The running joke is that many five-star hotels in Viet Nam bought the extra stars to boost their image and attract more guests. In fact, many are essentially three-star hotels. The problem is there is not an internationally recognized system of awarding stars to hotels, let alone a legitimate and fair one in Viet Nam.
As this article points out, in Europe, local government agencies and independent organizations assign star ratings to hotels. In the U.S., hotels are rated by a variety of different groups, including travel guidebooks, national consumer travel associations, travel agencies, and websites.
Here’s a graphic comparison. The Wyndham Legend Halong and the Majestic Mong Cai, owned by Saigontourist, a state-owned company, are both five-star establishments – on paper. I have stayed at both and can assure you there’s no comparison. The latter is a three-star hotel, at best, while the former fully deserves its five-star rating.
Let me count the ways: design, comfort, cleanliness, quality service and food, crawling insects or the lack thereof, etc., ad nauseam. In fact, you don’t even have to follow in my footsteps and stay there. Just have a look at their websites. Seeing really is believing.
Those of us who live in Viet Nam, the Vietnamese and expats, know the difference. My guess is that most foreign tourists do not. The running joke is no joke; it’s a sad reality. A tourism expert told me something I already knew: a thick envelope handed to the appropriate provincial official does the trick. The ROI is more business because of a higher rating. Said official supplements his state salary through petty corruption.
Think of this as a type of fraud perpetrated against mostly unsuspecting guests who mistakenly believe that there is some kind of comparability between hotels with the same rating.
Shalom (שלום), MAA