Hotel Online Special Report
Harry Nobles Hospitality Consulting
E-mail:  [email protected]
Does AAA Approval Help?

There are approximately 36 million AAA members, and they travel a lot.  AAA members travel, on average, more than others.  Annually, they spend more than 150 million room nights in hotels and motels.  AAA members use AAA TourBooks to find a place to stay.  Desks 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 

There are currently approximately 36 million AAA members.  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 8%
2 Diamond  39%
3 Diamond  41%
4 Diamond 7%
5 Diamond 5%
 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. 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 you allow an unannounced annual inspection of your property.   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, have 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 require 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 roomnights 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.

Harry Nobles Hospitality Consulting
POC:  Harry Nobles
E-mail:  [email protected]
Phone:  757-564-3761
Fax:        757-564-0076
Pager:  800-577-7468  PIN# 303-9130
  • Former head of AAA Lodging/Dining Ratings Program. 
  • An independent consultant serving the hospitality industry. 
  • A Special Training Consultant to the Educational Institute, American Hotel/Motel Association
Also See: The AAA Five Diamond Award for 1999 Earned By a Record 105 Outstanding Lodgings and Restaurants / Nov 1998 
Mobil Travel Guide Announces 1998 Mobil Four-and Five-Star Award Winners / Jan 1998 
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