4-diamond winners still shine Charleston-area restaurants, hotels veterans on AAA list

Belmond Charleston Place is a stalwart on the AAA Four Diamond list.

The South Carolina recipients of AAA’s Four Diamond awards are out for 2015, and the 11 hotels and nine restaurants from the Charleston region all have been there before.

The John Rutledge House Inn, Belmond Charleston Place and Planters Inn have received the distinction for 20 years or more. Downtown restaurants Charleston Grill, Peninsula Grill and Circa 1886 have been repeat Four Diamond recipients for 15 years or more.

This year’s list didn’t include any of the newcomers to the local lodging and dining industry, nor did the 2014 list. The most recent addition is the Crowne Plaza Hotel Charleston Airport/Convention Center, which has maintained its Four Diamond rating since 2011.

AAA spokeswoman Tiffany Wright said that while hotels and restaurants do not pay for the ratings, they do have to apply to be considered. Those that are approved by the travel club are included on the list of properties that incognito inspectors visit and evaluate annually.

“They don’t just go out and pick hotels and restaurants and say, ‘Oh, this looks cool,’ ” Wright said. “There are actually 89 categories they look at to determine a rating.”

Dan Blumenstock, chairman of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, is director of hotel operations for the company that owns the Ansonborough Inn, which earned Four Diamond status for the fifth consecutive year.

He said it’s seen as a prestigious designation in the lodging industry.

“I think it carries a lot of weight,” Blumenstock said. “When you have a Four Diamond, it illustrates to the customer that ... they have a higher level of service.”

He added that the reason many businesses are listed year after year is because once they earn the Four Diamond distinction, they generally aim to “continue to live up to the expectations of the guests and of AAA.”

In all, 29 hotels and 14 restaurants in South Carolina are classified as Four Diamond properties this year.

For the past nine years, the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort has been rated as a Five Diamond lodging, which is AAA’s highest rating. The only other hotel in South Carolina to earn that distinction this year was the Inn at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton.