AAA this week announced a significant tweak of its Diamond hotel ratings program that will give inspectors more flexibility in awarding its coveted Five Diamond grade.
The new guidelines eliminate the old one- and two-Diamond grades and put those properties in an "approved" category.
For the rest of hotels, regional manager John Lubanski says the changes streamline the program and make it easier for people "to see what we do versus what you see with online user reviews."
"One of the main differences that you will see this year, we used to have specific scores for floor covering, wall covering, ceilings," he said. "We've gotten away from that completely. We are looking at a more holistic approach to design and decor. You'll see us use the word vibe.
"We want to reflect more of how a property makes a guest feel versus trim work on the walls."
For luxury properties, Lubanski said, the changes "allow us to look at design a little differently. Something ultramodern or contemporary can still be very luxurious.
Those changes also open the Five Diamond category to more historical places, he said.
For instance, AAA used to have very specific criteria for Five Diamond properties that required things like a tub and a shower and very strict size requirements for things like vanities.
"We've moved away from that a little more to allows the inspectors to use their impressions of what they see and take into account more things like counter space," Lubanski said.
If a luxury property does have "a really nice clawfoot soaking tub or tub in front of a window with a fantastic view, there are ways for inspectors to give credit for that."
AAA has also done away with its requirement that an iron and ironing board be provided.
"At the Five Diamond level there's more of an expectation for quick pressing service," he said.
One thing that hasn't changed: service guidelines.
"Those are just very critical to getting a Five Diamond," he said. " They are not going to get there without having the service."