Navigating the Hotel Star Rating System in Tunisia

So you’re interested in visiting Tunisia, but you’re still having trouble deciding which hotels to book. Should you travel on a budget by choosing a 3-star hotel or splurge on a 5-star hotel? What does a 3-star, 4-star, or 5-star hotel in Tunisia even mean? We understand it can be difficult to navigate the hotel star rating system in Tunisia. In this article, we hope to address some of the questions you might have. If you still have further questions after this article, feel free to contact our team of Tunisia Travel Experts who reside in Tunisia.

Quick Summary

  • There is no universal hotel star rating system. Avoid comparing Tunisian hotels with hotels from other countries.
  • A new rating standard for Tunisian tourist hotels was implemented in 2021 but has not been fully implemented across the country.
  • The hotel star ratings may not be consistent across Tunisia – coastal hotels are usually more developed than interior regions.
  • Tips: Consider checking hotel guest ratings, researching the hotel’s facilities, booking smaller boutique guesthouses in Tunisia, and booking through a trusted travel agency.

Table of Contents

What is a Hotel Star Rating System?

Hotel stars are a rating system created to evaluate hotels based on their quality. The hotel’s cleanliness, quality, customer service, amenities, ease of access, location, entertainment, food services, room variations, and views can all be considered when determining a hotel’s rating.

The star rating can be a good indicator for travelers to set a reasonable expectation of the level of service during their hotel stay. Comparing hotels based on their star ratings can also be a quick way for travelers to filter their hotel selections by narrowing down the hotels according to the amenities and prices.

How Does a Hotel Star Rating System Work?

Hotels are typically rated on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer as to what these stars actually mean because there are so many hotel star rating systems using many different factors. The only common denominator among the different systems is that the higher the star rating, the better the quality you can expect from the hotel. A 1-star accommodation is usually very basic providing the bare necessities for a night’s stay. A 5-star accommodation is very high-end providing a luxurious experience.

Some countries allow a half-star rating to be added where hotels are rated in between star gradings. In recent years, some tourism marketers have introduced an unofficial 6-star rating for exceptionally luxurious hotel properties.

Who Determines How Many Stars Each Hotel Receives?

While most countries adopt the 1-to-5-star rating scale, there is no universal hotel star rating system. The hotel star ratings may be determined by local government agencies or independent organizations. Each region and sometimes each country may adopt a different standard to determine how many stars a hotel will be rewarded.

Many European countries have laws that define a single public hotel standard. Other countries such as Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have their hotel standard ratings determined by the hotel industry associations.

In the United States, the hotel star ratings are determined by various travel industry leaders including national travel associations, travel agencies, travel websites, and travel guidebooks. That is why an American hotel may receive different star ratings from different sources. It is important to not only check the hotel’s star rating but to also understand the criteria used for such rating.

Without a universal hotel star rating system, travelers cannot expect a 4-star hotel in America to have the same quality level as a 4-star hotel in Europe or a 4-star hotel in North Africa.

To make things even more complicated, hotel guests can also leave their guest ratings on TripAdvisor or other hotel booking websites using a 1-to-5-star rating. This guest rating is based on their own personal experience at the hotel and does not necessarily follow the travel industry standards. Online guest ratings can be helpful, but be aware of fake reviews or biased reviews.

How is a Hotel’s Star Rating Determined in Tunisia?

The previous hotel rating system dates back to 2005 when hotel star ratings were based on physical criteria and obsolete standards. The Tunisian Federation of Hotels introduced a newer hotel classification system in 2010 which included safety issues, food hygiene, and accessibility for disabled guests. However, under this old hotel star rating system, a hotel that invests in its infrastructure and quality of service can be unfairly categorized with another hotel that does not make efforts to improve. Adopting a newer hotel star rating system is much needed to revitalize the tourism industry in Tunisia.

In 2021, the Ministry of Tourism in Tunisia adopted a new rating standard for Tunisian tourist hotels. This initiative is part of the “Overhaul of the Rating System of Tunisian Hotels” project aimed at improving the quality of hotel services and promoting Tunisia as a quality tourist destination. The desired outcome is to align the star rating criteria with international hotel standards in terms of perceived quality of service, sustainable development, safety, and accessibility to people with specific needs and hygiene.

It is unfortunate that the adoption of this new hotel star rating standard in 2021 coincided with the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Tunisian hotels were given 3 years to voluntarily adhere to this new standard, while awaiting the worldwide health situation and Tunisia tourism to improve. After the 3 years, it will be mandatory for Tunisian hotels to adopt the new hotel star rating standard.

According to the Minister of Tourism and Handicraft in Tunisia, Habib Ammar, this new rating “should not be perceived as a sanction for the profession, but a benchmark aimed at improving the quality of services in Tunisian hotels specifying that the relationship between the administration and the profession is based mainly on partnership and not on sanction or control.”

