New rules have been announced for hotels across Europe that will change the way star ratings are set and remove certain 'free' items from guests' rooms.

The Hotelstars Union (HSU) has revised its star rating system in light of ongoing hotel staffing challenges and to make hotels more sustainable by removing certain 'unnecessary items' that are usually provided to customers free of charge.

The new criteria is scheduled to take effect from January 2025 in the 21 European countries that are members of the HSU. That includes holiday destinations that are popular with UK tourists like Greece, the Netherlands, Malta, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Poland and Switzerland.

The HSU sets the criteria that hotels in member countries must follow to achieve certain star ratings between one and five stars. The catalogue currently features 247 different checkboxes, which includes providing safes in rooms, minibars, cosmetic products like shower caps, hair dryers and laundry services - however this will soon be reduced to 239 elements.

The changes include recommendations for mattresses to be cleaned to extend their lifespan and reducing 'free' items in rooms, such as sewing kits and shoe polishing kits. Changes of bed linen and towels will also only be provided when requested by the guest.

As a result of staff shortages across Europe, the revised criteria foresees the reduction of mandatory reception and room service hours. Fully automated check-in and check-out services will feature particularly in the one and two-star categories.

According to Hotelstars, sustainability, staffing challenges and the ongoing digitalisation of the hotel industry prompted the changes. Eliminating outdated criteria, integrating sustainability measures and improving guest experiences were said to be key priorities, according to Greek press.

Member countries have been urged to implement the new rules by January 1 next year. The hotel classification system is reviewed every five to six years.

The full list of member countries includes Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.

By Emily Chaplin Reporter