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How Are Hotels Rated? What Does A 5-Star Rating Mean?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Next week, Minneapolis' newest luxury hotel will open. The Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis will have with 222 rooms, a Gavin Kaysen restaurant, a pool plaza. and a spa.

It calls itself the city's only five-star hotel.

So, how are hotels rated?

If someone was to Google "five-star Minneapolis hotel," plenty of search results would pop up to include hotels like the Hotel Ivy, W Minneapolis, or Le Meridien Chambers Minneapolis. The results would appear from a number of different websites, including, Expedia,, Five Star Alliance, and more.

"There's no checklist, no rules, no law, no governing body," says John McMahon, president and CEO of Five Star Alliance. "It's all subjective."

There is no one standard on how hotels are rated. Several organizations offer their own ratings systems in a variety of different ways.

"It's one of those questions that if you ask 10 different people, you're going to get 10 different answers," says Kyle Potter, executive editor of Thrifty Traveler. "It's kind of murky. The best way to describe it: You know it when you see it."

In general, Potter says five-star hotels are generally considered "the cream of the crop" and in a category of their own. They would likely have all the amenities – gym, pool, spa – of an upscale hotel, a 24-hour concierge, dedicated luxury car service, and a restaurant from a locally-renowned chef.

The Four Seasons brand even offers private jet experiences.

"It's the service, the dedicated service that sets these five-star properties from each other," Potter says.

AAA gives out diamond ratings after a their team of inspectors conducts announced and unannounced inspections at the locations. Five Diamond is described as World-class luxury, amenities and indulgence for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Four Diamond is described as upscale style and amenities with the right touch of service. Three Diamond is described as comprehensive amenities, style and comfort that's great for family travel.

Minnesota has no AAA Five Diamond locations, but it does have 12 Four Diamond spots.

Forbes Travel Guide has been rating hotels for decades. Its inspectors conduct incognito inspections on thousands of hotels. They judge on 900 different criteria and only award about 200 Five-Star ratings a year.

"At the end of the day, what we take away is the service," says Amanda Frasier, executive vice president, standards and ratings at Forbes Travel Guide. "We want to know how that property made a guest feel."

Forbes offers three kinds of ratings. Five-Star is described as outstanding and often iconic with virtually flawless service and amazing facilities. Four-Star is described as exceptional properties, offering high levels of service and quality of facility. Recommended is described as excellent properties with consistently good service and facilities.

In Minnesota, the only Forbes rated hotel is the Hotel Ivy with recommended status. The Anda Spa inside the Ivy Hotel is rated Four-Star by Forbes.

Forbes Travel Guide has not yet rated the Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis, but Frasier says it's excited for the opening.


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