What is the Difference in Hotel Star Ratings in Tunisia?

A higher star rating for a Tunisian hotel generally represents better room quality, services, food quality, comfort, hotel facilities, and amenities. However, it would not be a fair comparison to compare a 3-star hotel in Tunisia with a 3-star hotel in North America.

It is important to note that the Tunisian hotel star rating system may not be consistent across the country. Hotels in the Tunisian coastal regions such as Sousse, Hammamet, and Djerba are more developed than the hotels in the interior regions. It is expected that hotels at these popular beach destinations receive more guests each year, and have greater resources for renovations during the off-seasons. On the other hand, hotels in the interior regions tend to struggle with filling their hotel capacity. Guests staying at these hotels are likely on a tour circuit on their way to another destination, unlike the beachside hotels where guests may be staying for up to a week.

To make things even more complicated, Tunisian hotels with the same hotel star rating could vary drastically in their quality of services. It can be helpful to imagine Tunisian hotel star ratings can be further categorized into a wide range of low-tier, mid-tier, and top-tier levels. We tend to see the greatest discrepancies in quality of services among the Tunisian 5-star hotels. Since a 5-star rating in Tunisia is the highest star rating, it is possible to see a newly constructed luxurious 5-star hotel listed alongside other 5-star hotels that have not been renovated for years.

Once all Tunisian hotels are obliged to adopt the new hotel star rating system, this will introduce a higher standard to evaluate hotels accurately and with consistency across the country. Until then, we can still expect some hotels to proudly showcase their star rating from the old system, regardless of what the hotel’s current standard is actually like. We understand that this can be frustrating for many travelers. It is important to not only consider a hotel’s star rating but also look at their guest ratings and its management if available.

How Does Mosaic North Africa Choose Which Hotels to Use?

At Mosaic North Africa, all of the accommodations in our tour itineraries are hand-picked based on the consistently positive feedback we receive from our customers who have stayed there. Our sales team of Travel Experts has also visited most of the accommodations that we use, so we can recommend these hotels based on our own personal experience.

When we customize a Tunisia tour itinerary for our customers, we typically list our recommended hotels in the tour itinerary, so customers can check the hotel websites or third-party sites for their reviews. As much as possible, we try to select our hotels based on an international standard rather than the Tunisian standard. This often means we will use a hotel with a 4-star rating in Tunisia as our recommended 3-star hotel to align with international hotel standards.

It is possible to do a mix of hotels from different star ratings. In regions such as El Kef and Gafsa where there are not many accommodation options, we will by default use the best available accommodation in the region.

Dar Alyssa Guesthouse in El Kef – Outdoor Dining Area

What is the Difference Between Hotels and Dar Guesthouses in Tunisia?

You can stay at one of Tunisia’s many luxurious coastal hotel resorts, but that often means you’re one of 500 guests at the hotel. Unlike large-scale hotel chains, guests will never be treated as one of many when staying at a Tunisian dar guesthouse (“dar” means “house” in Arabic). Guests tend to appreciate these traditional guesthouses for their sincere dedication to providing exceptional hospitality and authentic Tunisian cuisine.

These traditional guesthouses in Tunisia are commonly owned and operated by an entire generation of families. Many guesthouse owners live in a private section of the guesthouse which provides you with the needed privacy. It is always a fun cultural experience to interact with the owners and hear about the history of the guesthouse and surrounding region.

These dar guesthouses are typically older historical landmarks that have been renovated and transformed into charming living spaces. Guests will appreciate the Arab-styled architecture that has been maintained while enjoying modern facilities that could include sunroof patios and swimming pools.

Outdoor Swimming Pool at the Dar Dhiafa Guesthouse
Outdoor Swimming Pool at the Dar Dhiafa Guesthouse in Djerba

While visiting Tunisia, consider staying at some of the Tunisian dar guesthouses such as Dar Hi Life in Nefta, Dar Dhiafa in Djerba, Dar Omi in Sousse, and Dar Seddik in Gafsa.

dar hi life nefta
Dar Hi Life in Nefta – room overlooking a palm oasis

Reach for the Stars – Book a Private Tunisia Tour with Recommended Accommodations

Believe us when we say we understand the frustration of understanding the Tunisian hotel star rating system. Our team of Travel Experts all live in Tunisia, and we are visiting and staying at accommodations throughout the country to have firsthand experience of what these hotels can offer. We have created our own list of recommended hotels and dar guesthouses in Tunisia over the years. We are happy to help you plan a private Tunisia tour by customizing an itinerary and selecting the accommodations that best suit your travel preferences and budget.

Contact one of our Tunisia Travel Experts today to start planning a hassle-free holiday in Tunisia.

About the author

Joshua Mok has been living in Tunisia since 2016. He has traveled extensively throughout the country, and has firsthand experience with the language, people, and culture of North Africa. It is his passion to introduce to others some of the best destinations in North Africa that he has experienced.

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