MIAMI -- A number of Caribbean hotels may soon be part of a region-wide hotel rating system thanks to a partnership between Mobil Travel Guide and the Texas-based FreemanGroup, a hospitality and tourism service evaluation and improvement firm.

The partnership, which is part of FreemanGroups new FG Destinations launch -- an initiative headed by Kedrick Malone, former director of tourism for the British Virgin Islands -- marks Mobil Travel Guides plans to go worldwide with its Star rating system.

Mobil Travel Guide (MTG), which has rated hotels, restaurants and spas in the U.S. and Canada since 1958 by using teams of anonymous inspectors to evaluate properties using a star-rating system based on 750 criteria, will use the same rigorous standards for its Caribbean hotel reviews, according to MTG.

The Caribbean reviews, which will be evaluated by MTGs field inspectors and undercover service evaluators, will appear on line at www.mobiltravelguide.com, just as they do now for about 9,000 hotels and restaurants and 300 spas in the U.S. and Canada.

MTG inspectors will visit a property for three days during the inspections. Their visits will not be announced beforehand nor will the inspectors reveal their true identities while at the properties, according to Shane OFlaherty, vice president of quality assurance for Mobil Travel Guide.

Our goal is to ensure that the expectations of the client going to a particular hotel are met, OFlaherty said. Our reviews will let the consumer know what to expect before going.

Properties in Aruba and the British Virgin Islands already have signed on to participate in the inspection and rating program.

Although a number of countries have expressed interest in this, I dont have a regional mandate to go forward, so we will launch the rating system country by country, said Bill Freeman, founder and CEO, FG Destinations. I think we could expect to see online ratings for Aruba and the B.V.I. within 12 months.

The introduction of the rating system to the Caribbean will enable tourists, meetings and convention planners and travel agents for the first time to make an apples to apples comparison of hotels throughout the region, using an objective system that already is accepted and trusted, Freeman said.

By leveling the playing field, smaller, independently-owned properties will have the opportunity to compete with larger properties on the quality of service, according to Freeman.

Although there will be a charge for hotels to be included in the online rating system, Freeman declined to name a specific amount. We feel that some of the funds earmarked by governments for destination marketing and promotion could be utilized for these purposes.

For details on FG Destinations, visit www.fgdestinations.com.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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