An an example, ratings that were previously given for “business center” have been replaced with a score for “connective technology.” Again, this reflects the hotel’s capacity to connect with its guests. The revised assessment process now includes such considerations as free WiFi, USB ports, mobile apps, mobile key technology, kiosks and digital messaging services.
Historically, to be included, hotel properties must pass an unannounced, on-site evaluation. Hotels must provide acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. During on-site evaluations, inspectors check everything including lobby décor and guestroom bedding. After an establishment is “Approved”, the AAA inspector reviews an extensive list of attributes to determine the appropriate rating level, on a scale of One to Five Diamonds, based on the extensiveness of services, facilities and amenities.
The new category encompasses such things as “the availability of free Wi-Fi and USB ports, but also robust mobile apps, interactive kiosks, mobile key technology and the availability of digital messaging services at high-end properties.”
According to a company spokesperson, AAA members put a high value on the availability and use of convenient, leading-edge technology at hotels. They expect properties to have up-to-date devices and free internet access, but also for the hotel to connect with them via technology.
With the new criteria, AAA recognizes that hotel guests are now able to do everything from book to check-in and choose rooms from some hotel apps from their smartphones and tablets.
The organization notes that when at the hotel itself, technology is now allowing for such things as requesting more pillows and ordering breakfast to using one’s phone as a room key. While still, other properties have begun incorporating robots into their staff and designing high-tech hotel rooms including voice-controlled features enabled by Amazon Alexa and other devices.
In reviewing a hotel’s technological capabilities as part of the anonymous overnight service evaluation conducted at Five Diamond properties, inspectors reportedly use the hotel’s digital systems during their stay and evaluate responsiveness, communication, presentation and follow-up.
AAA evaluations predate the popular user-generated rating sites like TripAdvisor by six decades or more and is commonly seen as a Consumer Reports for the hospitality industry. Since 1937, the organization has hired inspectors to review hotels in an unbiased manner based on established assessment criteria. Its first rating system for hotels was introduced in 1963.
The inclusion of technology capabilities as a key criteria in the assessment guidelines recognizes the instrumental role that technology now plays in enhancing the overall quality of the guest experience.