News | OnlineAbu Dhabi to include hotel online reviews to classify hotel star ratingsThis article was originally published onBy Karthick Prabu | December 15, 2013 In what is claimed to be an industry first, Abu Dhabi has announced a plan to include online reviews as an additional parameter to classify hotels by star rating.Olery, a guest experience management service provider, will offer its technology to the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (ADTCA) as part of the hotel classification programme.Online reviews impact on hotel rating classificationAbu Dhabi tourism authority will be provided with a monitoring tool that checks every hotel's star rating against guest reviews by using Olery’s Guest Experience Index (GEI).The tool will alert authorities with all hotels that obtain a GEI score that is below the minimum that ADTCA has established for their star rating . This will enable the authorities to investigate the hotel performance to take appropriate action.To keep a constant check on the performance of hotels, Olery will provide customised monthly reports, and also interactive dashboards for real-time performance monitoring with the ability to perform any custom reporting.ADTCA's head of Licensing and Classification department Omar Al Bishr says: "To us, ratings on social review sites and OTAs like TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia and Hotels.com are a clear indication on the satisfaction of guests that visited a property. "We think the traditional star rating is outdated, but to keep pace with international travel standards we deliberately chose to first have the guest reviews indirectly influence the system."Share this quote The first phase of this system integration will be rolled out during the first quarter of 2014.In the initial setup, action will be taken only on hotels (to improve its performance) that under perform on guest ratings as to be expected on their classification.CEO and co-founder of Olery, Kim van den Wijngaard says: "What we are about to achieve together with the Abu Dhabi officials is really a big step in and acknowledgement of online reputation management for destinations."Share this quote Business (hotel) friendly initiatives in Middle East Abu Dhabi's hotel revenue for the first ten months of 2013 grew by 19% YOY, and number of guest nights grew by a record 26% YOY contributing to an average length of stay of 2.3 nights.The city has about 150 hotels, including the recently opened Hilton Hotels. Abu Dhabi hotels and resorts are classified on a sliding scale of one star to five stars, and hotel apartments are classified as either standard, superior or deluxe.Abu Dhabi Tourism says: "Because classification systems require periodic refreshment to reflect the growth and dynamism of the destination they serve, an upgrade to this one-of-a-kind system is now in the pipeline. "This soon-to-be launched system will incorporate several new aspects, including a category for exceptional properties which are deemed to be superior to the normal five-star criteria."Share this quote Recently, Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing (DTCM) announced its plan to introduce tax breaks (concession on the standard 10% Municipality Fee) for three- and four-star hotels to encourage the city’s mid-market growth.Who's nextThis initiative by Abu Dhabi tourism fundamentally changes the hotel classification system. When it is proved time and again that online reputation of a hotel impacts hotel revenue/booking, then why not include it in hotel classification process.Will other countries/cities follow suit? If not, why not?A case in point is Abu Dhabi's neighbouring city Dubai, which received more hotel reviews in 2013 compared to 2012, but a decrease in the number of 5-star reviews received (35%) in 2013 compared to 2012 (38%).NB: Social media image via Shutterstock.