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`Key` rating system for rented rooms and apartments

Holidays with key in hand is the unofficial slogan Greece`s owners of rented rooms and apartments have adopted ahead of the imminent introduction of an official rating system for their establishments that…

Holidays with key in hand is the unofficial slogan Greece`s owners of rented rooms and apartments have adopted ahead of the imminent introduction of an official rating system for their establishments that have been both loved and loathed by domestic travellers and foreign visitors alike.

At last Monday`s session of the national tourism council, Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who chairs the body, announced a presidential decree had been drafted on the key rating system – similar to the international system of stars for hotels – that will apply to existing rented rooms and apartments.

He said he was pleased that the first major step in government efforts to boost the quality of the tourism industry concerns rented rooms and apartments which, oftentimes, we ignore or downgrade though they do make up 50 percent of all tourist accommodation in Greece, contribute to gross domestic product and provide employment.

Though a popular choice for Greek travellers, mainly due to their affordability, rented rooms have attracted bad press over the years as a large percentage operate without the official Hellenic Tourism Organisation (EOT) permit and are thus illegal, while numerous tourists have complained about the conditions of certain units and lack of services provided.

Through the key system, the government hopes to wipe out the black market in rooms and establish a reliable method of categorisation – based on a rating of one to four keys – in order to do away with the current situation whereby many room owners and tour operators basically pick and choose the classification they believe the unit should fall under.

EOT aims, firstly, for the rooms to retain their family character, friendliness, the direct owner-client relationship and their appeal to tourists seeking an alternative to hotels. Secondly, it intends to improve the quality of the units and their services, and lastly, to ensure that the categorisation of each unit is clear and not subjectively evaluated.

I would like to believe that through the changes effected by the recently enacted law 2741/1999 as well as the key rating system, we are upgrading not only these small- and medium-sized enterprises but the general environment in which the larger, hotel units operate, Venizelos said.

He reiterated his view that improvements made at single hotel units, particularly the larger ones, hold little significance if the surrounding district fails to meet a certain quality benchmark. Not only will the upgrading of rented rooms benefit the units themselves, but they will allow entire areas to acquire a name for themselves, one which will have commercial benefits. They will be able to promote themselves in a more organised manner, Venizelos said.

The key system is divided into two sections, namely obligatory and graded criteria, with the former relating to basic technical requirements, cleanliness, room dimensions among other elements, while the latter goes into greater detail and gives operators extra points if their rooms are located, perhaps, in a traditional housing settlement.

In reality, the quality of the operations and their services is more important than any added element of `luxury`… This requires some investment on the part of every businessman. Those who have not invested in their unit for decades must realise this if the system is to move ahead, Venizelos stated.

He ordered that the draft decree on the key rating system – which Confederation of Rented Rooms and Apartments president Stelios Polykratis welcomed by presenting the minister with a golden key – be forwarded to the Council of State within the next few days.

EOT has also produced a working paper on the much-debated star rating system for hotels which Venizelos said would be distributed among industry representatives over the next few days. He noted that appraisals were expected within 15 days so that the proposal could proceed and finally be implemented.

As regards the 2000 tourist season, Venizelos said EOT`s international marketing and advertising campaign was progressing smoothly, within its budget.

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