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Greenbrier falls off AAA's top-rated list

By Megan Workman

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- AAA on Friday released its annual Five Diamond Award list, denoting the top hotels in the United States -- and for the first time in 36 years, The Greenbrier isn't on it.

The resort in White Sulphur Springs, despite spending $300 million to improve its appearance, received four diamonds.

In a prepared statement sent to the Gazette-Mail, Greenbrier President Jeff Kmiec said the resort learned last year that it "would be rated four diamonds in 2013 primarily as a result of our standard rooms -- bedrooms and bathrooms -- being too small to meet the current criteria for five diamond hotels."

Kmiec said the rooms in question represent "less than 10 percent" of the resort's 710 guest rooms.

"We made it clear to AAA from the start that we were unwilling and unable to alter the size of these rooms to meet the current standards," Kmiec said in the statement. "We simply cannot alter the footprint of the hotel in order to meet the new standard. We cannot destroy hundreds of years of legacy and history for larger bathrooms."

Kmiec quoted The Greenbrier resort owner Jim Justice, "That's like asking to change the face of Mount Rushmore; we won't do it."

Kmiec said The Greenbrier did try to raise its standards. The resort has spent $300 million on renovations and additions, he said.

"We attempted to appease AAA by updating the interiors of these rooms. The rooms look absolutely beautiful," Kmeic wrote.

He credited the resort's interior designer, Carleton Varney, "talented craftspeople," including the plumbers, HVAC technicians, electricians, painters, carpenters, upholstery and housekeeping teams for the updated look.

AAA appreciated the room upgrades and additions to the resort but "they were unwilling to give us exemption concerning the size of the standard rooms" and "declined our appeals," Kmiec said.

He said The Greenbrier resort "looks forward to revisiting this issue with AAA for next year and continuing the legacy of being America's resort."

The Mobil Travel Guide removed the Greenbrier's five-star rating in 2000. The guide is now known as the Forbes Travel Guide.

The ratings are based on unannounced on-site property evaluations by AAA inspectors. AAA spokeswoman Heather Hunter told The Associated Press that AAA doesn't discuss individual ratings or property inspections.

"The Greenbrier is one of the nation's most historic and notable hotels," Hunter said, "and we are proud to have it as AAA Approved and Four Diamond Rated hotel."

AAA awards five diamonds to properties that provide meticulous service, exceed guest expectations and maintain standards of excellence. Hunter defined four-diamond hotels as being "refined and stylish with upscale physical attributes, extensive amenities and a high degree of hospitality, service and attention to detail."

Joining The Greenbrier resort on the four-diamond hotel list in West Virginia is Stonewall Resort in Lewis County and the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown.

The Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo., is the only hotel in the nation to earn AAA's Five Diamond Award every year since the rating system's inception in 1976. The Greenbrier and JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz., enjoyed that status until this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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