The Hotel Issue

Chart: The five top hotel reviewers and how rankings work

(From Left, Photos From Aaa, Expedia, Conrad Hong Kong, Argonaut Hotel, Oyster)
Sunday, January 10, 2010

The calculus for hotel rankings doesn't always add up: One reviewer's three-star property is another's five-star. Absent a universal standard for evaluating properties, a variety of entities have formulated their own criteria and judging techniques. The result for the traveler: mostly confusion. For a better read on the stars (and diamonds and pearls), we dissected the reviewing systems of five major players.

-- Andrea Sachs

The American Automobile Association released its first stand-alone hotel directory in 1917 and started field inspections in 1937. A formal rating system (outstanding, excellent, very good and good) appeared in 1963 and morphed into one to five diamonds in 1977. Ratings appear on AAA's Web site and in its TourBook guides and TripTik.

37,000 properties in the United States, Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.

Properties are eligible for a diamond rating only after passing a preliminary screening with its own set of requirements. Inspectors arrive unannounced, asking to see several rooms and to tour the property. The criteria cover six key areas, such as guest room decor, ambiance and amenities. Anonymous experts stay overnight only at four- and five-diamond hotels. Properties are reevaluated every year.

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