AAA Names New Five Diamond Properties

AAA's list of Five Diamond Award hotels is welcoming some new members. Sixteen lodgings have been added for a total of 113 hotels have achieved Five Diamond status, the travel authority's highest rating. The state of New Mexico gained its first-ever Five Diamond Award winner, Encantado, An Auberge Resort in Santa Fe (which made Travel Agent's list of Hot New Hotels).

Lodging expansion and construction plans are often multi-year projects and do not appear to have been as immediately affected by the economic downturn, as indicated by the addition of 16 new Five Diamond lodgings.

"The past year has presented many challenges for the travel industry," said Michael Petrone, director of AAA 's tourism information development. "To achieve and maintain the highest level of hospitality during these difficult economic times is a significant accomplishment."

New Five Diamond Award Winners

Florida and Nevada top the list for new winners this year, each with three additional Five Diamond lodgings. In Florida: The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale; The Four Seasons Resort, Palm Beach; and Acqualina Resort and Spa on the Beach in Sunny Isles Beach. In Nevada: The Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas in Henderson and both Encore Las Vegas (which also made Travel Agent's list of Hot New Hotels) and The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas.

Mexico gained three Five Diamond lodgings: The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort (on Travel Agent's list of Hot New Hotels) in Punta Mita and both Rosewood Mayakoba and the Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya in Playa Del Carmen.

California and New York each gained two new winners. In California: The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast (on Travel Agent's list of Hot New Hotels) and The Grand Del Mar in San Diego. In New York: The Plaza Hotel and The Pierre New York-A Taj Hotel, both in New York City.

Massachusetts, New Mexico and Texas each gained one additional Five Diamond lodging: Mandarin Oriental, Boston; Encantado, An Auberge Resort in Santa Fe, N.M.; and The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas.

Representing the upper echelon of the hospitality industry, AAA Five Diamond Award winners make up just 0.28 percent of the 58,000 Diamond Rated lodgings and restaurants throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

The assignment of a AAA rating of One to Five Diamonds marks the completion of a successful annual evaluation by one of AAA's professional inspectors. AAA's professional inspectors evaluate and rate more than 58,000 lodgings and restaurants in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean using a scale of One to Five Diamonds. They conduct an average of more than 1,100 property evaluations per year and have a combined total of 700 years experience. The average tenure is 12 years, with the longest being 28 years. AAA inspectors work remotely and bring significant prior industry experience to the association.

AAA's Diamond Rating System is the only ratings system that covers all of North America and one of only two that conducts physical, on-site evaluations. It is the only system that uses full-time, professionally trained evaluators to inspect each property using guidelines made available to all establishments. AAA evaluates more properties than any other rating entity.

AAA approves and rates properties on an individual basis and, often, the ratings are reflective of several years of inspection and analysis by AAA's professional inspectors. Although market fluctuations can and do impact properties, AAA does not use this as a reference when assessing ratings. AAA relies on a set of published criteria, the Diamond Rating Guidelines, which is based on member expectations and common industry practices.