Editors note: B-roll of the new hotel cleanliness inspection process can be downloaded here for your use.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, hotels have adapted their cleaning procedures and housekeeping standards, and the AAA Diamond Program is evolving to meet the changing expectations of today's travelers. In fact, according to AAA research, 76% of consumers surveyed would be disappointed if a third-party inspection did not evaluate whether high-touch areas in a hotel are sanitized.
As a result, AAA is enhancing its housekeeping evaluation to include objective, scientific validation of the cleanliness of common surfaces throughout hotels. Hotels that meet AAA’s standards for cleanliness, condition and this new surface cleanliness testing will now be recognized as Inspected Clean and then assigned a Diamond designation.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on travelers’ expectations for cleanliness. That’s more important than ever as more people get the COVID-19 vaccine and start traveling once again,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “All AAA Diamond designated hotels must meet our established standards of cleanliness and physical condition. With the new addition of surface cleanliness testing, these properties will now also be recognized as Inspected Clean.”
The new Inspected Clean criteria relies on an objective method to validate cleanliness by detecting adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—an energy-carrying molecule found in all living cells. ATP is found in most food sources, human skin cells, bacteria, yeast, mold and biological material found in respiratory droplets.
The AAA inspector will conduct this testing on-site by swabbing a surface, adding the sample to a vial containing a special testing chemical, and then inserting the vial into a portable test machine, about the size of a large cellphone. Inspectors will measure eight surfaces in a selection of guest rooms and bathroom locations, which may include guest room door handles, light switches, thermostat controls, guest room desk or writing surfaces, television remotes, refrigerator handles, faucet and toilet handles, hair dryers and vanity surfaces.
While the test does not provide direct identification of viruses such as the one that causes COVID-19, it will allow for confirmation of properly cleaned surfaces. ATP monitoring is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is used in healthcare, food service, education and other environments that require effective sanitation monitoring programs.
“Travelers trust AAA for recommendations that keep their safety and security top of mind. The Inspected Clean enhancement to our Diamond Program will help give them extra peace of mind and rebuild their confidence in traveling,” continued Twidale.
AAA inspectors will start conducting testing to identify Inspected Clean properties later this month. Travelers will be able to find Inspected Clean hotels on AAA.com/Diamonds to help plan their trips later this fall. For Americans planning trips between now and then, look for AAA’s Best of Housekeeping badge for peace of mind. Prior to any hotel stay, call ahead to ensure your hotel is open and ask what precautions they are taking to protect guests. In addition to cleanliness, ask about social distancing protocols like capacity reductions, hotel staff requirements to wear masks and if all amenities are available, like restaurant dining and/or pools.
AAA has set Inspected Clean passing scores calibrated to a standard it believes is appropriate for the hospitality industry. AAA’s criteria are aligned to meet reasonable expectations for cleanliness during a hotel stay, not the clinical level required by hospitals, for example. These benchmarks were set by analyzing data collected from 11,000 surface tests in more than 1,000 hotels that participated in a pilot program, along with controlled testing protocols and the scientific expertise of Charm Sciences Inc. AAA’s inspectors have been independently trained and certified by Charm Sciences Inc., which manufactures the test devices AAA’s inspectors will be using.
Rigorous standards for cleanliness and condition have long been a foundation of the AAA Diamond Program. After a hotel passes AAA’s review for cleanliness, condition and surface cleanliness testing during an unannounced inspection, it will be recognized as Inspected Clean and earn a AAA Diamond designation—Approved, Three Diamond, Four Diamond or Five Diamond—which describes their level of amenities and services. For now, Inspected Clean only applies to AAA Diamond designated hotels, not restaurants that are also part of the AAA Diamond Program.
For more than 80 years, AAA has conducted professional, independent, in-person property inspections. The AAA Diamond Program comprises more than 26,000 Diamond designated hotels across the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Hotel properties can learn more about Inspected Clean at AAA.biz/Approved.