Monday, June 29, 2009

Worldwide Hotels Guide

Worldwide hotels offers

Making a distinction regarding big geographical areas, the current situation of hotel offers and receptive structures it can be schematically distributed as follows.

In countries with a tourism largely promoted by big tour-operator, like the Mediterranean coast and the islands of Spain, the largest Greek islands, the Tunisia and Morocco costs, the countries of the Center and South America, they have been developed, frequently in a disordered fashion, hotel offers and tourist centers characterized by the presence of large hotels, located in very attractive areas, endowed with numerous services, destined to be shown as beautiful as they appear in the catalogues of tour-operators in charge of filling them, but frequently poorly finished, with ordinary furniture and inadequate maintenance. There are hotel offers at particularly advantageous prices on behalf of big travel promoters which propose lodging places for trips to lower price; prices applied only to the occasional client, are on the other hand far greater

These same geographical areas have seen the surfacing of several hotels belonging to big chains, with hotel offers and diversified clientele (not just of tourists sent by tour operators) and with controlled standards of more comfort.

The prevalence of large receptive complex regarding those of small dimensions is the most typical characteristic in these geographical areas, marked, by the hotel offers, for the logic of big travel promoters.

They are few the pensions and hostels; the small receptive exercises are almost always administered as small residences or, they are simply arranged by houses in which rooms or apartments are rented.

Diversified hotel offers

In more industrialized countries which are those where the diffusion of tourism is older and consolidated, the receptive structure is very varied as well as the hotel offers. There’s a consistent sector of receptivity called complementary called or extra-hotel next to the hotel structures, constituted by residences, camping sites, tourist villages, inns, holidays houses, private lodgings.

Everywhere the appropriate equipment, comfort, cleaning in offers hotel reaches acceptable levels. Particularly, in Germany, Holland, Scandinavia, mainly if the urban areas are avoided, the lodgings, of any sort are pleasant and welcoming.

Contrary to the countries included in the area marked with number 1), the richest European countries have hotel offers traditionally based on the small individual initiative.

Today no receptive structure can live waiting for the client, customer or occasional. The client is looked for, cheered up with the hotel offers, the hotel reservation should be simplified, standards of service should be guaranteed admitting growing costs: most people request rooms with bathroom, telephone and television, with the whole comfort that doesn't make them miss their own houses.

Thus have been developed the associations among hotel owners, for the qualification of services, the reservation in common, for the distribution of costs, the administration of hotel offers.

Hotel chains have spread guaranteeing in all countries similar services that allow the quick reservation, through free telephone calls, the twenty-four hours.

Born in the United States, country where the most famous hotel chains are found, today widely diffused in Europe as well, like the Hilton, the Marriot, the Ramada, the Holiday Inn, in a beginning chains brought together only the hotels of higher category, the most luxurious, and also most expensive from the viewpoint of hotel offers.

Nowadays is no longer this way; next to the most important chains, endowed with expensive hotels, like the Hilton, the Sheraton, and the Holiday Inn, Americans like the CIGA and the Italian Jolly Hotel, like the French Sofitel, the Swiss Hotelplan, the British Forte, there are chains with more modest category hotels and more affordable prices, hence diversifying the hotel offers.

Hotels offers and facilities>

France and Italy, countries of the oldest tourist tradition, present a fractional receptive structure, aimed at receiving individual tourism.

Like Giorgio Castoldi writes in the "Manual of tourist technique", Hoepli, in Italy, on one hand is favored by the continuous appearance, in big cities, of offers of big hotels, of higher category, provided with the most modern services (congress rooms with its complementary equipment, fax, internal television circuits, etc.) easily reservables from any place in the worldhosting mainly people who travel for business matters; and on the other hand when maintaining the offer of small hotels, most of the time with family administration, of lower category, those who prefer not to grow for not modifying their administration, based on the work of people motivated by the good operation of the company and willing to sacrifices that could not be requested to clerks in regular hotels. Their work is often not quantified: the entire family collaborates, from children to old men, frequently in partial way, or in very busy moments, without the need of some retribution. Therefore these hotels are able to apply affordable rates for the average tourist, for the family in vacations. They are usually able to obtain enough earnings for the entire family with hotels offers for only four or five months a year. Once the season is finished old men rest, children return to their school, the rest is in charge of maintenance, repairing, and the hotels offers to clients for the following season.

