Research from the HFTP Asia Research Center | Written by: Evita Ma
On January 10, China released the new standards of Hotel Online Service Quality Evaluation and Classification (China Daily, 2020). This is the first domestic standard for evaluating and rating the quality of hotel online services in the nation. The new standards were approved by the Internet Society of China (ISC), led by Meituan (an integrated marketplace for services including hotel booking) and co-drafted by several research centers.
With the rapid development of mobile applications and the sustainable growth of tourism consumption, "mobile hotel booking" has become the norm. According to Trustdata (2019), in the first half of 2019, the number of room nights reserved via online hotel reservation increased by 20 percent year-on-year, reaching the scale of nearly 400 million. Although the hotel industry is booming in China, the standards for hotel online services are almost nonexistent. Due to the lack of norms and guidance, service failures and complaints come up occasionally, such as overbooking, misleading information and refusal to provide an invoice. Consumer rights can hardly be protected or guaranteed in what has historically been seen as an unruly industry. To uphold the healthy development of the industry and satisfy consumer expectations, standardizing the hotel online services had to be implemented.
The new standards use a system of seven key indicators to evaluate hotels including: basic hotel information, service quality, operation efficiency, business integrity, personal information security, corporate regulations and consumer assessments. The full score will be 1,000 points. Hotels with more than 700 points will be divided into three levels from high to low: 900 to 1,000 are classified as first level, 800 to 900 as second level, and 700 to 800 as third level. The online service providers need to set a distinctive logo to show consumers the ranking, so that consumers can check the "level" of the hotel's online service, thereby avoiding blind selection. Additionally, hotels are required to upload the complete, accurate and updated information to the online platform, confirm online orders in a timely manner, actively maintain negative reviews, avoid overbooking or walking guests, prevent fake customer reviews, and ensure the security of consumer privacy and personal information. If there is a service failure, it will directly affect the rating and level classification. At the same time, the online accommodation booking platform can help hotels identify weak areas in order to self-optimize with targeted goals.
Some organizations have previously drafted standards affecting online travel agencies (OTAs), but the Hotel Online Service Quality Evaluation and Classification is the first to address individual hotel’s proprietary online services. In October 2019, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People's Republic of China drafted a regulation on OTAs to use big-data analysis to price tour products — to the disadvantage of existing customers (Si, 2019). In September 2019, the State Information Center (SIC) published the relevant standards governing online accommodation platforms including the outlines of how to manage online reservations and online reviews and protect user privacy (Wen, 2019). Some content may overlap between these standards.
The new standards are bound to continue to evolve with adjustments proposed sooner or later. To perform within the guidelines, hoteliers will need to keep an eye on the upcoming standards or regulations.
China Daily (2020). China releases new standards of "Hotel Online Service Quality Evaluation and Classification", filling the gap of the online service standards in the hotel industry (《酒店在线服务质量评价与等级划分》团体标准来了，填补国内酒店在线服务标准空白) Retrieved from: https://cn.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202001/14/WS5e1d7a5da3107bb6b5799e5b.html
Trustdata (2019). Analysis Report on the Development of China’s Online Hotel Reservation Industry in the First Half of 2019. Retrieved from: http://report.itrustdata.com/report/pdf/Report+of+China%E2%80%99s+Online+Hotel+Reservation+Industry+in+the+First+Half+of+2019.pdf
Si, C. (2019). Regulation seeks to strengthen supervision of online travel agencies. Retrieved from: https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201910/09/WS5d9da8cfa310cf3e3556f812.html
Wen, S. (2019). China Releases New Standards for Online Accommodation-Booking Services. Retrieved from: https://www.caixinglobal.com/2019-09-25/china-releases-new-standards-for-online-accommodation-booking-services-101465953.html