Hotel Online  Special Report
AAA Five Diamond Lodgings; 
Chain vs Independent

Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs - November 2005

Our recent review of the AAA Five Diamond rated lodgings for 2006 prompts us to pose some questions.  Are these 88 properties truly the best of the best in North America?  Why are there so few independents on the list?  Does the selection process favor chain hotels over independents?

We hope our questions and comments do not give the impression that we disagree with these ratings.  We are not disputing the rating of any individual property; rather we are addressing the overall result.   

The 2006 list shows that approximately 65 percent of the 88 Five Diamond rated hotels are chain affiliated.  As stated, we do not dispute the individual ratings. We are very familiar with the AAA Diamond Rating procedures and criteria, and believe that while it is far from infallible, it is a good system that generally produces consistently credible results.  We do wonder if the current policies and procedures may favor the chains over the independents.  Does any part of the current AAA system give the corporate owned or managed hotels any edge over their individual or family owned and operated counterpart?

We hasten to emphasize our firm belief that if any such advantage does exist, it is unintentional, and not based on any bias on the part of any rating organization.  It may well be that AAA inspectors are just more comfortable within the familiar confines that one often finds in the larger chain hotels.  This consistency of physical surroundings, amenities, and service delivery is certainly not a negative factor.  On the contrary, we believe the chains should be commended for their ability to attract, motivate, and retain a large and professionally competent staff capable of delivering a superior product everywhere every time.

We do, however, feel that a certain degree of creativity in the product would be most welcome.  In other words, something new, something different, even something unique that not only catches the eye of the inspector/rater, but that also “wow’s” the guest and makes them feel special.

Who better to come up with this innovation than the individual or family owned and operated property?  Family owned hotels and inns often incorporate their own family customs or history into the décor, menu and even management style. Examples: culturally significant work ethic, furnishings reproduced from family heirlooms, family recipes, etc…

It’s wonderful to see hotels of all types (family owned and corporate chains) use local history and culture in the architecture, décor, theme and cuisine. When they take it a step further and incorporate special touches such as local customs into the service aspect of the property it becomes truly memorable to the guests when the service is consistently and thoughtfully delivered. 

We always help our independent clients find a “signature” touch to make their property not only special, but unique; this can be in the form of amenities, services, or by offering a different approach in delivering service to guests.  The right touch can make a property “one of a kind” and maybe even help to level the playing field for all.


Cheryl Griggs and Harry Nobles
(877) 220-4260

Also See: Katrina & Rita: Silver Lining or Opportunity? / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / October 2005
Our Dream Hotel / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / July 2005
Losing a Diamond or Star / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs /  March 2005
Ratings vs Guest Satisfaction / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / February 2005
Our "Pick of the Month" / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / November 2004
5 Star vs 5 Diamond: What’s the Difference? / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / November 2004
Strategic Alliance Announced, Committed to Hospitality Excellence / August 2004
Family Resorts: Suggested Strategies / Cheryl Griggs / July 2004
Are Small Resorts Unfairly Treated by the AAA and Mobil Rating Criteria / July 2004
Designing For Optimum Global Ratings / Cheryl Griggs / June 2004
QualAsia Formed to Provide Authoritative Organization to Inspect and Evaluate Hotels Across Asia; Harry Nobles Appointed Chairman of New Asian Hotel Rating Service / May 2004
Validity of Online Hotel Ratings / Cheryl Griggs / April 2004
Resorts Ratings Redux / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / February 2004
Are Your Trainers Trained? / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Thompson Grigg /  January 2004 
The Language of Service / Cheryl Griggs / October 2003
Hotel Renovation Ideas vs AAA Ratings Criteria / Harry Nobles / October 2003
New Employee Orientation: Necessity or Luxury?  /  July 2003
Save the Best - Replace the Rest / July 2003
AAA and Mobil Ratings As a Sales Tool / May 2003
How Well Do You Know Your Competitor? / May 2003
Our Favorite Hotel?  / March 2003
The Current Value of AAA Hotel Ratings / Feb 2003
Stars and Diamonds; Some Similarities and Some Differences / January 2003
AAA's Delay: Good or Bad? / July 2002
Timing Is Everything, Or Is It? / July 2002 
Boutique Hotels: Have They Gone Too Far / May 2002
People Really Do Make the Difference / Jan 2002
What Is a Boutique Hotel? / Dec 2001
The Non-negotiable Traits of Leaders / Oct 2001 
How Important is Service? / Sept 2001
Front Desk Service Mistakes / Aug 2001
Food & Beverage Mistakes & How to Correct Them / July 2001
Bell Staff Mistakes & How to Correct Them / July 2001 
Attitude vs Aptitude / June 2001
Female Business Travelers' Expectations / June 2001
Is Outsourcing Your Training a Viable Alternative? / June 2001
Unique Identity + Consistent Service = Success / May 2001
AAA Standards vs  Guests' Expectations / May 2001
Are Your Guests Better Informed Than Your Staff? / April 2001
Are U.S. Hotels Rated Differently From Other North American Hotels? / April 2001
The Design Theme - AAA / Mobil Ratings Connection / March 2001
Attitude Can Make the Difference / January 2001
How Should Casino-Hotels be Rated? / Dec 2000
Does AAA Rate Resorts Fairly? / Nov 2000
Is Your Property Suffering From Design Deficiency? / Nov 2000 
The Future of AAA Ratings / September 2000
What Is Your Optimum AAA Rating / August 2000
If You Disagree With Your AAA Rating…../ June 2000
Are AAA Ratings Always Accurate and Objective / May 2000
Creating Atmosphere / Jan 2000
What is "Atmosphere"? / December 1999
Maintaining Your AAA Rating / Nov 1999
Earning a AAA Rating vs Maintaining a AAA Rating: Which Is More Difficult?  / Oct 1999
Can Outstanding Service Offset Hotel Physical Deficiencies in the Rating Systems? / Harry Nobles / June 1999 
Consistency: The Hallmark of a Fine Hotel / September 1999
Who Should Train Your Employees  / Aug 2000 
Mobil Travel Guide Announces 1998 Mobil Four-and Five-Star Award Winners / Jan 1998 
Key to Success: Training + Follow-Up / June 2000
The Legend of the Pineapple / Harry Nobles / Feb 1999 
To Harry Nobles Hospitality Consulting Index Page

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