How are the hotels along the Camino de Santiago? Many times travelers think the accommodation category is essentially connected with the quality of its services.
Although it seems to be obvious, in some occasions we can find lower grade accommodation where quality matches others with superior rating.
Today, we will discover some differences on the standards of the hotels along the Camino, while we understand a little more about the regulations.
Preliminary data about the hotels along the Camino de Santiago
- 1 Preliminary data about the hotels along the Camino de Santiago
- 2 Mixing up the luxury and the stars on the Camino de Santiago
- 3 Are “Quality” and stars the same thing, when we talk about hotels on the Camino?
- 4 Hotels along the Camino de Santiago: Compliance of legal requirements
- 5 Meeting the quality standards on the Camino
- 6 The reliability of quality of the hotels along the Camino
- 7 Opinions and reviews on the Internet
- 8 Final thoughts, stars don’t always match experience on the Camino
To be able to describe the quality of the hotels along the Camino de Santiago, we should start with a brief description of the tourism sector. We will talk about hotels, but also about other sorts of accommodations along the Camino.
According to current regulations, in the Spanish tourism industry there is a specific classification for accommodations. Thus, within the last few years we can find big diversity between hostels, hotels, shelters, tourist apartments, rural houses, camping or also private tourist accommodation.
On one hand, hotels and hostels along the Camino de Santiago, all have the same distinction, the stars. Hotels can go from one to five stars, while some of them can include the “superior” distinction next to the star rating.
Hostels are also categorized by stars, from 1 to 3. Apartments however, are classified by keys ranging from 1 to 3, while camping and shelters simply belong to either first or second category.
On the other hand, tourism rural houses are completely different. They are classified depending on the type of accommodation and surroundings or facilities. In fact, we can find casas de aldea, casas de labranza, pazos, aldeas de turismo rural, casas rectorales… It depends on several things and each one of these types of rural accommodations can belong to different groups, such A, B, C or D.
Mixing up the luxury and the stars on the Camino de Santiago
When clients contact us to know about the hotels along the Camino de Santiago, sometimes they ask about the number of stars. When travelling, many people assume a wrong concept about the quality of services and facilities, as they expect it should be always matching with the stars.
But nowadays it is complicated to establish a standard. There are 3 star hotels that remain out of date and lack services, so their quality may have decreased in regards to other lower category hotels’ services and facilities.
On this matter, some review websites give us a much better idea about what to expect, as the rating itself is merely a regulatory standard.
In fact, if we read the guidelines, we can find out the main difference between the stars in a hotel or in a hostel. For instance in the services provided, as the room facilities, the complementary services or the staff.
Although there are certainly some differences between those kind of accommodations, the truth is that they are not strict in terms of quality. Quite the contrary, we could say that the great difference has a structural sense.
Thus, while a hotel must be part of an independent building, with their own lift, stairs and entrance, the hostels don’t need to fit that requirement.
On the other hand, there are hostels in Spain known as “hostales”, that are actually 2-3 star hostels with their own entrance, lift or stairs, just like hotels do.
Are “Quality” and stars the same thing, when we talk about hotels on the Camino?
Now it’s time to focus on the most important thing: the quality is not always connected to the quantity of stars. At least, in the way we understand it.
The vast majority of guests expect top notch services when they stay in a superior hotel, that’s 3, 4 or 5 stars. This includes immaculate rooms, fully operating services, comfortable beds, some hangers, a wardrobe, good wireless broadband, a rich buffet breakfast and so on. The list goes on with all the services we could expect after paying.
But many often find out that reality is quite different. Sometimes we create higher expectations about what accommodation should offer. As a consequence, when we check in we soon realize that our expectations about quality don’t really meet our standards, causing disappointment.
It may also happen that when we stay in a hostel or a one-star hotel, we get really surprised about the great quality of services offered, the latest facilities or the basic details that we would never expect to find there.
The entrepreneur enjoys the liberty of choosing the category of the accommodation. But, as there are standard guidelines and requirements to match, when it has been decided, the next step is to request for a verification of the requisites and later find out if the category suits the services.
Hotels along the Camino de Santiago: Compliance of legal requirements
Besides all the complexity concerning our possible expectations or impressions, and how those affect our global satisfaction level, there are some basic characteristics that every hotel should cover legally wise.
We are speaking about the daily cleanliness in the room, the proper functioning of the facilities and a good state of preservation, the essential amenities (as gel, shampoo and soap provided), hot and cold water at any time, an immaculate bed linen, a full working TV and Internet connection, a 24 hours’ customer service, an available telephone line for clients, or even a first-aid-kit, among others.
Although there are more fundamental services in the regulations, as we move into higher category accommodations, more services are going to be mandatory. At 3 to 5 star hotels, for instance, it is a must for the reception department to speak a foreign language in addition to the local languages. Moreover, at hotels from 4 stars and ahead, the requirement is also compulsory for all the restaurant staff.
We can also find a relevant difference between the size of the room in a 1-star hotel and an upgrade one. Particularly, you will often find smaller double rooms at 1 star hotels in comparison to higher category hotels. More stars normally also mean more square meters.
