I read Gill Watson's letter (Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine 13 April) with much interest as it highlights a significant flaw in the so called harmonised quality standards that were agreed and are being applied in the UK by the tourist boards and the AA. Whilst a general level of agreement was reached by all organisations, including the RAC at the time, back in the late 90's/early 00's it was always recognised (albeit with some regret in many quarters) that VisitScotland would prove to be something of a maverick in the way the new standards are applied.
And so it turned out. Whilst the agreed standards set out a simple scoring system for achieving each star rating VisitScotland arguably muddied the water by putting in place a further set of scores that need to be achieved in each and every aspect of an establishment's operation in order to award the star rating that the overall score would indicate.
It would appear, from Gill's letter, that VisitBritain have adopted the VisitScotland approach.
VisitScotland would argue that to achieve five stars, for instance, it's only right that every part of an operation exudes excellence. On the other hand the AA approach allows for a bit more flexibility and acknowledges that the "bigger picture" is generally more important to the consumer that the fine detail.
This explains why our own property is rated a "five star restaurant with rooms" by the AA and a "four star restaurant with rooms" by VisitScotland. Under the scoring system we comfortably exceed the five star overall score. We significantly exceed the score in most areas but - like The Bijou in Harrogate - our score is a little short in bedrooms/bathrooms.
Anomalies like ours were never meant to exist under the agreed quality standards but as grading schemes are not currently on the political agenda and I doubt that there will be much of an appetite at the AA or VisitBritain for getting back around the table to iron out these issues I guess we'll just have to live with them for now!
It is a great pity, however, that the enormous amount of time and public money that was spent in getting to a point of agreement between the tourist boards and motoring organisations that many had thought impossible has not been built upon over recent years but instead the concept of "harmonisation" appears to be becoming a distant memory. It has been an opportunity lost.
David Young, Owner, The Cross at Kingussie (previously Chief Hotel and Restaurant Inspector at the AA)
Thank you for your comments.