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15 Feb 2024

AA Media's Simon Numphud on modernising industry accreditation

AA Media's Simon Numphud on modernising industry accreditation

The AA, the UK’s leading hospitality assessment scheme provider, alongside VisitEngland, the national tourism agency, recently announced plans to futureproof the hospitality industry with a modernisation plan which simplifies the current quality standards and introduces the new and free Visitor Ready scheme. Independent Hotel Show sat down with Managing Director Simon Numphud to learn more about what the changes will mean for the independent hotel sector. 

Simon Numphud

Can you explain briefly what change is being made to the AA’s rating system?  

In collaboration with VisitEngland, we have streamlined our assessment schemes into three distinct levels: Visitor Ready, Quality Assessed, and Quality Star Rated (3 to 5 stars).  
Developed over 18 months and backed by leading industry and external consultants, we have simplified the schemes to make them easier to understand for both consumers and the industry. 
The Visitor Ready scheme is a brand new and free entry level scheme. It enables businesses in the UK hospitality, leisure, and tourism sectors to seamlessly showcase their commitment to operating safely within current industry standards and legislation. It has been created to make compliance accessible for all.  

Why has it been introduced?  

This scheme simplification aims to provide enhanced clarity and understanding for businesses when deciding to be assessed, and for consumers to make an informed decision when choosing their next place to stay. Quality Assessed gives businesses the option ​to be fully inspected without a star rating​. It also gives businesses the opportunity to achieve the various awards that the schemes offer​. Quality Star Rated has been simplified to 3 to 5 stars,​ where 3 stars now becomes the new minimum requirement ​at each level​. 

Why is the collaboration with VisitEngland important?  

Collaborating with our trusted partner VisitEngland, means that our scheme is further backed by industry experts. As the AA, we have over 115 years of experience in the hospitality industry and together with the National Tourist Board, VisitEngland, we can be even stronger and stand as beacons of reliability and excellence alongside the AA, which gives both industry and visiting guests unparalleled peace of mind.  

What will this mean for lower and higher rated hotels?  

Most changes will have little effect on current scheme membership. However, businesses that currently have 1- and 2-star ratings will be impacted from the 2025 scheme year onwards. We’ve been in direct contact with AA members and VisitEngland scheme participants to raise awareness and provide guidance around the scheme changes. 

What will Quality Assessed and Visitor Ready mean in practice?  

The baseline accreditation of Visitor Ready will help business to know the key safety and cleanliness requirements that today’s visitor expects. Businesses can check eligibility at, upload evidence, confirm key requirements and complete their application in just 20 minutes.   

What’s the timeline for these changes to be implemented?  

Our modernisation programme across our quality assessment schemes, will be rolled out across the next year, which will impact current scheme ratings from 2025. 

How are the changes being communicated to guests?  

We’re making guests and travellers aware of what our official ratings mean through a series of communications and key channels including:, where consumers can search for best UK rated places to eat, stay and visit and also through the which is a free digital accreditation platform designed to give consumers confidence when visiting new venues across the leisure and hospitality industry. 

Have there been any changes to how quality and luxury are defined in the 2024 hotel sector?  

Most importantly the revised quality schemes are all about a quality in context approach. They are about assessing what they offer to guests, not what they don’t. Physical quality and quality of the guest experience will be of equal importance and relevance. This approach enables us to celebrate the uniqueness of each business rather than focusing on what's missing.  

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