News for the Hospitality Executive
ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 23, 2011 -- Long before there were websites, social networks and consumer reviews to help travelers find a clean hotel and a good meal, AAA inspectors were looking under beds and tasting the meatloaf all along North America's roads. This summer, in fact, marks AAA's 75th year of conducting on-site evaluations and publishing the results — in the good old printed TourBook® guides and, now, online at AAA.com and on the go through ebooks and apps.
"We personally evaluate all of the properties we list," explained Inspector 80 (identified numerically to maintain anonymity). "We show up unannounced, we never make appointments and we allocate only a short amount of time from the point of introduction to the point we are in the first room conducting our inspection."
Even in the wake of the recent technological information explosion, AAA members and the rest of the traveling public still want and trust inspector evaluations. Both traveler generated satisfaction scores and professional quality ratings are important, according to the 2010 PhoCusWright Consumer Technology Survey. A full 68 percent of respondents noted each of these website features as influential in their travel planning decisions.
"When I say what I do for a living," said Inspector 80, "people ask, 'How do I get your job?' I tell them you have to love to travel, eat out in restaurants and see attractions ... OK, maybe it does sound like fun. While being an inspector can be very demanding, I wake up every morning absolutely excited to be doing what I do."
A History of Service
In 1937, to provide better travel information for members, AAA employed its first inspectors, called field reporters, to evaluate and report on hotels and restaurants. Inspection information was offered to members in the three regional TourBook guides published at that time.
In 1963, to further improve its decision-making information, AAA adopted a formal rating system that categorized TourBook listed accommodations as Good, Very Good, Excellent or Outstanding. In 1976, AAA introduced its current Diamond Rating System for hotels, using a diamond in honor of the association's 75th anniversary and, from 1985 to 1990, rolled out the Diamond Ratings for restaurants.
Today, AAA's professionally trained inspectors continue this practice as they inspect, approve and rate more than 59,000 hotels and restaurants to help ensure travelers have a positive experience.
"AAA is proud to mark three-quarters of a century of providing members with valuable travel information based on in-person evaluations," said Michael Petrone, director, AAA Tourism Information Development. "From the early inspection system to today's comprehensive Diamond Rating System, AAA has been committed to helping members select quality establishments appropriately matched to their needs and expectations."
About the Inspectors
Living and working in territories across North America, inspectors bring significant industry experience and expertise to the Association. "Inspectors are well-positioned to assess the emerging industry landscape as they regularly talk with hotel staff and review facilities and services on-site," said Petrone. "Trends are ever evolving. In recent years, the pace has accelerated, due primarily to the influence of new technology and social media on guest expectations. Property managers must be savvier than ever and seek to become more engaged with their guests. Consumers are looking for the best value properties that offer a total experience rather than just a comfortable room."
AAA's comprehensive inspection process makes quality a given for every establishment listed for members. "Properties must be clean and well-maintained to be AAA Approved, and only then is the Diamond Rating calculated," added Inspector 80. "If AAA receives a member complaint about a property, the details are forwarded to the inspector assigned to that territory. If a property does not maintain our cleanliness and condition standards, the listing is disapproved regardless of the Diamond Rating. Also, AAA's inspectors and sales representatives are two separate entities, allowing for completely unbiased inspections."
AAA rates more properties than any other rating entity and is the only system that covers the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. It is one of only two that conduct physical, on-site evaluations. Travelers can learn more about AAA inspections and what the Diamond Ratings mean for hotels and restaurants at AAA.com/Diamonds.
AAA Travel Information
After 75 years, members continue to turn to the AAA TourBook guides to find the trusted Diamond Ratings and inspector notes. In addition, travelers can access this valuable information online and on the go. On AAA.com, searchable listings are accessible through the Travel Guides and TripTik® Travel Planner. Travelers with smartphones can use the free AAA Mobile Web or AAA TripTik Mobile app to find nearby listings using GPS technology. At AAA.com/ebooks , members can download free eTourBook guides for use on their ereaders and smartphones.
AAA inspectors also contribute to the AAA TravelViews blog, an informal forum that allows travelers an inside peek at the glamour and realities of inspecting for a living. Later this year the inspectors will begin sharing real-time information on Twitter (@AAA_Travel).
As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 52 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. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.