Steamboat Grand earns four diamonds from AAA

Resort joins short list of elite hotels in Colorado

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— The Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel and Conference Center has joined a short list of elite hotels in Colorado. It announced this week it has been designated a "four diamond" property by AAA.

AAA Colorado's Mary Greer said Tuesday that in 2003, just 21 Colorado hotels and another 21 Colorado restaurants earned the four-diamond rating.

The Steamboat Grand's status becomes official in March when AAA sends copies of its 2004 Tour Guide to its 46 million members nationwide, Greer said.

"The industry continues to recognize what our customers and staff have long known, that the Steamboat Grand is one of the elite lodging properties in the Rocky Mountains," said John Santaniello, vice president and general manager of the hotel.

Santaniello assumed his responsibilities with the Steamboat Grand just over a year ago. He said the publication of the AAA Tour Guide next year will lend significant status not only to his hotel but to the entire resort.

"Clearly now we've got a discerning traveler who relies on AAA's reputation and will compare us to other four-diamond properties they've visited," Santaniello said.

He predicted the rating will put Steamboat and the Steamboat Grand on a competitive basis with luxury resort hotels such as the Hyatt Regency in Beaver Creek and the St. Regis in Aspen.

The Steamboat Grand opened in late fall of 2000. Greer said it is up to individual properties to solicit a diamond rating. Hotel managers are sent guidelines on the criteria they must meet, but the inspection is unannounced.

"We want it to be business as usual. Our inspectors want to be treated like any guest," Greer said. "To get four diamonds is a coup and a statement about what they are doing across a broad range from customer service to hotel amenities."

Santaniello said he asked AAA to subject his property to the level of scrutiny necessary to get a four- or five-diamond rating.

He was unaware that the inspector was staying in his hotel until he got a call from a AAA representative on a Monday morning congratulating him. He was able to surmise that the inspector checked into the Steamboat Grand on Aug. 8, and stayed over a weekend when the hotel was 97 percent full. He said it added luster to the rating to know his employees could achieve four diamonds during a weekend when the hotel was operating at capacity.

The news also brought his staff closer together, Santaniello said.

"It was interesting to observe people congratulating one another," he said. "This is all about the accomplishments of the team. From the reservationist on the phone, to the people at the front door, to the housekeeper guests meet in the hall to the fitness center attendant folding your towel."

AAA gives out anywhere from one to five diamonds. The five-diamond rating is rare -- only seven properties in Colorado have retained that ranking since the diamond rating system began in 1977. The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and the C Lazy U near Granby earned five diamonds in 2003, Greer said.

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