As a society, we have become increasingly more reliant on other people’s experience to help make our own buying decisions.

I’m sure we’ve all scrolled through dozens of reviews before clicking ‘buy now’ on the different online shopping sites – especially for big ticket items.

And it’s the same when we travel. Our own newshub site reports weekly on trends in online research in hospitality, how the different hotel and airline brands battle for top spots on the various OTAs and search engines.

But there’s always going to be that element of doubt.

How real, how unbiased, how un-skewed are those reviews? However forensic our own research, there will inevitably be someone somewhere working to bypass the system and leapfrog the competition – at least until the inevitable arrival of blockchain technology bringing immutable transparency to review systems in the end. But that’s another story – and a future blog post!

Until then, we’re stuck in the hospitality industry with whatever we have to go by, in terms of endorsement and standards we can recognise.

I spent a large part of my own career as an inspector within tourism, making unannounced visits to hotels and guesthouses the world over, checking them against written standards that allowed them to advertise a given rating. I think it has become increasingly understood among consumers that star ratings do not always guarantee an experience, but are more useful for establishing the facilities you will find – and are useful if you need to know there’ll be room service whether you need it or not, but less useful when it comes to the sort of welcome you can expect, or how good the breakfast coffee might be.

Which is where the ‘real reviews’ came in. By forensically ploughing through enough reviews, reading between the lines to find the ones by people most like yourself, with expectations closest to your own, you might get somewhere. But it can be hard work.

And even then something can still go wrong. The hotel might be undergoing refurbishment, it may not be the same as the pictures you based the decision on, or – and I hit this myself on a recent trip overseas – the hotel might have overbooked, and given your room to someone else!

This is why we, as an Association, representing hundreds of operators and agents worldwide, in a segment of the hospitality sector that is relatively new, have always been intent on providing consumers with the best possible idea of what they can expect if they book a stay with one of our members.

And it is why we launched our Quality Accreditation Marques back in 2014, to drive up, maintain and inform standards around bookings, facilities and health and safety. In fact, to give the customer every idea of what they can expect from their experience so there is absolutely no disappointment.

The ASAP Quality Accreditation process is complex, thorough and regularly renewed, meaning consumers can be confident that accredited Members anywhere in the world are delivering a consistently high standard of customer care, comfort and health and safety.

And we were proud that this very week, on 1st September 2018, we made good on our pledge earlier this year.

We made Accreditation a requirement of ASAP Membership, and not just a nice-to-have.

Of course, our member numbers dropped slightly, and temporarily. They are already bouncing back, and we are delighted to have welcomed several new members this week alone, and to have received others back, some who have already become fully Accredited and others who have begun the process. And as each completes, they will be proudly added back to our growing and dynamic list.

As an example of how seriously we take Accreditation, one very good operator’s process has stalled. The single point of failure is that they operate from within a building where they have no control over one element – building fire safety certification, which rests with the landlord. And yet it is the building’s own landlord who insists they get our Accreditation as part of their lease! And between us, I’m sure we will find a solution. Meanwhile they continue to run a successful and high quality business.

But as a trade body, we can stand tall, now, knowing that every single operator or agent displaying ASAP Quality Accreditation Member branding meets our strict, impartial standards around accommodation, safety and customer experience, and we can recommend them to anyone.

Thank you all for your ongoing support. Onwards and upwards!