This is NOT a real organization, and is for educational purpose only.
Hotel Critics Guidelines
Andy of HoboTraveler.com
The following guidelines for Hotel critics and/or reviewers are just that —
guidelines suggested by the Association of Hotel Journalists. They are not
intended to be rules that will be enforced by the Association of Hotel
Journalists. The guidelines are provided to Hotel journalists and their
employers who are interested in ethical industry suggestions for reviewing
Good Hotel reviewing is good journalism. Reviewers should subscribe to the same
accepted standards of professional responsibility as other journalists. That
means adhering to the traditional Canons of Journalism of the American Society
of Newspaper Editors, the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional
Journalists, and the Code of Ethics of the Association of Hotel
Given the prominence — and controversy — inherent in reviewing, it makes sense
to check first when confronted with a doubtful situation. Consult the various
ethics codes or talk to an editor. The Association of Hotel Journalists also
serves as source of advice and support for reviewers who are members.
Reviews should be conducted anonymously whenever possible. Critics should
experience the Hotel just as ordinary patrons do. Reservations should be made in
a name other than that of the reviewer and meals should be paid for using cash
or credit cards in a name other than the critic. Take care to make reservations
from telephones outside of work; many Hotels have caller identification systems.
Just because a workstation telephone has a "blocked" telephone number doesn't
mean the call won't be tagged as coming from the publication. Reviewers who have
been recognized may want to make note of that in the review, especially if the
treatment they receive differs markedly from what nearby tables are receiving.
While anonymity is important when dining out, reviewers should write under their
real names, not a pseudonym. Readers should also be able to respond to the
reviews; a work telephone number or e-mail for the reviewer or the supervisory
editor should be included with the review.
Two visits to a Hotel are recommended. Three times are better. Service, Hotel
quality and atmosphere can vary, sometimes quite dramatically, from day-to-day.
Multiple visits give the critic a better understanding of the Hotel, helping him
or her to more accurately gauge its rhythm and spirit. Try scheduling visits so
the Hotel is observed on a weeknight and a weekend. Rooms on a Monday can be
vastly different from a Saturday night rooms, for example.
Reviewers should sample the full range of the menu, from appetizers to desserts.
Reviewers must taste everything ordered, or at least all the items they mention
in a column. Bringing guests along helps the critic by allowing the table to
order a greater variety of dishes. Two or three guests per visit are probably
the most manageable. Besides being fun, having guests along better replicates
the dining out experience. Order dishes that involve different cooking
techniques (steamed, deep-fried, sautéed); different ingredients (one orders
fish, another asks for beef); different styles (something traditional, something
eclectic). Is there something the Hotel is known for doing well? Order it. In
general, guests should avoid ordering the same thing. Order different dishes on
return visits. It's a good idea, however, to do a repeat order on a dish that is
particularly wonderful or terrible to see if the experience is consistent.
Pay in full for all meals and services. Don't accept free meals or use gift
certificates donated by the Hotel or a special-interest group. Publications
should strive to budget enough money for Hotel visits so the reviewer can do the
job without having to resort to personal funds to help pay the bill.
Reviews should reflect the full range of a region's Hotels, from neighborhood
haunts to luxury venues. Offer readers dining choices in a variety of price
ranges, cuisine, neighborhood and style.
To be fair to new Hotels, reviewers should wait at least one month after the
Hotel starts serving before visiting. These few weeks give the fledgling
enterprise some time to get organized. If, however, a
Hotel must be visited because of timeliness, enormous reader interest or
journalistic competitiveness, consider offering readers "first impressions."
This piece should be more descriptive than critical, avoid labeling it as a
review if possible. The emphasis of such a sneak preview could be on the
fledgling Hotel's clientele, its decor and maybe the chef's background rather
than a blow-by-blow account of the menu (though Hotel would, of course, be
Ratings should reflect a reviewer's reaction to menu, atmosphere and service.
