Global hotel bigwigs understate “outdated” star rating system

By Birhanu Fikade, The Reporter

Sunshine & Hilton Worldwide Announce Agreement for Hilton Hawassa Resort & Spa (credit:
Patrick Fitzgibbon (2nd from left)

While attending the fifth edition of the African Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) 2015 held at the Sheraton Addis, movers and shakers of global brand operators expressed distaste towards the ongoing star-rating program.

Patrick Fitzgibbon, Senior Vice President of Development for Europe and Africa at Hilton Worldwide, was asked about his take on the star-rating program the Ethiopian government had installed recently. He answered carefully and refrained from directly expressing how the rating has impacted Hilton. Instead, he explained how customers differentiate values and the services Hilton provides. That is what counts most in the operations of the business, he argued.

“Our position is very simple. We make it very clear what Hilton is and our guests understand what Hilton is. Hence, in some parts of the world, it’s rated as four stars and in some places it is rated as five stars.”

Hilton, among dozens, has been given a four-star rating by a team of experts from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MoCT). About 11 star-rated hotels have filed complaints against the results, according to MoCT.

Fitzgibbon has signed a management contract to run Hilton Resorts and Spa in the town of Hawassa, Southern Regional State, along with Samuel Tafese, Chief Operating Officer of Sunshine Business PLC—the local hotel developer. The total cost of the project is estimated to be some 42 million dollars. Hilton Resorts and Spa, with its 169 rooms, is the second hotel to be operated by Hilton in Ethiopia. In addition to the resort hotel in Hawassa, Hilton hopes to introduce a modular hotel—which would be made of prefabricated building sections—in Ethiopia. The Reporter has learnt that they have been having ongoing negotiations with a local firm to introduce such a hotel in one of the towns in a few years’ time. But so far, nothing has been developed specifically for Ethiopia, Fitzgibbon noted.

It took half a century to see the second Hilton to come in to the country. According to the senior vice president, this is because the business in Ethiopia has boomed only recently. He agreed that  more travelers and conferences are frequenting Addis.

Read more at: The Reporter