These small formats hotels, with generally seasonal operation, represent most hotels in Italy and they are the backbone of a receptive structure that doesn't adapt to the demands of big tour operators that need hotels offers of large facilities, internally reservables. For this reason Italy is not goal of lodging for big tour operators in Northern Europe, contrary to countries like Greece, and Spain. The negative aspect of this approach, for Italy, lies on the fact that, by doing so, it´s given up to a wide range of potential clients who would assure the constant floow of tourists for differentiated hotels offers, besides the traditional periods of high season. The positive aspect rests on the fact that individual clients represent greater profits to the hotels, while the tour operator client represents sure arrivals for many months in the year, satisfying the offers, but paying little and with delay. It´s not just that, big tour operators seek offers of far more hotels that usually alter the landscape and atmosphere, transforming the coasts, like it has happened in a large part of Spain, Greece, and Tunisia, in urban centers dominated by the imposing profiles of big hotels.

Changes in the hotels offers in Italy

Substantial changes in hotels offers are being witnessed in Italy. Small pensions have decreased in number because the client-type of these hotels, fundamentally families in vacations, always uses the self-catering type structures (trailer houses, rooms for rent, etc.).

Besides the growing in the offers of higher category hotels that satisfy a tourism different from the recreational one, the offers of three-star hotels that have, in Italy, an average of 39 rooms. Divorcing from the family administration, but keeping their opening for seasons. These hotels are fundamentally located in regions goal of recreational tourism: the region that more hotel offers present is the Trentino Alto Adige, the Emilia Romagna, and the Tuscan.

Why? Probably because these hotels represent the Italian answer to the demand of tour operators. These hotels are in conditions of lodging groups, allows work in longer seasons in relation to small hotels therefore coping with higher costs than what their administration implies.

Also with the demand of tour operators, these hotels are able to enlarge the traditional seasons of recreational tourism thanks to the hotels offers for congresses, manifestations, and agreements with extralaboral associations or entities of public attendance that fill facilities during low season.

In a nutshell, the situation of hotels offers in Italy can be schematized as follows:

Higher category hotels, of large facilities, mainly dedicated to business tourism, increase in number thanks to the growth of this sort of demand they satisfy with their hotels offers;

Low category hotels, of small facilities, temporaries, of family administration, are still in some regions the center of hotel offers; they have the family in vacations as client-type; which decreases in number in relation to the modification of the families´demand, with strong tendency towards self-catering;

Mediumcategory hotels grow to satisfy mainly the demand of group tourism of tour operators, of congresses organizers, of assistance entities; they are often exercises of inferior category which, growing, transform their administration, they make it more professional and less family-like, to satisfy this new demand with their hotels offers.

Classification and hotels reservation

Regarding Italy, law differentiates the hotel services in:

- hotels: receptive services open to the public, with unitary administration providing lodging, possibly food and other accessory services, thanks to the reservation of rooms in hotels;

- motel: hotels particularly equipped for the stop and services of vehicles or crafts assuring them repair services and fuel supply;

- villages hotel: hotels that, in a single area, give centralized services to users of residence units located in more establishments.

This distinction, besides substituting the traditional structure among hotels, pensions, and inns, cancels the distribution in the traditional categories (from first to fourth), and hold the same rules regarding reservation of rooms in hotels.

The law stipulates that hotels be marked, in descending order, from 5, 4, 3, 2 or 1 star. The enclosed denomination "luxury" is also stipulated, for five-stars hotels classified according to typical standards of international class.

Local authorities must fix the criteria for the classification of the receptive structures keeping in mind the dimensions, the structural requirements, the services offered and the qualification of specialists, the criteria and modalities in the reservation of rooms. The law limited itself to set down the minimum requirements that should have the receptive services to be classified as hotels. They are:

- receptive capacity not lower than seven rooms;

- presence of at least a hygienic service for every ten beds;

- a bathroom with hot and cold current water for each room;

- a room for common use;

- technological facilities and an appropriate amount of qualified specialists for the running of the installation.

To determine the categories of hotels, that is, to assign the adequate number of stars, it’s used a punctuation expressing the quality of the best offerings of the facilities, the services the hotels are able to guarantee, the location, etc. Also in this case, as explained before for travel agencies, local laws are quite uniform and use very similar features, as well as for the reservation of rooms. They dispose, for one-star hotels to have characteristic for which at least thirty points must have been assigned, for two-stars at least eighty points, until the 340 points of five-stars luxury hotels.

