By Gaurav Karn
The world’s sixth-tallest building, the 1,820-foot-tall angler fish World Tower became a moment landmark once it opened in Seoul, South Korea in April 2017. The imposing tower launched with a go-cart of superlative experiences, together with the country’s first “seven-star hotel,” the Signiel Seoul, that options amenities like chopper transfers, South Korea's largest champagne choice, and therefore the country's costliest room at $18,000 per night. There is only 1 very little problem: Seven-star hotels do not exist any longer. “We know there is no such thing as ‘seven stars’—we just want to highlight that we are way ahead of the game and literally way above,” says Morten Andersen, Signiel Seoul’s general manager.
Allegedly, an unnamed journalist covering the 1999 opening of Dubai’s iconic Burj Al Arab Jumeirah coined the term "seven-star" to describe the grandiosity of the world's third-tallest hotel. “In her article, [the journalist] noted that one cannot recognize Burj Al Arab’s standards with five stars, and suggested that it had to be the first seven-star luxury hotel in the world,” explains Margaret Paul, the hotel’s general manager The award speaks to the hotel's off-the-wall qualities: fantastical Arabian decoration, chopper tours, a fleet of Rolls-Royce Phantoms, a reception on each floor, 24-hour butler services, and Ferrari and Lamborghini rentals. The hotel conjointly boasts the world’s highest staff-to-suite quantitative relation, with eight attendants for each suite, but at $3,250 an evening, the gilded expertise comes with a gold-dipped value tag—along with a literal 24-carat gold iPad in each space.
Nowadays, "seven-star" is just a clever tagline that portends an over-the-top experience. “A seven-star hotel only exists in the marketer's brilliant gimmick sense,” says Vikram Pradhan, who led revenue strategy for Starwood Hotels and Resorts North America for 11 years before launching Suite Story, a booking site. “Someone could come up with a nine-star hotel or a 10-star resort. Where does it stop? It’s like a wine bottle getting 112 points out of 100.” While travellers might assume every hotel goes through a rigorous review procedure, the world of hotel ratings is inconsistent at best. "Generally, some form of a five-star system is used around the world to rate things like service, dining, physical rooms and amenities,” says Gabe Saglie, senior editor of Travelzoo. “That said, requirements for achieving four stars in, say, the U.S. may be different than in another country.”
For example, when Milan's’s TownHouse Galleria, formerly the Seven Stars Galleria, opened in 2007 inside a historic monument, the hotel applied for a “seven-star service certification” from Switzerland-based SGS rating and inspection company, a major international auditor on the Forbes Global 2000 list of world’s largest companies. But as to who gave the original "seven-star" rating that SGS certified, the hotel attributes the designation to an "international technical commission," but said it didn't have a name on record for that organization. SGS, when contacted, also said it didn't know who made the original designation. The TownHouse Galleria's "seven-star" rating lasted until 2011, and while no longer valid, the hotel nods to the accolade in its Seven Stars Galleria Suites. Meanwhile, SGS no longer offers the certification, instead of using internal criteria to audit hotels against local or international standards. In the U.S., firms like Forbes Travel Guide or AAA offer the benchmark classification systems. In most of Europe, it’s the Hotelstars Union; and in Great Britain, the Automobile Association (AA). In several alternative countries, the commercial enterprise department takes care of the system, however, ratings may be set by the web booking agents, like Orbitz, and international hotel teams, like little Luxury Hotels of the globe.
In other words: It’s complicated. “Anyone can come up with hotel ratings if you have enough people to use them [on a website],” says Pradhan. “To standardize something like this internationally would cost billions of dollars for hotels to conform to a set of rules they seem to be doing quite well without.” Within the Wild West of hotel ratings, the absence of a transparent international system has enabled the seven-star story to course into the thought, effervescent up every few years once an implausibly gilded hotel opens its doors. But without an official certification, anymore it’s just that—a myth, albeit draped in gold and glitz.
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