The illegal use of star grading – TGCSA
Service excellence is critical in the tourism industry and quality assurance has become synonymous with the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA) and the stars that greet visitors at the entrance of thousands of establishments throughout the country. These stars indicate the level of quality and service as well as the type of facilities travelers can expect. Unfortunately, visitor expectations are not met in some instances by establishments that market themselves as star graded but do in fact, not hold a valid TGCSA grading.
It is imperative that consumers know the legalities surrounding the usage of star insignia in the tourism industry as an indicator of quality and service levels. Many do not know that it is illegal for establishments to falsely claim that they are star graded in marketing and advertising material or at their premises when they do not hold a valid grading membership by the TGCSA. According to the Tourism Act and Consumer Protection Act these establishments can face criminal charges, resulting in a fine or imprisonment for the responsible person.
The Tourism Act No. 3 of 2014 clearly states that the national grading system makes provision for the use and display of insignia, which include the depiction of a single or multiple stars in any colour, of which the TGCSA is the sole custodian and that of the grading system. You can be found guilty of a criminal offence in line with the Tourism Act if you suggest directly or indirectly that you are star graded and therefore a member of the TGCSA and display any form of stars when you are not a valid member of the TGCSA. Tourism business owners who choose to unsubscribe from their TGCSA membership are free to do so but must remove all forms of stars from their establishments and marketing collateral.
The Consumer Protection Act of 2008 states that you can be found guilty of a criminal offence in line with the Consumer Protection Act if you utilise marketing material or communication about your tourism business, that include any false or misleading pictures or statements. It’s imperative to prevent the illegal use of grading stars – not just to protect the South African Tourism brand but to protect the value and integrity of those participating in the grading system.
The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa star grading framework is globally benchmarked, locally relevant as well as internationally competitive. It allows for the award of one to five stars based on the quality of the actual buildings, facilities, services and amenities available – from a very basic but reliable and affordable one star establishment to a five star enterprise that represents the top of the range luxury and service excellence in the South African hospitality sector. Although grading remains a voluntary process, official recognition by the TGCSA is an independent stamp of quality for any establishment, and is there to assure consumers that grading is a constant quality control tool in South Africa.
The TGCSA is working closely with Consumer Protection offices in the Provinces of South Africa, to educate hospitality providers and consumers on the legalities of the star grading and star insignia.
The TGCSA requests the assistance of the travelling public to curb the illegal use of stars. “We invite consumers to report tourism facilities making use of illegal stars to promote their tourism businesses,” confirms TGCSA Chief Quality Assurer Darryl Erasmus.
The Tourism Act and the Consumer Protection Act are there to protect you, the consumer. If you suspect that a tourism establishment is misleading consumers by illegally displaying the TGCSA stars, don’t support it; report it. Contact 0800 000 607 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.