MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - AAA considers its diamond rating system the most prestigious system for evaluating hotels.
"We're the only organization in the world that uses the diamond designation," said AAA's Clay Ingram. "We have a team of inspectors that cover all of North America, Bahamas, Canada,"
Before a hotel is even considered for a Diamond rating, it has to apply and meet some high standards.
"Every hotel that's rated has to first meet the AAA diamond rating approval requirements," explained a AAA inspector who must remain anonymous. "Which means cleanliness, condition, they have to be open to an unannounced inspection every so often,"
Those inspections judge every hotel on the same criteria, with the same pattern. The process starts before the inspector gets out of the car.
"I'm looking at the entrance, because it's a public area, and we rate the building to see if the building is a 1,2, 3, 4, or 5. We also rate the landscaping, we rate the entrance, and we rate the services that might be provided,"
The inspector continued, "We're looking at the lobby, we have our computers out, we introduce ourselves to the front desk. Sometimes we might try to walk public areas first if they're immense,"
Then the inspector enters the rooms.
"I'll ask for a vacant ready list, so I can pick some random rooms, so I can get an idea and make sure I'm getting a variety of rooms, not just the VIP floor rooms. We focus on public areas, we focus on guest rooms, and guest room bathrooms,"
It's important to note that the number of diamonds a hotel receives does not designate whether it's a good or a bad hotel. The diamonds earned are based on the services and amenities each property provides. So any diamond at all provides peace of mind.
"It's having confidence that it's clean and in good condition," the inspector said.
AAA rates hotels on a one through five-diamond scale. No property in Alabama has earned a five-diamond rating. Fewer than six percent of the properties AAA evaluated achieve four Diamond status.
Only 10 hotels and 12 restaurants in Alabama have earned a four-diamond rating. Montgomery's Renaissance Hotel &Spa, Opelika's Marriott at Grand National and Wetumpka's Wind Creek Casino & Hotel are among them.