Expert’s Voice: Why AAA Four and Five Diamond ratings can make or break a hotel
Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Florida benefits from an AAA Four Diamond rating (Credit: Hyatt)
Federico Moreno-Nickerson, vice president of development at Apple Leisure Group, explains why AAA Four and Five Diamond ratings are so influential – and shares tips for hotels looking to dazzle the inspectors.
In the digital age, surveys, rating systems and consumer reviews are an inescapable fact of life. From social media platforms to industry-specific online information sites, we are constantly exposed to experience-based opinions and assessments about every aspect of our lives, from what and where we eat, to how and when we travel. Our purchasing decisions, choice of physicians, and ideas about schools and education are all guided by the judgements of others.
But for hotel and resort owners and operators – and their guests – there is one rating system, developed before the internet’s inception, that in many ways is more valuable and persuasive than all of the other information found across the web.
We are talking, of course, about the AAA Diamond Rating System, a comprehensive, objective and closely followed evaluation of travel destinations and experiences.
The fact is, hotels and resorts in the luxury category that have earned the AAA Four Diamond and AAA Five Diamond ratings are at a distinct advantage over their competitors – specifically because they can command a higher average daily room rate, attract more guests, and achieve consistently strong occupancy levels. The result, of course, is more revenue and, with the right management, increased profit.
Why are AAA four- and five-diamond ratings so exceptionally influential?
AAA has built a respected and proven system over the course of eight decades, employing a network of professionally trained inspectors who use strict, published guidelines to conduct unannounced hotel and restaurant evaluations. Granted only to hotels in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, approvals and ratings from AAA must be earned every year, which makes them rigorous, exacting and above all accurate.
Unlike paid hotel and resort affiliations that recognise their members and certify their status, AAA retains complete financial objectivity. This independence makes their third-party assessments particularly trusted among travellers. Ratings are communicated not only to the 56 million members of the organisation in the U.S. and Canada, but to others around the globe, especially travel agents, who consistently rely on the evaluations to recommend and categorise destinations for their clients.
Not surprisingly, top ratings are also prominently broadcast online as a key marketing tool by those who achieve them, in great part because of their uniqueness and exclusivity. Collectively, Four Diamond hotels represent just 5.9% of the nearly 28,000 AAA Approved and Diamond rated properties, and the data for Five Diamond venues is even more impressive; only 0.4 percent of 28,000 hotels are in this category. In the entire Mexico/Caribbean region, for instance, there are only 262 resorts and hotels rated Four Diamond, and only 25 Five Diamond properties.
Achieving the coveted AAA Four and Five Diamond ratings is a difficult task that requires special planning and management expertise, along with a deep insight into AAA’s strict guidelines. For hotel and resort owners who want to achieve these rankings for their properties, especially those considering converting to a new brand partner, it is essential to research and choose the right management team.
Here are some factors to consider in your quest for Four and Five Diamond recognition – and your pursuit of improved rates and revenue:
Look for a track record
Since there are very few Four and Five Diamond Rated properties, there are very few management organisations and brands that have achieved them. Those who have done so understand the specific steps required to deliver the physical spaces and experiences needed to show professional inspectors the highest standard, at any given moment.
At Apple Leisure Group subsidiary AMResorts, for instance, we closely track every requirement for AAA ratings, and our seasoned operations professionals work to advance our properties toward the highest recognition. That’s why last month Secrets Akumal Resort & Spa received the AAA Four Diamond Hotel Award, becoming the 20th of our AAA Four Diamond Award properties, along with our two AAA Five Diamond Award winners.
Look for the best employees
While there are specific physical requirements for top AAA ratings, such as size of rooms, furnishings and amenities, there is a very concrete service and experiential element to the equation. Look for a management partner who is an employer of choice, and can recruit, hire and retain the best staff to provide the best possible service.
Having a dynamic, experienced HR team on your side, and the qualified, trained staff that accompanies them, will make all the difference.
This article has been republished from the ALG Development Blog.
Vice president of development at Apple Leisure Group
With nearly 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Federico has expertise in hotel development. Having previously worked for the Mexico Tourism Authority and Four Seasons Hotels, he is currently vice president of development at Apple Leisure Group.