Morris Inn Proves it's a Gem

Author: Jessica Brookshire

SOUTH BEND -- AAA has awarded the Morris Inn Four Diamond status.

Less than 5 percent of the more than 30,000 lodgings approved by AAA make the Four Diamond list, according to the AAA website.

The inn, located on the University of Notre Dame campus, is Indiana's only Four-Diamond hotel north of Indianapolis and only one of 10 in the state, said Rob DeCleene, executive director of Visit South Bend Mishawaka. He explained that this isn't just good news for the inn and Notre Dame, it's good news for the community, too.

"It gives us a leg up," he said in a phone interview. "You always want to have unique qualifiers in your destination that no one else has. This is a great asset to have and feature in any marketing campaigns."

Notre Dame intended from the beginning to achieve a AAA Four Diamond ranking for the inn, DeCleene said, adding: "It's impressive that they were able to achieve it almost immediately."

The inn, which opened at the end of August after a more than $30 million renovation and expansion, had been in operation for only three weeks when a AAA representative arrived to inspect it.

"Raters arrive unannounced and take a three-hour tour of the building," said Joseph Kurth, director and general manager of the inn. "That's a part of the integrity of the AAA process. You can't prepare for it. Instead you have to be ready every day."

AAA has been rating hotels for 77 years and has published a set of mandatory standards and guidelines for each rating. It describes a Four-Diamond hotel as "Refined, stylish with upscale physical attributes, extensive amenities and a high degree of hospitality, service and attention to detail."

Kurth explained that it's that attention to detail that makes a hotel Four Diamond. For example, the Morris Inn provides an iPad in every room and oversized bath sheets instead of regular-sized bath towels.

"It's more of a refined feeling than any one service element," Kurth said.

The AAA representative looks at different aspects of the building and service, such as its condition and cleanliness; management and staff; exterior, grounds and public areas; guestroom decor, ambience and amenities; bathrooms; and guest services. The representative then rates each category between one and five stars, Kurth said, and the numbers are sent to the AAA office where the scores are weighted and an overall rating for the property is decided.

Kurth was pleased at the ratings the Morris Inn got in each category. It received bonus points for its technology, condition and cleanliness and did not lose points in any category.

"To have it that polished three weeks after opening speaks well of the team here," he said. He explains that it is unusual for a property to receive Four Diamond recognition so soon after opening.

"Typically, they wait until the end of a second year, maybe the third," he said. "It is truly an honor to have been recognized."

He was happy that DeCleene shared his excitement over the ranking.

"He's talking about it being a game-changer for the destination," Kurth said. "When you build something that can bring new business in and create jobs instead of spreading them around, that's an economic driver for the community."