Do 7-star hotels exist?

Take a look with us behind the hotel rating scene as we look at the myth of 7-star hotels.

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah with Dubai skyline. Image credit MasterLu
Burj Al Arab Jumeirah with Dubai skyline. Image credit MasterLu

So what is a 7-star hotel? Bottom line is that officially there is no such classification.

Rumor has it that two decades ago when the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai opened its doors for the first time, a journalist coined the term to add a notch to describe the supremely luxurious facilities of this hotel.

Smart hotel marketing professionals immediately jumped on the train. Vikram Pradhan, a former Starwood Hotels and Resorts North America executive, said in a 2017 Condé Nast Traveler article that “a 7-star hotel only exists in the marketer’s brilliant gimmick sense”.

Purported 7-star hotels around the world

The most top-ranking of the supposed 7-star hotels on Google is Burj Al Arab, despite, as reported by Middle Eastern media outlet The National in 2009, the Burj Al Arab’s management company never using the term 7-star hotel in their advertising.

Another hotel often cited is The Pangu 7 Star Hotel Beijing, which is located on the tail-end of the Pangu Plaza. The hotel offers its Pangu Suite 7 Star, an 84-square-meter space with views to Olympic Park, Watercube, and Bird’s Nest and is priced at 726 USD a night on, compared to 2,000 USD for a king-size bedroom at the Burj Al Arab.

Beijing Olympic Park one of the unique 7-star hotels. Image credit: harryv1680/iStock
Beijing Olympic Park . Image credit: harryv1680/iStock

The suite offers a separate living and bedroom, butler service, a digital fireplace, Bose Entertainment System and LCD TV screen as well as 600-thread-count Egyptian cotton bedding by Frette. The Italian Marble bathroom with handcrafted mural features a Kaldewei bathtub with embedded LCD TV.

Meanwhile, last December the Tehran Times announced the groundbreaking for a 7-star hotel on Kish Island, Iran.

The situation is similar with purported 7-star hotels in the U.S.

A project called iSquare Mall + Hotel by Orlando private equity and real estate firm BlackMine claims on its website its hotel will be “North America’s first 7 star hotel”. Originally due for completion in 2017, the development has been delayed but “shaping up to break ground” as per an iSquare Mall + Hotel Facebook post, dated August 2018.

Meanwhile, in New York, Despite previous announcements by Vornaldo Realty Trust to construct a 7-star hotel in The Big Apple, CityReality reported in June 2018 it had been “radio silence from the developers, and building applications have yet to be filed”.

Setting standards without standardization

When it comes to hotel ratings, standardization among countries, industry bodies, platforms, and systems presents a challenge, as different countries have different conditions for awarding ratings.

For instance, in the U.S., the American Automobile Association (AAA) provides a “diamond ratings” system for both hotels and restaurants. This rating system started in 1937, when inspectors were hired by AAA and sent out to provide “unbiased information about travel establishments” across the U.S. to AAA members, and has continued ever since.

In a similar vein in the UK, the Automobile Association (AA) awards a rating based on a one-to-five star system, with 60 points of assessment in areas such as service, bedrooms, and food.

AA provides its ratings based on “common quality standards for hotel and guest accommodation”, which are agreed to in conjunction with the UK tourist authorities; VisitBritain, VisitScotland, and VisitWales.

Under the AA rating system, 5-star hotels, for example, should offer multilingual services and guests should be greeted at the door.

In Europe, Hotelstars Union was launched in 2010. The currently 18-member-countries strong organization aims to establish a harmonized hotel-ranking system across European nations to provide guests and hoteliers with quality transparency and security.

Expect a personalized greeting with flowers or a gift and a one-hour ironing service as part of the room rate at their rated 5-star hotel properties. Why not round out the experience and book a comfortable Blacklane car service to deliver you to the hotel of your choice, in style.

Star ratings for those who value independence

Are you the type of person who appreciates a global and independent rating? Check out the Forbes Travel Guide website. Their rating model verifies luxury.

Visit Forbes, AAA, or AA to get a comprehensive understanding of the hotel rating
Visit Forbes, AAA, or AA websites to get a comprehensive understanding of the hotel rating system. Image credit: TommL/iStock

Highly trained inspectors visit every property to be rated and stay a minimum of two nights. The evaluation is based on up to 900 objective criteria.

Attempting to be treated and experience the properties as a regular guest, the global team of assessors operates anonymously at all times.

The Forbes star rating system has been developed and refined since 1958 and it emphasizes the service aspect. According to its website, Forbes believes “the experience at a hotel goes beyond looks — how it makes you feel is what you will remember most”.

To be worthy of five stars, the hotel’s service ought to be flawless and boast impressive facilities. Four stars are awarded to exceptional properties offering high levels of service and facilities to match.

Personal choices

Ratings are useful tools to help you decide which residence to book and to compare the service level across hotels. However, be aware that sometimes stipulations, such as the protection of historical monuments, may negatively affect a property’s rating. But do you really care whether there is an elevator which justifies an additional star if you can stay at a centuries-old castle that is your dream venue?

Before you book your sanctuary and head out on a business trip or vacation, read up and listen to what other guests have said and trust your instincts as no one else but you know what suits you best.


Petra Loho

Petra is a freelance writer and journalist from Austria currently based in Hong Kong. She is an avid traveler who loves exploring Asia. She captures her travel and cultural experiences across the globe both in writing and with her camera.