Standards are interesting things, especially in the hospitality setting. How many of us know the requirements for a 5-star hotel to be a 5-star, or a 2-star hotel a 2-star? What if I told you the standards have nothing to do with the guest experience, the friendliness of the staff, or the effort made to serve you? What if I told you that a hotel’s effort to protect the environment and conserve resources has nothing to do with its rating? At the moment, Ghana’s highest rated property by former guests on Trip Advisor is only a 2-star hotel.
Ghana uses a version of city hotel standards common across Africa. It is a checklist of items that use everything from the size of the lobby, and the presence of amenities such as a swimming pool or tennis courts to rate a property. There is a long checklist. For the most part the ratings are on target. Clearly the service you receive at some of Ghana’s 5-star properties far exceeds that of your average budget hotel. What is not included in the rating is an assessment of customer care and service delivery. The quality of the food served or the ingredients used has nothing to do with a hotel’s rating. The ambience, use of local design and architecture, and the guest’s experience of the unique setting of the property has nothing to do with its rating either.
Zaina Lodge in Mole National Park in the Northern Region of Ghana is a 2-star hotel according to Ghana’s rating system. Yet, it is also Ghana’s highest rated property by guests on Trip Advisor, by a statistical landslide. The next closest competitor would need 297 5 out of 5 ratings to match Zaina Lodge’s current score. How can both of these statements be true? The main problem is that Ghana does not currently have the standards to judge a property like Zaina Lodge. It is a safari lodge, and there are no safari lodge standards in Ghana. In South Africa, the safari industry banded together to lobby for different standards. There will not likely ever be a safari industry in Ghana outside a few properties in Ghana’s National Parks and Wildlife Destinations.
If Zaina wanted to become a 3-star hotel, it would need to have a shoe-shine machine and a permanent reservations counter, among other things. Zaina will never have either of those. Zaina’s family style of service means guests are welcomed on our couches in a setting not unlike your own living room. The reservations team members sit with each group of guests individually to manage the check-in and orientation process. To jump from a 3-star to a 4-star rating, one would need a tennis court. With Zaina’s focus on minimizing its footprint in the park, a tennis court is not an option.
To jump from a 4-star to a 5-star rating, a property needs to have an automatic door at the lobby entrance. Zaina Lodge has an open air main facility with no doors!
In life, you manage what you measure. If our standards to judge the hospitality industry focus mainly on a checklist of items focused on the facility and not the service, we will continue to have hotels that meet the technical requirements, but fail to deliver on guest experience and satisfaction.
Zaina Lodge is by no means perfect, it is a young property that still has a lot of work to do, and a team that is trying every day to improve its service delivery. We need standards in every industry to ensure norms of professionalism, safety and sanitations are met. There is no argument there. However, we also need to incentivize the change we wish to see in the world. Standards that measure a hotel’s ability to deliver high quality service, in addition to its facilities, would both recognize the properties that currently deliver, and also provide a road map for those who wish to improve.
The Original article was first published in the Third Edition of the VoyagesAfriq Travel and Tourism Magazine.
Author: Andrew Murphy,is a Co Founder and Former General Manager of Zaina Lodge, Ghana