Rest assured is the local quality assessment scheme developed with and for East Lincolnshire tourism and hospitality businesses located in the coastal resorts, market towns and rural hinterland. An important objective is to attract accommodation businesses which currently do not participate in any quality assessment, and to work continuously with industry partners to raise quality standards in line with ever-evolving visitor expectations.

 

INTRODUCTION

A quality experience is not the same as a luxury experience; it should be available to all visitors regardless of budget.

The national quality scheme helps visitors choose a place to stay with confidence. It covers minimum standards, legal requirements and a comprehensive range of measures. These measures, including certain facilities and rigid sizes, help to define the differences between basic and top of the range accommodation – shown by stars.

Some businesses find some of the measures inappropriate for their location, circumstances or property. They argue that the lack of certain facilities makes no difference to the quality of their visitors’ experiences.

Better than expected experiences attract compliments whereas worse than expected experiences attract complaints. In this age of social recommendation, dominated by questionable opinion and dodgy business practice, a professional, unbiased assessment can ease visitor confusion and business frustration.

Rest Assured addresses these twin issues of visitor and business confidence. An independent professional evaluation helps visitors to choose where to stay based on what is important to their experience. And it helps businesses to respond to unfair comment or bad reviews caused when a visitor’s experience fails to match their expectation.

Ideal for established businesses wishing to support a local initiative or currently without a quality rating because the national scheme does not meet their needs in the present climate; or for businesses 'new' to the hospitality industry, Rest Assured provides a cost effective introduction to professional assessment. Cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, dominate the assessment. They are the most important factors influencing two stages of the visitor journey: pre-visit visitor choice of where to stay and the actual staying experience.

Why develop new standards Rest Assured when there is an existing National Scheme?

Although the National Quality Scheme exists, a growing number of businesses have not engaged. Some feel the emphasis favours the range of facilities provided, rather than the overall experience. Others don’t require the additional marketing benefits included as part of the national scheme.

Rest assured is the local quality assessment scheme developed with and for East Lincolnshire tourism and hospitality businesses located in the coastal resorts, market towns and rural hinterland. An important objective is to attract accommodation businesses which currently do not participate in any quality assessment, and to work continuously with industry partners to raise quality standards in line with ever-evolving visitor expectations.

Rest Assured will assess the performance of all participating accommodation, regardless of size or location, measured against the same set of standards. Promoted through East Lindsey businesses and with a guarantee of local accountability, we believe visitors will respond favourably to it.

What are the main differences between the two schemes?

Quality Standards work. They work for visitors, particularly the emphasis on cleanliness, comfort and warmth of welcome. And they work for accommodation businesses, proving indicators for measuring and monitoring their quality improvement process.

Fresh thinking is vital if we want to grow and adapt to the ways visitors research, choose and evaluate their experience. The whole idea is to help people book accommodation with confidence and bring business to East Lindsey.

Developed in partnership with the SECWHA trade association, Rest Assured focuses on what’s most important to visitors. Each level, from 1 – 5, measures the quality of the experience rather than the facilities provided. In practice that means friendly people, clean and comfortable rooms have the biggest positive impact and are weighted accordingly in the assessment scoring. Overall the assessment helps to inform visitors about what they should expect so they avoid disappointment.

Another difference is that Rest Assured accommodation assessments cover the six stages of the visitor journey. This means assessing the look and ease of use of the business website pre-arrival right through to how the business chooses to keep in touch post-stay. This provides a range of quality indicators against which businesses can effectively measure their own continual improvement.

What does it mean for businesses?

Your first contact with a potential new visitor is probably their telephone call or email requesting booking information. But before reaching that point, your visitor is researching websites, comparing descriptions and seeking the opinions of others on sites like TripAdvisor. They form an expectation of your accommodation based on what you, or other people, have said.

You may not realise the influence you can have at different points in the visitor journey because so much of it is invisible to you. Rest Assured, assessments help you better to understand how you can make a positive impact at each stage. The benefits are a joined up experience for visitors and improved bottom line for your business.

Your assessment will cover certain expected facilities e.g. tea/coffee making. But the focus is on the quality of what you provide, not a list of what you need to provide. No luggage rack? No problem.

