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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Updated Hotel Standards Planned

The number of stars on a hotel's brochure will mean a lot more about the quality of service a guest can expect when a planned system of federal standards is introduced later this year, according to Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, the deputy economic development and trade minister.

"If people book into a certain hotel, then they must understand what they are getting," said Strzhalkovsky, who oversees the country's tourism sector.

The Economic Development and Trade Ministry is planning to fundamentally revise the national classification system, using European standards as a basis, Strzhalkovsky said.

Every hotel in the country will be reevaluated, he said.

The ministry is expected to present its plan this fall in the form of amendments to existing hotel legislation, said Natela Shengelia, head of the ministry's tourism department.

The Economic Development and Trade Ministry is proposing to take complete control of the ratings process.

Strzhalkovsky said that elsewhere in the world, ratings are usually issued by "high-profile" ministries.

Right now, the State Standards Committee, or Gosstandard, is responsible for deciding the number of stars each hotel merits, he said. However, Gosstandard's standard is out of step with contemporary international standards, Interfax quoted Strzhalkovsky as saying.

As a result, Russian three- and four-star hotels have little in common with hotels of the same rank in the West, he added.

This discrepancy has led to cases of foreign tourists complaining to tour operators about their failure to fulfill the terms of their contract.

"For example, the National hotel is a five-star hotel, but then ... Gosstandard goes and gives five stars to another hotel that is really a three-star hotel," Shengelia said.

"Then foreign clients come and say, 'What kind of five-star is this?' and this damages the prestige of the industry," she added.

In Moscow, the Marriott-Tverskaya and the Ukraina are both rated four-star hotels, although their standards of service are completely different.

The ministry is "trying to resolve a number of problems we inherited [from Soviet times] and bring [standards] up to normal, civilized levels," Strzhalkovsky said.

"The hotel industry itself is saying: 'Let's have a normal rating system and turn it over to a ministry that is in charge [of tourism]; then we can work together to control it,'" Shengelia said.

Eighty-two percent of hotels in Russia have no rating, including some international-standard hotels that have not been rated, said Marina Smirnova, spokeswoman for the University of the Hotel, Tourism and Restaurant Business, the Vedomosti newspaper reported.

There are also new types of hotels to be classified, including private guesthouses and those built in a recent wave of construction.

"Because of gaps in the law, nearly all of them are operating without paying tax and treat their guests as if they are relatives or friends," Strzhalkovsky said.

Helene Lloyd, marketing director of Tourism, Marketing & Intelligence in Moscow, hailed the ministry's move toward adopting a European standard of hotel ratings.

"If they want to bring Russia up to international standards, they have to have an international standard for hotels," she said.

She said the rating would help to create a positive image of Russia and put an end to the dashed expectations caused by hotels that do not live up to their rating.

"If your hotel is bad, it can destroy your whole stay," she said.

The revision of hotel ratings would also act as an incentive for hotels to raise their standards. Many of Russia's older hotel buildings have great potential but they need to get rid of their Soviet-style management practices, Lloyd said.

Scott Antel, partner with Andersen Legal and head of the division that monitors the Russian hotel sector, said that adopting objective standards for issuing stars to hotels would be a good start.

"You will know the product you are getting," he said in a telephone interview.

Although the local industry has made great strides since Soviet times, few hotels met the standards of hotels with a similar rating in cities such as London or Paris, he said.

An objective star system would help, but it would not alone create the charm and ambience that a great hotel needs, he added.

Staff Writer Lyuba Pronina contributed to this report.