The private bathroom in all the rooms vouches 30 points, if 90% of the rooms is endowed with bathroom 25 points must be assigned, if the rooms with bathroom are the 70% the points must be 20, etc.

The night porter vouches 10 points, as well as the 24-hours room services; direct line telephone in each room gives 8 points, the same thing for the telex; color television in each room accounts 5 points, black and white television 4; for the covered pool 10 points, the uncovered one 5; and so forth.

The classification of hotels is made on the request of the hotel itself, which should indicate, in its application, the punctuation reached, result of the sum of parameters they offer.

The entity to which the request is made varies from Region to Region. In certain cases it is the Province, in others the Region itself. The assignment of the category is done after a confirmation made by the competent organization.

The request is renewed every five years.

Therefore it could be considered that an objective classification as indicated always allows equal evaluations and that hotel classifications are assigned in uniformly. In reality it doesn’t work that way: hotels with the same number of stars present, frequently, different qualitative standards.

The reasons are many. The hotel classification must be renovated every five years, it has been said. Many people considered this a very long period of time, during which the initially available equipment can decrease. If televisions sets in the rooms break and are not repaired, if the minibars are moved, if elevators stop, if the garage closes, if the reservation of rooms is inaccurate and causes discontentment, these facts can be increased over the following years.

In many Regions the controls that must be done, either when the category should be assigned or when must be verified that the conditions have not been changed, are not sufficiently rigorous.

And the quality of hotel service consists of so many elements that cannot be measured precisely: a hotel can have televisions, telephones, and minibar in the room, can have elevators, pools, garage, and restaurant that make it classify for a superior category, but if its cleaning is to be questioned, if the reservation of rooms works poorly, if bathrooms faucets leak, if windows don't close, if the rooms walls are dirty, if beds crack, if personnel is not competent, to the high punctuation the hotel gets in reality deserves a modest service.

It could be said that this point must be given a market control: the unsatisfied client doesn't return to the hotels where they have been treated unsatisfactorily. The word gets around, few new clients will request a room reservation. However, the particular role of the hotel, for which new clients continually go through who often make the reservation of rooms in hotels through CRS, without knowing the hotel where they will be destined, without making their election and reservation under somebody’s advised who has previously been in the hotel, all this leads to a reduced control.

The possible solutions follow three approaches:

a strict and continuous public control (as it’s done in Austria and Switzerland);

a control on behalf of consumers' associations (particularly diffused in countries like Germany, and Great Britain);

an associative control: incorporate hotels to consortia, associations, groups, chains receive the control from the associations to which they belong, so the client who makes the reservation of rooms in hotels belonging to a certain group, knows that the hotel has the qualitative standard guaranteed by the group.

The latter control is, so far, what in Italy seems to be more effective.

The stars classification applied in Italy is, in the base, similar to the one applied in most European countries. Therefore, the tourist who travels through Europe should not have problems in determining the quality of the hotel service.

More difficult could be the election when he travels outside Europe: there are many countries where hotel classifications don't exist.

Prices and hotel reservations

Hotels establish freely the prices of their services and they should you at the moment of the client’s reservations, either for knowledge to the Regions that entrust the control to the same organizations appointed to confer the categories.

The price lists of hotels are renovated at least once a year, and they can foresee different prices according to the seasons (high, low, and middle) and according to the hotel reservations. Diverse rates are generally indicated by:

- single room with and without bathroom,

- double rooms with and without bathroom,

- complete pension in room with and without bathroom,

- half pension in room with and without bathroom,

- supplements for enclosed beds,

- prices of foods.

All these prices can be assorted between a minimum and a maximum. This is justified with the position and structure of the different rooms: the widest, more comfortable rooms, with view, the quieter etc., are more expensive than the smaller, darker, and noisier of the hotels. Therefore prices varied from a minimum to a maximum for the single rooms without bathroom, for the single ones with bathroom, for the double with and without bathroom and, consequently, for the treatment of half pension and complete pension. Besides the price also depends on who makes the reservations in the hotels if it’s the client, the agency or the tour operator.

The prices of the rooms, with included IVA, must be shown in all rooms. The prices of the other hotel services should be exposed in rooms commonly used. Of course, hotel clients cannot be asked amounts higher than the ones requested in the lists, or agreed during the reservations.

