A property I am working with wanted to join the AAA/CAA as an approved member, and possibly advertise in the guidebook for the area. I was set with the task of finding out what the process is in order to do so. Simple enough task, right? A quick Google search should be able to find me the right page to go, or at the very least, a quick visit to the AAA website should find me the information quickly.
A web search couldn’t find it, and neither website had information about hotels, restaurants, or other business to get AAA approved. Calling the local CAA office, had me be put on hold for 5+ minutes several times in order for them to track down the correct information. When they finally did redirect me to the correct website, it was rather confusing to navigate to find the information I needed right away.
I came away from the task thinking that either the AAA/CAA assumes all properties are already approved, or they don’t want new properties joining. I thought it would be useful to layout some of the information here for people that are interested in learning more about it.
AAA Approved Hotel
There are three steps in order for a hotel, restaurant, attraction or campground to get approved by AAA:
- Evaluation Application
- Evaluation of Property
- Approval of Property and Receive a Rating
The Evaluation Application does not provide the property with an automatic inspection. They base the decision upon the location of the property, new built/renovated, and price (willingness to provide members with discounts). They also list “High degree of cleanliness” and “appropriately maintained conditions,” which would be hard to judge without a visit to the property. I would guess they do a background check on the property by visiting TripAdvisor or talking with the regional manager if it’s a flagged hotel to get a sense of how well liked the property is.
The evaluation application form also costs $200.00 US for new applicants, $400.00 for properties re-applying because of a previous denied application form. In addition, you have to supply photographs of the exterior of the hotel, plus interior shots of the lobby, rooms, and other public spaces.
All of the above has to be mailed to their office in Florida. No email applications allowed.
Before filling out the application form, you should look through their requirements to make sure everything is in order. If it isn’t, you will be wasting the money on the application.
Here are the links to look at:
AAA Approved - Main Website
Lodging Application for Evaluation - PDF File
Lodging Evaluation FAQ - Website
The evaluation consists of an unannounced visit by a AAA representative within one year of your application being approved. The time period will most likely be a year for properties in more remote locations or in places with little competition. This is because all AAA approved properties get reviewed every year or two to make sure all standards are being met. They will send a representative to review all the properties in an area - new and old - to save time and money. Perhaps exceptions exist for exceptional five star resorts, but the general rule is don’t expect your property to be reviewed right away.
Upon reaching the property, the representative rates different areas: Exterior, Public Areas, Other Public Areas, Guest Room, and Bathroom. Each area is broken down into specific items, which are rated 1–5 stars. The overall score helps determine whether the property will be approved or not.
Exterior includes: general curb appeal, building structure and design, landscaping, main entrance, plus location and parking.
Public Areas: general decor style, floor coverings, free floor space, furniture quality and design, guest service area(s), illumination, seating layout, wall coverings, wall hangings/decorative enhancements, and ceilings.
Other Public Areas: Business center, elevator, exercise facility, food and beverage outlets, breakfast area, meeting rooms, restrooms, swimming pool, and signage through the property. These areas aren’t requirements for AAA approval, but any area a guest can potentially go to will get reviewed.
Guest Room: general decor, bed, bedding, floor coverings, free floor space, furniture quality and design, illumination, television, ventilation, work space, window coverings, and all other amenities within the room.
Bathroom: general decor, cabinetry, counter space, floor coverings, illumination, personal care, shower, sink, toilet, towels, wall hangings, plus other amenities like a hair dryer, makeup mirror, vanity seating, etc.
In addition to the above areas, AAA has its own hospitality standards which properties must abide by. The list is long, but these include things like answering the phone within three rings, how a guest is greeted, check in and out procedure, room service, etc. Refer to the Lodging Requirements & Diamond Rating Guidelines for the full list of what to expect.
Approval and Rating
AAA Diamond Ratings are dependent on the combined evaluations of the quality, range of facilities, and the level of hospitality. Diamond Ratings start at 1 Diamond and go to 5 Diamonds.
- One Diamond: budget-oriented, basic comfort and hospitality
- Two Diamonds: Affordable, with modestly enhanced facilities and decor.
- Three Diamonds: Distinguished, with enhanced physical attributes, amenities and guest comforts.
- Four Diamonds: Refined, stylish, upscale, extensive amenities, high degree of service.
- Five Diamonds: Ultimate luxury, sophistication, extensive amenities, personalized services.
The Four (less than 5% of approved hotels) and Five Diamonds (under 1%) are extremely rare, and undergo multiple evaluations in a year.
After approval and receiving your rating, the property gets a free basic listing in the guidebook for the region, and a listing online. One additional benefit for approved properties is they can use the signage in the hotel or in advertising to help promote the hotel. You can also purchase advertising in AAA publications
The above is a synopsis of the information provided on the AAA website. For more information on any of the procedures, I highly recommend getting in touch with the AAA/CAA Account Manager for your region. You can find the full list on their website: AAA Account Managers