using a standardised system called the Quality Assessment Scheme. The rating system evaluates different aspects of the hotel, including cleanliness, comfort, and services.

Hotels are typically assessed through an overnight visit from an inspector who evaluates the hotel based on a set of criteria. A five-star rating in the UK generally indicates that a hotel offers the highest level of British luxury and comfort, with exceptional facilities, and amenities.

5-star hotels rated in the UK will have:

  • High-quality furnishings and decor
  • Spacious and well-equipped rooms
  • Excellent dining options
  • Valet parking
  • Open 24 hours
  • 24-hour room service
  • Business Center
  • A Restaurant open 24 hours
  • Spa
  • Luxury suites
  • Multilingual receptionists
  • 80% of rooms will have baths

In Spain, five-star hotels are rated by the Ministry of Tourism, through the Hotel Classification Commission.

The commission evaluates hotels based on a number of criteria such as location, building and facilities, rooms, catering, and environmental management. Here are a few requirements for 5 star hotels in Spain:

  • 24-hour concierge and front desk
  • Bilingual Staff
  • On-site restaurant with international cuisine
  • Bar or café
  • Minimum room size of 26 square metres for double rooms, with air conditioning, heating, and soundproofing
  • Majority of rooms must have a balcony or terrace
  • Designated rooms adapted for disabled guests
  • In-room amenities like a minibar, safe, satellite TV, and free Wi-Fi.
  • Private bathroom with a bath or shower, hairdryer, and a range of toiletries
  • Swimming pool, gym, sauna, or spa
  • Access to a variety of services like laundry, dry cleaning, and room service
  • Environmental and sustainable management policies

In Portugal, 5-star hotels are rated by the Portuguese Tourism Board (Turismo de Portugal).

The criteria for classification are divided into four categories: General Requirements, Facilities, Services, and Management and Sustainability. To achieve a 5-star rating, a hotel must meet all the requirements in each category.

However, as of 2015, the government made it optional for hotels to be assessed for a star rating. Some of the requirements for a 5-star hotel rating in Portugal include:

  • Hotel must be open 24/7
  • 24-hour reception
  • Multilingual employees
  • Copy and fax machine
  • All rooms must have a private bathroom and a balcony or terrace
  • Some rooms will need to have a bathtub
  • Restaurant and bar, open for a minimum of 12 hours a day
  • Swimming pool or Spa
  • Fitness centre
  • Room service, laundry service, and a concierge
  • A variety of recreational activities, such as golf, tennis, or water sports
  • Must have a sustainability program that includes measures such as energy-efficient lighting, water-saving devices, and recycling

In Turkey, 5-star hotels are evaluated by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism using a rating system called the “Turkish Tourism Grading System”.

Overall the criteria for classification include more than 200 standards and are divided into seven categories: General Features, Building and Furnishings, Rooms, Food and Beverage Services, Service Quality, Hotel Management, and Environment and Sustainability.

Some of the requirements a 5-star hotel in Turkey must meet:

  • Minimum of 50 rooms
  • One restaurant, one bar, and one lobby area
  • Swimming pool and Garden area
  • Shoe polish implements in the room
  • Laundry, dry cleaning, and room service
  • Baby Sitting offer
  • A variety of room types, such as standard rooms, suites, and deluxe rooms
  • Amenities like a Turkish bath, Fitness Centre or Sauna
  • Rooms must have air conditioning, a minibar, and a safe
  • 24-hour room service
  • Currency exchange service
  • Multilingual staff that provide information about local attractions and events

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism created ‘S’ (Special) Class for hotels that might not meet the requirement of the star system such as the minimum number of rooms, but are of particular cultural interest like inns built during the ottoman empire. These hotels will be smaller than a typical 4 or 5* but will have other special charms and be of historical interest.

In Greece, hotels are classified based on the National Hotel Classification System, which is regulated by the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO).

To be classified as a 5-star hotel, a property must meet the following requirements:

  • Aesthetically pleasing exterior and interior design
  • Price of room must include a daily meal
  • One Restaurant
  • A Bar or lounge
  • Fitness Centre and Spa
  • Swimming pool
  • Spacious rooms with luxury amenities, like high-quality bedding, air conditioning, a mini-bar, and a flat-screen TV
  • The hotel should be situated in a central location
  • Environmental and sustainability program

As if things weren’t confusing enough Mexico uses a variety of systems to rate hotels. Hotels can opt-in to be rated by government bodies like the Ministry of Tourism or instead be assessed by companies like the American Automobile Association (AAA)––these are the most popular rating organisations in Mexico.

However, they both assess hotels differently and have different requirements.

As hotel rating meanings are decided by multiple organisations, Mexico may have the largest disparity between quality and experience at 5-star resorts.

Mexican Ministry of Tourism (SECTUR)

This rating system is a government-run program, it’s likely to carry more weight with travellers seeking assurance of quality and consistency across different hotels. Plus, the SECTUR has been around for many years, so it has a solid track record of evaluating and certifying hotels based on a wide range of criteria.

Stars and Diamonds

Operated by the American Automobile Association (AAA) this program is relatively well-known and respected within the hospitality industry. AAA uses a 5 star and diamond system, with 5 diamonds being awarded to the most prestigious hotels. So, it may be more commonly used by hotels hoping to attract American tourists or those with a preference for the AAA brand.

Limak Lara Coffee Bar Hotel rating meaning

How to Find a Quality 5 Star Hotel

Know what your needs are

All 5 star hotels will have decent amenities, but you may personally want a swimming pool over a fitness centre. This could therefore help narrow down your options.

Always read the reviews

Using a combination of reviews from Google, Tripadvisor and hotel booking sites will help you make a more informed decision.

Check different booking sites

Some hotel and holidays sites give their own star ratings based on customer reviews. Therefore this star rating will heavily take into consideration service and quality so it may give a more well-rounded view.

Look out for the word 'luxury'

As you’ve probably learnt by now, there can be a big difference between a 5 star hotel and a 5 star luxury hotel! Therefore, if a hotel is independently described as 'luxury' or belongs to a curated list of luxury hotels, such as 'Small Luxury Hotels of the World', then you're on sounder ground for booking a quality 5 star stay.

Don't forget to check... 4 star!

Some of the best service I’ve ever received was at Hotel Hotel in Lisbon which was a 4 star hotel. As well as being welcomed by exceptional staff, we got a free coffee on arrival, an upgrade, a bottle of wine, a custard tart in our room and even free bucks fizz at breakfast! It goes to prove that an amazing hotel experience doesn’t have to be 5 star, so don't be closed off to other options.

The easiest way to get a free hotel upgrade is to… just ask! Here’s my email template that’s worked for hundreds of people already.

The Real 5 Star Hotel Rating Meaning

So what have we learnt?

A 5 star hotel rating doesn’t actually mean it will provide an amazing luxury experience, so always check reviews and see what facilities they have before booking. Explore our guide to what 5 star hotel ratings mean! 

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