New AAA hotel ratings give travelers complete picture, might ding Valley resorts

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PHOENIX -- AAA is updating is Diamond Ratings systems to give travelers a more complete picture of hotels and what they offer. While great for travelers who rely on such ratings, the news might not be good for some Valley resorts. They could see their rating go down.

The new guidelines will look at things like hidden fees, the availability of free WiFi, exclusivity and amenities at all ratings levels.

These guidelines are based on industry trends and member feedback, as members review and weight the importance of 89 detailed property attributes — from landscaping to extra pillows in the room — to ensure evaluation scores accurately reflect member priorities," explained AAA Arizona spokeswoman Linda Gorman in a news release earlier this week.

"With input from AAA’s full-time hotel inspectors, AAA members and industry professionals, the updated guidelines reflect current AAA member expectations and travel trends, including:

"Hidden fees and Wi-Fi. Members want all-inclusive, published room rates with no surprises at checkout and have a growing expectation for in-room Internet access that is both high-speed and free. Now, as part of the travel information collection process, properties charging resort and Wi-Fi fees will receive points off their evaluation score, which could impact their overall rating.

"Exclusivity. The new guidelines continue to emphasize guest comfort and satisfaction while recognizing greater flexibility and differentiation in how hotels achieve this goal. For example, while improved bedding may have similarities across properties, approaches to enhanced décor may be wide ranging. Hotels may incorporate self-serve, playful or artistic elements such as check-in kiosks, interactive touch screens, digital signage, mood lighting or fragrances in social areas.

"Amenities. AAA inspectors have noted growing expectations for more amenities at lower rating levels. Examples include flat-screen televisions, portable device docking stations and jack packs that allow transmission of digital information on TVs. Other preferences growing in prevalence include sustainable design features, products and eco-friendly services."

“AAA inspectors have an in-depth, inside view of every AAA Approved property and strive to avoid any treatment or services not extended to every guest so they experience properties the same way members do,” added Gorman. “Unlike many online travel sites, AAA ratings are independent, unbiased reviews conducted by inspectors who consider criteria from a checklist of 400 guest interaction points in the rating process. This sets AAA’s hotel ratings apart from any other source.”