Hotel Online  Special Report


 Internet Hotel Ratings Causing Confusion for Consumers; 
Some Ratings a Marketing Ploy


ORLANDO, Fla. - Dec. 6, 2004 -- The vast amount of information that makes the Internet so attractive to travelers also is causing confusion when it comes to choosing a lodging online, AAA said today.

"With nearly everyone using a star to designate a ranking level," said Michael Petrone, director, AAA Tourism Information Development, "consumers often can't distinguish one system's star from another, making it nearly impossible to know whether the ratings are impartial or a marketing ploy."

As head of AAA's well known Diamond Rating program, Petrone leads the organization's group of professional evaluators who physically inspect hotels in North America. AAA's team of 65 full-time evaluators collectively travel more than a million miles per year to inspect more than 55,000 lodgings and restaurants for the AAA Diamond Ratings(R) program.

AAA has been evaluating hotels and restaurants with full-time inspectors since 1937, and trademarked its Diamond Ratings when they were introduced in 1976.

"The purpose of evaluating and rating lodgings and restaurants is to help travelers make informed decisions," said Petrone. "For this reason, it is important online travel companies be able to disclose what their ratings mean and how they are determined.

"When travelers see a Diamond Rated property, they can be confident that one of AAA's trained, professional evaluators visited the property and went through a lengthy process of checking the hotel against a detailed list of criteria and guidelines.

"On the other hand, one large hotel booking Web site is spending millions of dollars on a national advertising campaign touting a non-existent team of hotel evaluators. While intended to be humorous, this campaign draws attention to what has become a concern for consumers - companies that don't physically check out the hotels they rate."

To assist travelers who have difficulty deciding what many of these rankings really mean, AAA offers these tips when searching for a hotel online.

  • Determine whether the site rates hotels, or uses ratings supplied by others. If they provide ratings, look for a description of the rating process. If the ratings are supplied by the hotels that are listed - or others with a direct financial interest in the property - it may be best to double-check that rating at another Web site.
  • Read the descriptions for the various levels (usually from one through five) and determine what you want or need. If you're looking for luxury, then you may only want to look at properties at the four or five level. If you need economical lodging, you might concentrate on properties at the one or two level. But be aware that terminology can vary significantly. What is considered a "deluxe" room in one rating system may differ in size, amenities or degree of luxury elsewhere.
  • Ask questions to determine how long the rating organization has been evaluating properties, how many properties are rated each year, whether there is a financial obligation between the rating organization and the listed properties, and whether the rating criteria or guidelines are published.
  • Find out how the ratings are assigned. Does someone with the rating organization visit the property or does the hotel determine its own rating? Also, how often are properties reviewed after their initial rating?
  • Ask a travel agent for advice. When in doubt, turn to the experts in the industry to find out what they consider to be the most reliable and consistent rating programs.
AAA Diamond Ratings for lodgings and restaurants throughout North America appear online at in the Online TourBook(R), and as part of Internet TripTik(R) and, AAA's online mapping and trip planning products. They can also be found in AAA TourBook(R) guides, a series of 26 travel guidebooks.

As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 47 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.

Janie Graziani
Also See: Online Lodging Reviewer, TripAdvisor, Ranks Top Hotels Worldwide, Based on the Quantity and Quality of Information Found on the Web / February 2004
Hotel Executives Starting to Review Online Lodging Reviews; Comments Like God awful and Run away as fast as you can May or May Not Be Objective / February 2004

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