Rest assured assessors are trained professionals able to take an objective view about how you deliver your service, not what you deliver.

How does the assessment work?

The team of professionally trained assessors has in depth knowledge of consumer expectations through research. They bring this knowledge to your assessment in order to identify what is and is not acceptable. For example lack of a cleaning regime is not acceptable so they will be looking for evidence of a strong focus on cleanliness because it is of paramount importance to consumers. Likewise people make a huge impact on the visitor experience. Rudeness is not acceptable so they will be looking for evidence of staff trained in customer service skills.

Each area of the assessment has a quality level of 1 (acceptable) to 5 (excellent) and a weighting of 1 to 3 which determines the overall score gained. There are some areas, such as cleanliness and customer care, which research shows to be of the utmost importance to visitors. Rest Assured, places particular emphasis on these with a weighting of 3 to gain most points.

The total number of points gained during the assessment determines your overall star level. And in another innovation, half stars will recognise businesses that comfortably sit between two award levels or those making progress towards the next level but not quite there yet.

Why is there no overnight stay?

We needed an effective assessment process with industry costs controlled at a local level. By removing the requirement for an overnight stay, Rest Assured is quicker, more responsive and helps to keep costs down for accommodation providers.

In addition Rest Assured goes further in looking at pre-arrival decision making and post departure keeping in touch – with mystery shopper checks on e.g. email / telephone / website / social media.

A Rest Assured Visitor Charter sets out what participating businesses should adhere to. It establishes the willingness of all concerned to provide the quality visitor experience expected by today’s visitors.

How often will my assessment happen?

The Rest Assured assessments will take place annually. However reputation is everything. To maintain quality standards and prevent any complacency setting in we will continue to work with businesses by monitoring them throughout the year via social media or responding to any received complaints. We will also provide advice and guidance on an on-going basis which is another benefit of a locally based assessment.

What does it mean for visitors?

Visitors want reassurance that the place they choose to stay lives up to their expectations. This is why they seek out opinion websites like TripAdvisor, to find out what others think. Unless they have stayed before, they are making a choice based on trust that you will deliver what you say you will.

Gaining their trust enough to make a booking is easier when accompanied by the knowledge that an industry professional assessor making an informed, impartial view has visited the business concerned. Should any problems arise there is a local means of investigation, with prompt action and support offered.

In common with most quality initiatives Rest Assured will award stars to denote the level from 1 (acceptable) to 5 (luxury). Stars are familiar and a change of symbol would be confusing. But like consumer comparison websites, Rest Assured will show half stars because there can be a big difference between full star levels.

Why not just use TripAdvisor?

The dynamic nature of review sites such as TripAdvisor can make objective quality assessment seem restrictive and outdated. There is a strong role for social media – it isn’t going to change and will only increase in dominance.

We recognise it is the way that visitors research where they want to go, where they will stay and what they will do. The challenge for Rest Assured is to deliver a process that can complement opinion and reviews on social media yet still provide an objective view.

Well known issues over subjective comment, false claims and negative reviews can cause business problems. Rest Assured works alongside review sites but also provides objectivity and balance.

In the long term TripAdvisor reviews can be a useful source of business feedback. Sometimes they can highlight a simple issue that’s easily resolved, or prevent a bigger issue developing. There are many more positive reviews than negatives and no quality business should fear such feedback.

How long does it take to get a rating?

The process from application to assessment takes 4 – 6 weeks.

What does the process involve?

This is a 5 step process involving the following:

  • Business makes application

  • Assessor arranges visit

  • Advisory visit can be attained (separate fee)

  • Feedback provided to cover the scores achieved; highlights and areas for improvement

  • Provide marketing collateral

 Can I appeal the assessment?

 If you disagree with the assessment score awarded you can appeal the decision.

 What happens if I sell my business?

 In the event that you sell your business the assessment lapses after 8 weeks. The new owners of the business must apply for a new assessment as soon as possible. (To be agreed with SECWHA)

Will there be any specific awards?

Once Rest Assured is in place, the main priority will focus on gaining hospitality awareness, delivering prompt business assessments and growing visitor recognition. However once established, we don’t rule out introducing special awards in the future so watch this space as they say.