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Hotel Tech Makes its Way to the Ratings Game

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How Tech Affects Hotel Rating
New requirements added to the AAA hotel rating guidelines seem to amplify the voice of the hotel guest. We’ve all seen the recent J.D. Power reports that reflect a culture of higher than ever guest expectations. AAA’s guidelines, which were last updated in 2007, speak to the industry changes over the last few years.

According to AAA’s website:
“The biggest changes reflected in this update were prompted by AAA member feedback,” said Micheal Petrone, director AAA Tourism Information Development. “In a time when travelers are challenged to manage costs amid changing gasoline prices and airline add-ons, members are fed up with hidden hotel costs. For example, charges are sometimes assessed for an in-room safe, on-site fitness center or pool — whether the guest uses them or not. Members want all-inclusive, published room rates with no surprises at checkout.

“Additionally, today’s family often travels with four or five electronic devices and can face dramatic increases in accommodation costs when properties charge daily Wi-Fi usage fees. The growing expectation is for in-room Internet access that is both high-speed and free,” added Petrone.

Resort and Wi-Fi fees are well-known factors in the guest experience. The revised Diamond Rating Guidelines state, “Also, AAA members express significant dissatisfaction with additional non-use fees (e.g. resort fees, safes, microwaves, refrigerators, etc.) Free and effective Internet bandwidth within the guestroom is also expected.” (View the entire Diamond Rating Guidelines here.)

Growing trends in personalized service and property exclusivity are also included in the new guidelines. Specifically highlighted in these areas are “self-serve, playful or artistic elements such as check-in kiosks, interactive touch screens, digital signage, mood lighting or fragrances in social areas. At the higher rating levels, service standards have been updated to include a more creative approach to the personalized guest experience.”

I found the inclusion of digital signage and touchscreens to be particularly interesting in light of the fact that these are all based on member expectations. What drives consumers to embrace these functions when traditional static signs are mostly ignored?

Personally, I believe it has to do with the suspension of reality people experience when traveling. Most people have seen the projects of the future, such as Corning’s “A Day Made of Glass”. For most, these futuristic products are only available out of home. The ability to “live”, if only for a time, surrounded by these elements lend the personalization, exclusivity, and unique experiences guests seek. What latest trends are improving your guest experience?