South African hotels are choosing NOT to upgrade their ratings to the next tourism star-level and continue to advertise their five-star facilities as three stars, says CEO and founder of Bon Hotels, Guy Stehlik.

This is primarily due to the success in the 1980s, of South African chain, the Holiday Inn Group, says Stehlik, speaking to businesstech.co.za.

He said: “At the height of the flood in the South African hotel industry, the Holiday Inn Group had 21 three-star hotels across the country. Many of these buildings still stand, albeit some in obscure locations or as rebranded establishments, but their mere presence pays homage to Holiday Inn for successfully introducing those models to South African guests.

“Initially, three-star hotels were frowned upon, carrying a stigma as if they just didn’t make it. Perhaps the challenges of holidaying in the 80s ushered in a new opportunity, as South Africans were no longer jetting across the globe but were, instead, looking close to home for their holiday or conference.”

As a result, post-1994 international players who decided that South Africa was a good prospect did not bank on the quality of local three-star hotels, he believes.

While the four-star market saw success with the likes of The Sheraton Group or The Hyatt, the economic crises of 2008 did not bode well for these newcomers, the hotelier said.

“Corporate buyer refused more than three-star expenditure as company executives were forced to ‘downgrade’ from business class air travel and from four-star and five-star accommodations. So who comes to the rescue? Enter Protea Hotels and the three-star market.”

As a result they have become synonymous and preferred among local travellers and because they offer a consistently high service and facilities they are also popular with foreign travellers.

“The bottom line is this,” said Stehlik. “Our three-star hotels are better than any other in the world, and in many cases, even better than four-star offerings in Europe.

"And no, this is not because guests are expecting less and are surprised by what they see and receive. I don’t buy this."

He said that these hotels have greater access to markets, they can be all things to everyone, and in the current global climate they are the solution for government and corporate bookings as well as conference and leisure markets.

“The result: a greater return on investment. Indeed, for a new build, the cost of constructing a three-star facility is significantly less than building a four-star hotel,” Stehlik said.

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