Reports of its imminent demise are completely false, according to Damien Hanger, the new General Manager of Star Ratings Australia, who confirmed the number of accommodation licencees may have fallen 8% in the past year – from 6500 to 6000 – but was adamant the scheme “remains a viable and ongoing concern”.
His comments follow a number of negative stories including one in the Australian newspaper claiming that “TripAdvisor’s free hotel and resort rating system has claimed a scalp with the nation’s rating system all but collapsing because accommodation providers are refusing to pay its hefty fees”.
Speculation about Star Ratings Australia flared after the announcement that the AAA Tourism joint venture between Australian Motoring Services and Club Tourism Publishing would end on Dec 31.
Moira Penman, CEO of Club Tourism Publishing, which ran the JV, cited financial issues as a major factor.
“The decision to dissolve the joint venture partnership is the result of a number of important factors, such as the rapid expansion of digital media channels in the travel and tourism sector and declining print advertising revenues for accommodation guide books,” said Moira Penman, CEO of Club Tourism Publishing
Mr Hanger said these financial issues had nothing to do with Star Ratings.
“It was the performance of CTP print and digital publishing operations – not Stars – that led to the dissolution of the joint venture partnership and subsequent wind-up of AAA Tourism publishing operations in Australia,” he said.
“Star Ratings Australia remains a viable and ongoing concern.”
From Jan 1, 2014, it will be run by AMS on behalf of the Australian Auto Clubs.
Mr Hanger said: “We are working with the Australian Auto Clubs on a commercial business model for Stars as a stand-alone accreditation business.
“This will focus on developing and delivering new licensee benefits, enforcement of our intellectual property rights and more aggressive promotion of the scheme to Auto Club Members.
“AMS will undertake an announcement of the commercial business model and corresponding strategies in the New Year.”
He said membership decline has been consistent across each of the six Star Ratings accommodation categories – Hotels, Motels, Serviced Apartments, Self Catering, Hosted Accommodation and Caravan-Holiday Parks.
Some have blamed new ratings criteria for the fall in licensees but Mr Hanger said that will not be altered.
“AMS will not change the current quality-based scheme or criteria that was introduced in July 2011.”
There will however be a review of the current fee structure for a Star Rating licence, the average cost of which during 2013 was $451.