-Frank Corr examines a system in decline
To indulge in a culinary metaphor, grading has always been a ‘hot potato’ for Irish hoteliers.
Back in 1948 a Miss Brigid Duignan bitterly complained to the Irish Tourist Board that after she had spent her money on wallpaper and new china, an Inspector had called for ‘a cup of tea’, after which he promptly downgraded her premises.
‘Is that any way to treat a woman trying to build a business’, she moaned.
She was not alone among hoteliers, who ever since have had issues with inspectors from ITB, Bord Fáilte or their latter day successors. Ever since Sean Lemass, in the Tourist Traffic Act of 1939, provided for the compulsory registration of hotels, their owners have battled with the ‘Powers that Be’ on the issue of grading. In the early years, hundreds of premises were simply dumped out of the system because, even though they had the word ‘Hotel’ over the door, they were really pubs or guest houses. Grading those who remained was far from a scientific process. An Inspector called- often on his or her bicycle, had a a look and a cup of tea and made an arbitrary decision on the grade to be awarded. By 1951 the Irish Hotels Federation was demanding a ‘more scientific approach’ and the inclusion of ‘information symbols’ as well as details of how Bord Fáilte arrived at its grading decisions. A few years later, IHF President F.X.Burke wanted hotels classified as ‘de luxe’, ‘city’, ‘resort’ or ‘provincial’. A new row erupted over the number of bathrooms needed in hotels. The Federation wanted one for every ten rooms and Bord Failte demanded one for eight.