Even if all the requirements are mandatory for each category, we can often see some accommodations choosing to stay on a lower grade, besides offering more services or those expected from higher category establishments.
It is also common that, at the opening time, the accommodation meets all the expected standards from its category. But after some time, due to the neglect and lack of supervision there’s a drop on the minimum quality required to host the visitors.
Meeting the quality standards on the Camino
It’s essential that all tourism companies work to ensure that everybody meets the quality standards. Compliance with the quality aspects is their duty in favor of a better service for the guests and customers. Many companies, apart from meeting all the criteria on their category, also get involved in upgrading plans and quality guidelines in order to stand out and make sure everyone is meeting the minimum standards.
There are different regulations to help entrepreneurs to keep these quality standards. Some of them are the certification Tourism Quality Q, the EFQM European model, the ISO 9001 and also the ISO 9004 for the environmental certification.
Not all the companies are big enough to get involved in such projects. Because many of the accommodations in our region are SMBs which often open just a few months per year, it is difficult for them to invest time and resources on upgrading projects and keeping up to date with the quality standards.
Despite all this, we normally believe that 3 stars and plus hotels are always better, as their quality should be a priority, but we are often wrong with that assumption. Quite commonly, the labor laws and guidelines are forgotten, as the staff workers often don’t have enough days off, vacations, they have abusive or seasonal contracts or long shifts and so on. So, it is hard to motivate them in order to join the company for a continuous improvement program regarding the quality of their service.
As clients, we should be aware that the staff is actually making the hotel work. Sometimes they are more professional and other times not so much. At times they are more implicated but that’s not always the norm. All this doesn’t need to be necessarily connected to the stars, but more with everyone’s approach and desire towards the excellence of service.
The reliability of quality of the hotels along the Camino
As customers, we must bear in mind that it shouldn’t be everything about the category itself, but more about the true quality. Accommodation’s category can be a perfect indicator for the basic services or facilities we could find there, but perception of quality is something subjective.
Once in a while it is worth to try one of these lower grade hotels, where often guests are always well cared for. Many of them can really make customers feel in a familiar and friendly environment. For this companies the quality is often more important than quantity. How many times have we stayed in a hotel where we took quality for granted, only to find out a poor buffet breakfast, made with not so fresh, processed or overpriced food?
And which is the best solution?
The best solution is often reading through the feedback and reviews from others who have been there before us. We can then value the positive and negative aspects in order to consider those that are essential for our comfort. For example, would you rather like to find a moldy shower curtain? a dirty fork? a WC without toilet paper? unpleasant staff? Or humidity odor inside the room? Only customer feedback could provide us with such information.
At Galiwonders we are very concerned about collaborating with great accommodations meeting our standards. It is essential for us that they give pilgrims a good place to sleep, a nice cuisine and the best customer service. That’s why we encourage all of them to provide with feedback.
We think this is the most effective way to see if hotels are keeping the right standard with the quality offered. Or if on the contrary, they are doing it wrong at certain aspects. Besides this, many times the hotel owners ignore why they are unsuccessful and what they really need to strengthen.
Opinions and reviews on the Internet
Although several review and feedback websites give us the chance to have an idea about how our experience could be, we can find clashing opinions there. It is a relevant tool to get to know what other pilgrims think about the hotels along the Camino. From excellent to poor, all extremes are possible.
When the experience was terrible, people like to give their opinion, without even trying to speak with the company when issues happen. Most of the time, communication is the key to find a solution for any issue that arises.
Our recommendation is to always give us your opinion and feedback, both if the experience was good or a bad too. Everything has a solution in this area. But we must consider that not always feedback and category are matching.
Nowadays the standards and the customer feedback reflect in a good way the basic and most important criteria we demand for our comfort.
Final thoughts, stars don’t always match experience on the Camino
As we said, we should not mix up the number of stars with the quality of the experience. As many people have the wrong idea that more stars always imply better service, we first suggest them to read the recommendations and feelings from other customers before them.
It is not difficult to find negative feedback in 3 or 4 star hotels, while we can find excellent opinions about one-star hostels where quality standards are not so demanding.
3 aspects to bear in mind about the hotels along the Camino de Santiago
As we have mentioned before, there are three essential aspects according to categories:
- The decision of the entrepreneur to choose one of the categories.
- An effective compliance of the standards in such category.
- The supervision of the compliance during the time the hotel is staying on the specific category.
Moreover, there are three more relevant facts in the service: what we expect, what we desire and finally what we receive.
What’s the best for us? This is the subjective part that everyone should consider, as this is going to resolve the accommodation’s suitability in regards to our expectations.
An excellent rest, quality breakfast and food are fundamental to follow the Camino. We understand that it is not always easy to find a great offer of accommodation where the standards would be kept, especially on high season. However, your feedback will help us to share opinions and guidelines with our suppliers, so they can stay up to date in order to give you a superb service.
So, if you are looking for an agency that offers you all the support during every stage, don’t hesitate to contact us for further information on our routes. And if you have a special request or you would like to stay in a particular place, we can set a custom-made route for your own interests. Please do not hesitate to fill in the form below to get your tailor made itinerary!