The recent exposé of a group of Union Ministry of Tourism officials accepting bribes to grant star rating to hotels in the State could be the tip of the iceberg, said industry insiders.

They point out that the business of rating up to Three Stars level is left to the locally constituted Hotel and Restaurants’ Approval and Classification Committee (HRACC), which usually comprises the respective regional tourism department directors, representatives of the hospitality industry and tour operators, and principal of the Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, Kovalam.

There are parameters laid down to rate a property. Physical compliance to the parameters is checked during site visits by the committee members. For example, there are stipulations on the number of rooms or restaurants in a property for it to be rated as a star facility.

Though HRACC members visit the sites before it grants the ratings, the decision is mostly left to Tourism Ministry officials, which leaves scope for arbitrariness and malpractices.

This is particularly the case in Kerala where bar licences are linked to star ratings. Till recently, only three-star hotels used to be given bar licences. This had led to a scramble for the rating with owners of property trying to modify facilities without taking into consideration the spirit of the prescriptions as well as trying to influence the members of the committee engaged in rating the property.

An industry source points to the contradictions where the situation in Kerala is different from other parts of the country. For example, a property to get a four-star rating must have a bar in different parts of the country. In Kerala, till recently, only a three-star rated facility were given bar licence.

“Linking star rating to bar licence is a disaster for the tourism industry,” said Jose Dominic veteran in the hospitality industry based in the city. He said that linking the two, instead of the government following its own liquor policy, sets the clock back on the progress of the tourism industry in the State.

Mr. Dominic said the rating of hotel property was done in a scientific manner and in the right spirit though he did not rule out the possibility of compromises . However, he said, he did not want the entire industry and the rating process to come under the shadow of doubt.

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