April
2008
POLITICAL PROFILE
 
Vol. 4 No.3  
 

Hotels fail to reveal truth about services

Many hotels in Romania are lying about the number of stars they display – but the Tourism Authority lacks the personnel to investigate the industry. Corina Ilie talks to the state secretary of tourism, Lucia Murariu
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Hotels in Romania are not always telling the truth. Many tourism units are built without Government approval and display a number of stars that do not correspond to the equipment or the quality of services they offer.
But it is impossible for the authorities to verify the quality of accommodation in Romania, due to lack of funds and personnel to carry out the job.
This means the Romanian hotel industry is in a state of self-regulation. Customers have no quality assurance when they pass through the threshold of a hotel.
The Romanian Tourism authority is now part of the elephantine Ministry of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, Commerce, Tourism and Liberal Professions. This Ministry has only 14 people to check on Romania’s 260,000 beds in 6,352 hotels, villas, hostels, motels and guest houses, as well as restaurants.

Rule avoidance

Not everyone respects the rules. If an entrepreneur wants to build a hotel, he or she should gain approval first from the Ministry. Only then can local authorities issue a construction permit. But many local authorities either ignore or misinterpret the legislation and give permission without Government authorisation.
“Not all local authorities are aware that all future tourism units need our approval first,” says Lucia Murariu, state secretary for tourism.
But there is no punishment for a hotel which flaunts a number of ‘stars’ which it does not deserve. There is no law compelling hoteliers to state their hotel meets the standards required by the stars.
“There are a lot of big hotels, even in Bucharest, that display stars which they do not have,” says Murariu. “We are now working on modifications to the classification system and by the end of the year we will have a new system.”
But this process could see delays. The system must be approved by the Romanian Convention Bureau and by the Federation of Romanian Hotels Industry in Romania (FIHR), associations which have different perspectives on the market and its rules.
“We end up as mediators between the two,” says Murariu. “Things would have been easier if we had only one negotiating partner.”
The presence of a unique European classification system for hotel stars, valid for all countries, could create consistency on the hospitality market. Instead customers are confused by the huge discrepancy among services offered in hotels with the same number of stars in different countries. Ibis Hotels in France are known as a two-star brand, but these hotels have three stars in Romania. Meanwhile Sofitel has five stars in the west, but only four in Bucharest.
“Right now we are trying to simplify our classification system and make it more accessible to hoteliers,” says Murariu, “so they can understand the standards that they have to comply with to display a certain number of stars.”
The new system will focus on quality management. In the current system, the hotel gains more stars for having a larger number of furniture items in a room. A four-star room, for example, must have a carpet, even if parquet flooring is a design feature. In the new system, hoteliers will have to make a statement  according to which there is a full correspondence between the number of stars and the services offered by the hotel. 
The Ministry does not have enough staff to check all the hotels and, in most cases, a classification is granted on the documents presented by the hotelier. “We have to also examine restaurants as well as hotels,” says Murariu. “It is impossible to do all this work with only 14 people.”

No leisure in Bucharest

Leisure tourism in Bucharest is virtually non-existent. There are no joined-up efforts between authorities, entertainment venues and hoteliers, nor a tourist information office in Bucharest.
But the Capital has few chances of becoming a leisure destination soon because of the poor state of infrastructure and heavy traffic, argues Murariu.
However the state secretary believes that business tourism generates enough profit for hotels and leisure tourism should “not yet be encouraged” because Bucharest does not have enough accommodation.
Murariu says that this year there will be a coherent marketing strategy to improve the image of Romania abroad.  The Ministry will also allocate 20 million Euro of EU funds in an attempt to create a network of tourism information centres for foreigners in ten cities of Romania, including Bucharest and Sibiu.


 
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