A short description of the new classification for tourist establishments and why we feel classification is important for us. The new system applies to a wide range of establishments, e.g. hotels, campsite, gites, holiday centres.
The New System
The French Government through its Ministry for Tourism has introduced a new national quality standard for tourism. Classification is not obligatory, but from July 2012, none of the old systems will be valid.
Approval is by the Ministry of Tourism and must then be notified to the Prefecture. It is valid for 5 years, but control visits can be made at any time to check that standards are being maintained. The control and subsequent visits are done by accredited organisations.
These are the new ratings which have already come into force.
1* Economique Value, minimum standards
2* Milieu de Gamme Middle range
3* Milieu de Gamme Superieur Good Quality
4* Haut Gamme High Quality Range
5* Tres Haut Gamme Very High Quality
(5* is over above the existing classifications from the other validation bodies)
The audit has to be done by a body accredited by the government and all accredited properties will be published on the ATOUT France website.
Why did we want to reach for the stars?
From the start of opening our holiday rentals we were aware that a holiday is something which can never be replaced. It is just impossible to go back in time to make something right which is not. We knew that it is very difficult to demonstrate what is the true standard of our three gites in the same way as you can for a hotel or restaurant.
People enquiring about bookings have told us how helpful they have found comments from previous guests when making a booking, but we are always conscious that these comments are subjective. Each person has a different level of expectation when selecting a holiday property and for us it has been impossible to accurately benchmark with confidence what we offer against similar properties. Each website is the showcase of the proprietor with their own recipe for success.
We are always delighted that guests take time to make a comment in the Guest Books. Not only do they give us a warm glow and great pleasure, but they provide valuable information when deciding upon changes and improvements each year.
In summary we felt:
- Our guests are important and their holiday time must not be wasted
- We wanted a reputable guarantee of quality for that was easily understood.
- We want to maintain our high reputation and high return rate.
- It was a good discipline and a self-audit.
Why did we not do it before?
It was difficult to make valid comparison between properties with the classifications of Gites de France, Clevacances or similar. They have very little meaning for anyone not resident in France and it is even more difficult for guests who come from different parts of the world, where expectations and standards of provision might be different. The old validations were often carried out by organisations also promoting rental properties so ran the risk of not being impartial.
It took money, stress, time, energy and lots of enthusiasm and has been well worth it.
The audit took place in mid-October and the result came very soon afterwards. It then had to be sent to the Prefecture for approval, which we received in December 2011.
We applied for 4 star rating for each property. The Grange and Poppas gained 4 stars with ease and with a couple of tweaks would have gained 5 stars. The Grenier was awarded 3 stars, since although it is equipped to the same standard as the other two, the total floor space can not be counted since some of the ceilings are below the minimum height of 1.80 cms. This is a problem for many rural properties.
We were delighted with the outcome and feel that the 3 star rating for The Grenier accurately reflects the price differential between The Grange and The Grenier.
The benefits so far.
We can not demonstrate any results for increased business as it is too early. However, it gave us a very clear insight and a good structure to help us organise our yearly maintenance programme differently. We are still uncertain and amused about the need for a salad spinner and full length bathroom mirror in each property, but the Guest Books for 2012 might provide some feedback!
The journey to get classified took time as the system was promoted but the structure was not in place as rapidly. Keen readers will notice this example is 2010, so now to find the 2011 badge for our website.
Our audit was done by Headlight Audit, but there are other bodies registered with COFEC.