Diamond Program Enhancements: AAA Hotel Inspections to Measure Surface Cleanliness

by Gwen Newell

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many hotels have enacted enhanced cleaning procedures and housekeeping standards, including the promise of cleaning high-touch surfaces. But are those hotels delivering on that promise?

The pandemic has had a profound impact on travelers’ expectations for cleanliness – and now, travelers who seek independent validation of hotel cleanliness can now turn to AAA for trusted travel information regarding inspections. AAA, which conducts annual in-person inspections at more than 26,000 hotels across North America, will now test sanitation levels of high-touch surfaces, as part of its evaluation. The Inspected Clean enhancement to the Diamond Program will help give travelers extra peace of mind and rebuild their confidence in traveling.

AAA Inspectors will Swab Surfaces throughout the Hotel Room

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.

Inspectors are Testing for ATP

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 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.

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.

Testing Begins Later This Month

  • 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.

1,000 Hotels Participated in the Development of the Test

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.

AAA has Conducted In-Person Property Inspections for 80 Years

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.

You may also like

Leave a Comment