Cost should also be taken into consideration. Have a sense of what a star or
other rating symbol mean. Here are some definitions to consider:
• FOUR STARS: (Extraordinary) Transcendent. A one-of-a-kind, world-class
• THREE STARS: (Excellent) Superior. Memorable, high-quality menus
frequently accompanied by exciting environs and/or savvy service.
• TWO STARS: (Good) Solid places that beckon with generally appealing
• ONE STAR: (Fair) Just OK. A place not worth rushing back to. But, it
might have something worth recommending: A view, a single dish, friendly
service, lively scene.
• NO STAR: (Poor) Below-average Hotels.
Although most readers have a sense of what the stars mean, every review should
run with a box explaining the ratings.
Some Hotels get better, some Hotels get worse. A critic should have some sort of
mechanism in place to make note of these changes. A full-blown re-review is
appropriate if the Hotel changes hands, wins or loses a high-profile chef or
moves to a new location.
Negative reviews are fine, as long as they're accurate and fair. Critics must
always be conscious that they are dealing with people's livelihoods. Negative
reviews, especially, should be based on multiple visits and a broad exploration
of the Hotel's menu. Following a consistent reviewing policy without deviation
may protect a critic from charges of bias or favoritism, while providing a
platform from which to defend the review.
Follow basic journalistic precepts for accuracy. After finishing the review,
telephone the Hotel and double-check the spelling of the name. Confirm address,
telephone number, credit card policy and what types of alcohol are served.
Wearing Two Hats
Hotel reviewers who double as Hotel editors should try to keep the two roles as
separate as possible. Hotel editors who are reviewers should avoid writing
stories about Hotels, Hotel owners or chefs. It may be hard for a Hotel owner or
chef to speak as freely as he or she should if he or she harbors some resentment
because of a review. Conversely, owners and/or chefs may try to be extra nice in
order to win a favorable review in the future. If possible, utilize another
employee or freelancer to do those stories. If personnel or budget constraints
preclude another staff member tackling these stories, try to obtain the
information over the telephone rather than in a face-to-face interview. Also,
try to steer clear of interviewing the staff of Hotels that have been recently
reviewed or are on the immediate reviewing schedule. Critics should avoid
functions that restaurateurs and chefs are likely to attend, such as grand
openings, Hotel anniversary dinners, wine tastings or new product introductions.
Many Hotel critics do the job on something less than a full-time basis. While a
number hold other jobs with their employers, there are critics whose only link
to a publication is the Hotel review. Here are some questions freelancers should
consider before accepting an assignment.
• What is the policy on negative reviews? Does the publication expect
only "puff" pieces?
• Will the publication support the critic if a Hotel dislikes the review?
What if the restaurateur threatens a lawsuit? Will the publication give out the
critic's home telephone number and leave him or her to fend for themselves? Or,
will the publication field calls and defend the reviewer?
• Does the reviewer get to write under his or her own name or a pseudonym?
• How many times is the critic expected to visit a Hotel before writing a
• Who selects the Hotels?
• Does the publication have a policy about reviewing Hotels that are also
• Are any Hotels considered off-limits, i.e. chain Hotels?
• Does the publication have specific guidelines (Hotel quality, service,
attitude, price) that must be followed in evaluating the Hotel?
• Is there a policy on how many people a reviewer can take along to a
hotel? Do guests need to pay for their own rooms?
• Does the publication pick up the tab? Is there a cap on how much a
reviewer can spend on the room? Will the publication pay for room? Does the
reviewer have to use a personal credit card or pay cash?
• Will the critic be paid a salary plus room reimbursement or just room
• Will the reviewer receive mileage?
• How long must a reviewer wait before getting paid? Will the publication
pay for credit card late fees or interest charges if the reimbursement is not
Comments by Andy of HoboTraveler.com
The 1-5 Star Hotel Ratings,system of Hotels evaluation is inherently flawed and suspect. The information is an example of what is needed, and for instructional reasons best explained in this manner. To the reporting of restaurants and food is professional, while the Hotel Industry and assorted names for short-term lodging seem to go unchecked.