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Does AAA Approval Help?

by Harry Nobles
November, 2009

There are approximately 50 million AAA members, and they travel a lot.  AAA members travel, on average, more than non-members.  Annually, they spend more than 170 million room nights in hotels and motels.  AAA members use AAA TourBooks to find a place to stay.  Desk clerks regularly tell me that AAA members often bring their TourBooks to the desk at check-in to be sure they get the correct rate.  As a very frequent traveler, I have seen this many times, and have actually done the same thing myself.   Many members consider the AAA TourBook their “travel Bible”. 

AAA members use the TourBooks to plan their trips, they use the books while on the road, and they loan the TourBooks to friends and relatives.  They also use the trip planning services of the hundreds of AAA travel agencies.  In short, AAA members are very much influenced by AAA approval when it comes to choosing a place to stay. 

What about others?  What about non-members?   Since only AAA members are eligible to receive AAA TourBooks, does AAA approval mean anything to the millions of other travelers?  You bet it does!  Non-members look for the AAA logo and sign, and often make their decision based on whether a lodging property has a AAA sign or logo. 

AAA Member Preferences 

The approximately 50 million AAA members travel more than the average person and spend a lot of nights in hotels and motels.   They regularly use AAA TourBooks to find a place to stay.   What type lodgings do these members choose? 

Surveys show that AAA members choose as follows: 

1 Diamond


2 Diamond 


3 Diamond 


4 Diamond


5 Diamond


If your property is rated at either 2 or 3 Diamonds, you are already in the range that appeals to approximately 80% of AAA members.  Spending money to earn a higher rating may not be feasible at this time particularly given the current economic challenges.  It might be more practical to focus on other aspects of guest satisfaction.  You might also concentrate on making physical and/or service improvements to your property that will ensure you maintain your current AAA rating as industry standards change and the ratings become more competitive. 

Dealing with the AAA or Mobil Inspector 

One condition of the free AAA or MOBIL listing is that management allow an unannounced annual property inspection.   Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?  Why does it always have to come at the worst possible time? 

You, a hotel owner or manager, are a very busy person.  You have a full schedule every day, and some days are busier than others.  Why does the AAA or MOBIL inspector always show up unannounced and unexpected on your busiest day?  Why does he or she always arrive 10 minutes after you begin your Monday AM staff meeting?    How can you best deal with this annual event? 

I suggest you consider the following: 

1.  The inspector is a business professional, and like you has a schedule and deadlines. 

2.  As a business colleague, the inspector deserves the same courtesies and respect that you expect. 

3.  The inspector will be understanding of your situation and be willing to work with you to accomplish his or her mission. 


When you can, I encourage you to participate in the inspection, and accompany the inspector.  When that is not possible, assign a responsible and knowledgeable member of your staff act as the escort.  I suggest the Executive Housekeeper as an excellent choice.  The staff member you choose should be part of your management team and have some knowledge of the AAA or MOBIL listing and rating.  I can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing worse than being passed of to a sales associate, a maintenance person, or some new desk clerk who thinks AAA only fixes flat tires or jump starts cars.  When this happened to me, I got the impression that the property’s management had little interest in the AAA listing and rating.  Did I take this personally and let it consciously influence my rating of the property?  I hope not.  I always tried to be professional and objective and base my rating on the property and not how I was treated.  Was I unconsciously influenced?  Again, I hope not. 

When you cannot personally participate in the inspection, I urge you to meet the inspector after the inspection and take a few minutes to discuss the results, your rating, and any other matters that would normally merit management attention.  Your interaction with the inspector will not raise your rating and should not in anyway affect your AAA or MOBIL listing, but it does keep you involved with, and knowledgeable of, an important aspect of your property’s overall operation and a potentially valuable marketing tool. 

A Higher AAA Rating? 

If you are interested in getting a higher AAA rating for your property, I suggest you start by gathering all the pertinent information that will have an impact on your decision.   I suggest you consider the following points: 

Approximately 80% of AAA member room nights are spent in 2 and 3 Diamond rated properties.  If your is already a 2 or 3 Diamond, is it really practical to try for the higher rating?  If your rating is l Diamond, then a higher rating might be a feasible goal.  Once you make this initial decision, you can go to the next step. 

Consider your guests’ wants and expectations.  Why do they stay at your property?  Are your rates the only reason? 

How much will it cost to do any physical improvements that will be needed to get the higher ratings?  Can you raise your rates enough to recoup the costs?  To answer this question, you will have to consider your local market and local competition.  If you get a positive answer to the rate question, go to the next step.  Do the math to see how much you will have to increase your rates to cover the costs of getting the higher rating.  Will you lose any of your regular guests if you raise your rates?  How much will it cost to replace these repeat guests?  Obviously your repeat guests are satisfied with your property as it is, and don't forget that "guest replacement" costs are high.

You may choose to seek outside advice, or you can do the analysis on your own.  Whichever way you go I urge you to look at the whole picture and consider all factors when making this important decision. You make important and difficult decisions every day; this is just one more. It is a very important decision because your rating can and should be a key part of your marketing plan.  Talk to your guests and your staff; their input can be valuable.  If you decide you also want outside “expert” advice, help is available


Harry Nobles Hospitality Consulting
(757) 564-3761

Also See: Which Training Plan is Right for You? / Harry Nobles / June 2009

Is Hospitality For Hotels Only? / Harry Nobles / June 2009

How Important is Service? Very! / Harry Nobles / May 2009

What to Do? Improve Guest Services or Upgrade Facilities / Harry Nobles / December 2008

My Dream Hotel? / Harry Nobles, October 2008

Hurricane Ike:  Challenges and Opportunities? / September 2008

Who Should Train Your Employees?/ Harry Nobles / September 2008

Designing for the Future a Key to Earning 4 or 5 Star/Diamond Rating / Harry Nobles / February 2008

Look for the Ducks / Harry Nobles / April 2007

How Should Casino-Hotels Be Rated? / Harry Nobles / April 2007

Is 'Mega Boutique Hotel' an Oxymoron / Harry Nobles/ December 2006

Hotel People I Have Know / Harry Nobles / October 2006

Now I’ve Seen Everything -  “Food Servers Employing the Internet to Divulge Names of Customers Who Tip Less than 17%”/ Harry Nobles / September 2006

Does Hotel Room Size Matter? / Harry Nobles / September 2006

If You Disagree With Your AAA Rating / Harry Nobles/ May 2006

AAA Evaluation Procedure: Is It Fair? / Harry Nobles/ May 2006

Four Star vs Mobil Four Star / Harry Nobles/ February 2006

Rating Condominiums / Harry Nobles / January 2006

AAA Five Diamond Lodgings; Chain vs Independent / November 2005

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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