The prices of Italian hotels are the target of criticism for many parts.

Statistically they are among the highest in the world, because hotel owners have a tendency to declare extremely high maximum prices. In fact, the most diverse rates are paid, according to the season, the client, the development of the hotel market, the type of reservation. The result is that few the clients pay the published rates. And the minimum rate is sometimes a tenth of the maximum price.

Except for particular cases, the license of hotel exercise foresees the obligation of opening of local throughout the year, excluding a period of vacations that should be agreed with the municipal authorities and stated to Public Security authorities.

Only in towns that are temporary tourist destinations can be given licenses that foresee the opening for certain periods in the year. Opening schedules during the day are set by the Public Security authority, in accordance with the Mayor.

The exercise license can be suspended to a hotel that has closes for more than eight days without giving word to the Public Security authority.

>Hotel contract and hotel reservation

The hotel contract following the hotel reservation, is the one specified between the hotel owner and the client. The obligations the hotel assumes with this contract are:

- the lodging supply and food to the client and the benefit of all services foreseen by the structure of the hotel (bar, television, telephone, alarm clock, laundry etc.),

- the responsibility towards people:

- a doctor should be called if they get sick

- should verify they don't have infectious illnesses

- should make the obligatory authentication in the event of death

- it’s responsible with the parents and midwife for the accusations of birth

- should reimburse those who suffer damages for their responsibility (for example anyone who falls on the stairways that haven’t had an appropriate maintenance);

- the responsibility with things on behalf of the clients, according to what’s foreseen by the articles of the civil code.

The client's obligations (booked)

- the payment of the preset price or foreseen in the lists and arranged at the moment of the hotel reservation;

- the respect of the times of arrival and departure foreseen by the contract and of the reservation of the hotel; with this purpose it’s stressed that, except other agreements, the room that has been booked, is occupied between 18.00 in the day of arrival and vacant before 14.00 in the day of departure;

- the care of the local in which the client is lodged, keep their integrity;

- the prohibition of developing in the hotel room any activity, particularly those dangerous or annoying, like ironing, cooking in the hotel, to make noise, etc..

The hotel contract is not a contract-type, in other words it’s not expressly regulated by the civil code. This fact sometimes leaves space to differentiated interpretations, especially those that have to do with the reservation of the hotel.

Among the most common unfulfilments on behalf of clients are the following:

- the client's non arrival who had already made the reservation of the hotel. The hotel owner protects himself making advance payment as guarantee, if the client regularly uses the services, it also works as an advance payment of the final bill, if the client doesn't use the reserved services, it’s then retained as compensation by the hotel;

- the client's delayed arrival or premature departure which forces the hotel owner to lose the possibility to dedicate the rooms to other clients that had been reserved;

- the not payment of the bill on behalf of the client. In this case the hotel owner is entitled to have the client’s baggage levy for an official, as a guarantee of his credit.

The hotel owner’s most common unfulfilment is given when the client who has made the reservation of the hotel, doesn't find it free as agreed. In this case the client who has given a guarantee is entitled to a compensation that comes up to double this guarantee.

Hotel booking and types of hotel contracts

To illustrate this topic we refer, as an example, to an "International Hotel Convention regarding contracts among hotel owners and travel agents", convention carried out between the A.I.H. and the F.U.A.A.V. some years ago.

a) Each hotel contract should be preceded of applications of hotel booking on behalf of the travel agent and directed to the hotel owner.

b) Each unwritten hotel reservations application will be confirmed by means of a written document (letter, telegram, telex, electronic, etc.).

c) Each application hotel booking should specify the benefits offered. The cost of these may be mentioned in the same document. In this case the payment will be guaranteed only by the travel agent until he gets knowledge of the amount mentioned.

Acceptance of hotel reservations applications on behalf of the hotel owner

a) The hotel contract won't be definitive until the acceptance of the hotel booking on behalf of the hotel owner, made according to dispositions of art. 11 a).

b) Such an acceptance of the hotel reservations will consist on a written document (letter, telegram, telex, electronic, etc.) specifically referring to the application and mentioning the price of the ordered services.

c) This confirmation of the hotel booking should take place immediately or, at least, three days after receiving the application on behalf of the hotel owner.

d) Where the travel agent demands a telegraphic reply, he should use the form of "paid reply".

