New, stricter rating system for hotels in S Korea

Yong Seon-joon, director of the tourism infrastructure office of the Korea Tourism Organization, speaks about the new star-based hotel rating system Tuesday at the KTO headquarters in Seoul.

Korean hotels will be reviewed under a new, stricter rating system on par with international standards, the Korea Tourism Organisation said.

According to the state-run tourism organisation, the new hotel rating system is based on a scale of 1-5 stars, not the national flowers currently in use.

Since 1971, Korean hotels had been reviewed under the mugunghwa flower-based system that ranks hotels into five categories based on points received, but was not strictly comparable to the international five-star rating system.

"There have been concerns that the Korean hotel rating system fails to serve as an indicator of the quality of service that the hotels offers. Specifically, there have been complaints that Korea has too many top-rated hotels whose service doesn't match international standards," said Yong Seon-joong, director of the tourism infrastructure office of the KTO.

The KTO will set up a reviewing body, comprised of some 100 experts in hospitality who will review some 800 hotels in the country. The process will include on-site inspections for hotels under three star and unannounced trips to four-and five-star hotels.

The change comes amid growing calls to introduce a trusted hotel service-appraisal system in Korea. According to experts, the former system has been loosely conducted by the Korea Hotel Association and the Korea Tourism Association, whose interests are closely linked with hotel properties. About 16 per cent of hotels in Korea have never been reviewed for the rating and some 63 per cent of the hotels failed to meet the expected standards.

The mini survey done by the new hotel rating system preparation committee showed that three out of six hotels in the top-tier level failed to meet the standard five-star hotel service and two out of three hotels in the second top-tier level didn't satisfy the four-star hotel service.

"These have caused complaints among customers. Moreover, their exaggerated promotions blinded customers from choosing the service they want," said Yong Seon-joong, director of the tourism infrastructure office of the KTO.

The new review system will rate hotels using the categories of guestroom and bathroom, food and beverages and meeting facilities, and customer service and safety.

"The biggest difference between the old rating system and the new one is the unannounced trips by officials to hotels," said Han Jin-soo, professor of the hotel management department of Kyung Hee University. Han has participated in the hotel reviewing process several times and is also part of the preparation committee.

"The system should act as an effective tool that contributes to the development of the Korean hotel industry," he said.