An Inspector Calls

What value do you the hotel guest put on the A.A?
In the increasingly fast changing world of the web, the growth of social media (Twitter, Facebook et al) and the advent of web sites like Trip Advisor, I would really like to know how you feel about old stagers; the A.A. To me, as a small hotelier, this once big player is far diminishing into the background in terms of marketing value. It still continues to produce a massive, doorstop sized guide, which lumps almost anywhere with a bedroom to let into one, far from easy to use, book. Does anyone really buy this massive tome at £16.99 when all that content is available for free on the web? The AA website is not found when searching for accommodation on the web and in the whole of 2009 the A.A. website sent me 178 visitors or 0.2% of my total traffic. Let’s be generous and say that 2% of those visitors to my site convert to bookings, that then works out at about 3-4 bookings per year. This is not a good return on marketing spend.
What has prompted me into thinking this? Yesterday Gliffaes was visited by the AA inspector ( not an overnight stay and he did not have a meal) who wanted primarily to know if we had put information on ironing boards and shoe cleaning in our guest information folder. He then asked about any improvements we had made since he was last here and I reeled off all the work we had done and he was generous enough to admit we had done a lot and it MIGHT improve our quality score. Hang on – we pay them – I am the customer, what are they doing to help drive business to us but how can they when they represent almost every hotel in the country? They carry out a quality grading identical to Visit Wales, ( the new Wales Tourist Board) and award the same number of stars based on your facilities. I am loathe to get into the debate about rosettes awarded for cooking but I am very keen to know if people use the rosettes to select where they might eat.
All I can do is compare the efforts of the AA to other marketing groups. Today I spent over two hours with Jeffrey Epstein & Peter Jarvis of Best Loved Hotels and the difference between the two organisations is chalk and cheese. They are selective about who they work with thus sending highly targeted visitors to my website viz. people who are in the market for what we offer at Gliffaes. They ‘get’ marketing and want to help you drive business with new and innovative ways to leverage the power of the internet. They were enthusiastic about Gliffaes and did not worry about ironing boards. They cost one and half time more than the AA but send me ten times more business. Do I take the plunge and ditch the AA?
Tell me how you feel about the AA stars and rosettes?