[Wall Street Journal] Should You Trust a Hotel’s Star Rating? Depends Where You Look.

In a sea of hotel reviews and star ratings, it’s hard to know who to rely upon. Here’s how to get a vetted measure of what you’re in for before a trip.

WHEN STARS DON’T ALIGN The shine of hotel star ratings, especially online, can be deceptive. ILLUSTRATION: RUBY ASH/span>

For a five-day trip to Mexico with her college-age daughter, Arlana Keller of Calgary, Alberta, insisted they book a hotel rated four stars or up. In her experience, that threshold meant a nice room, good service and tasty food.

So when Keller reserved a 4.5-star resort in Cancún through WestJet Vacations, which sells package trips, she expected a dreamy stay.

Kaushik Vardharajan, who spent 20 years consulting for hotels and is now Boston University School of Hospitality’s real estate program director and professor, calls the unregulated hotel star system the bane of the travel industry’s existence. “Each website has its own methodology,” he said. “Nobody really talks about it openly because it is quite vague and opaque in many cases.” 

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