Advance payments of hotel reservations

a) The hotel owner will be able to subordinate the acceptance of the order of hotel booking, to the imposition of an advance amount (guarantee or cause deposit).

This advance amount will always have the character of guarantee deposit, except for the case in which the hotel owner has specified that it’s a guarantee. If the hotel owner has requested an advance payment, the conclusion of the hotel contract won't be definitive until the imposition of the amount is not made or demonstrated the evidence of the payment.

b) The hotel owner will make acknowledgement of receipt of the advance payment of the hotel booking no later than 24 hours after receiving it.

c) the amount o be paid of the advance payment of hotel reservations is usually the price of the ordered services (room, foods, etc.) for a one-night lodging in low season and three nights in high season.

Documents of the hotel booking

1) Principle of voucher acceptance: The hotel owner is entitled to either request the prepayment or a partial advance payment. If he refuses to such power, he agrees to accept the voucher. The travel agent recognizes the voucher as a payment guarantee that must be paid according to conventional norms and terms.

2) The simple voucher. The benefits that should appear in detail, especially the arrival and departure dates, they can comprise only the normal services (room and foods).

3) Voucher "full credit". The emission of this voucher can convey an extension of the normal hotel services, should be subordinated to a specific agreement between the hotel owner and the travel agent.

Payment due to the hotel owner

The prices fixed by the hotel owner to the travel agent for the services making object of the hotel contract, will not be, in any case, higher to those of the hotel rate applied to direct clients, when the invoice is paid by the agent or liquidated directly by the traveler. When the hotel owner has agreed the special prices in the phases of the hotel reservations, he won't be able to demand greater retribution than the agreed rate.

The hotel owner agrees to respect the prices suited in the contract. In the event of any modification of prices, a 30-day adjustment term is foreseen for the application of new prices. This price modification won't be applied to the hotel reservations already confirmed.

The benefits the travel agent will pay are those that appear in the reservation document directed to the hotel owner.

a) Except in case it’s been agreed that the invoice be paid directly by the traveler, is the travel agent who has concluded the hotel contract the one who should debit the invoice.

b) The payment of the invoice will be made by the agreed terms or, in absence of a contractual stipulation, within a 30-day frame after receiving the invoice. After the 30 days, the due sums will be increased with an interest fixed to the percentages for every month of delay. The opening amount of the debit will be increased with the 5% for recovery expenses.

c) For long duration lodgings, the hotel one will be able to request the travel agent, to pay in the course of lodging, the parts of services already given.

d) In the event of hotel booking made by the travel agent for services whose payment will be executed directly by the client, the hotel owner agrees to guarantee the agent's commission. For such reason the hotel owner can refuse to accept the payment by means of a credit card.

Glossary of terms used in hotels booking

Travel Agent: Each person or qualified society according to legal dispositions of the same country or for the national associations or for the interested International Federation and which particularly has as an specific activity to make the hotel reservation of rooms and other services in hotels to settle travelers.

Hotel: Are considered all those facilities that offer vacancies and are affiliated to the AIH, either directly through a national Association and those that classify according to the legal orders of the country where they are located.

Advance: according to the will of the parts, the amount of the advance payment requested by the hotel can be worth as guarantee deposit to the act of hotels booking.

Low season: defined according to local customs, subject to particular contracts according to the conditions of the local market.

Hotel contract: Contract with which a hotel agrees with a travel agent to give hotel services - followed by a hotel reservation - to a costumer of the aforementioned agent.

Guarantee deposit: advance imposition of the travel agent to the hotel owner, at the moment of the hotel reservation, a part of the price that will be presumed from the total amount of the invoice or should be refunded in the event of the hotels booking.

Hotel tariffs: lists of the prices on the different services given by the hotel, separately or together, officially published for travelers' use.

Individual travelers: clients who are not benefited by special rates of group.

Group Travelers: amount of people traveling together, considered by the travel agent and the hotel owner as an unique entity which obtains from the hotel owner during the hotel reservation, special conditions and rates fixed contractually.

Voucher: a voucher is a document issued by a travel agent with which he agrees to pay the hotel owner for the benefits to the agency’s costumer. These benefits or their top value will be mentioned in the voucher. In the event of non-use of all the hotel benefits mentioned in the voucher, the agent's agreement is limited according to the conditions mentioned in item 42 of the convention. The copy of a voucher can also work as confirmation.

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