Bill O’Driscoll •
Stick four diamonds in John Farahi’s cap.
The Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, which Farahi helped build from a motel on the edge of south Reno in the 1970s to a major player on the Northern Nevada gaming/tourism map, has received a Four Diamond rating from AAA.
“We have come a long way. It shows we are a refined, upscale property,” Farahi said after the official congratulatory letter arrived last week.
The Atlantis is just the third resort in the Reno-Sparks-Tahoe region to attain Four Diamond status, based on quality of service, alongside the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino and the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe in Incline Village.
It puts the 824-room Atlantis in rare company, according to AAA. Fewer than 5 percent of 31,000-plus properties rated by the nationwide auto club in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean have a Four Diamond rating.
It also will help lift the collective industry in Northern Nevada, Farahi and others believe, giving would-be tourists something more to consider when they look this way.
“No question, we as a region always struggle with our image,” Farahi said. “But this shows that we do have that level of service. This will have ripple effects for the whole community.”
It all comes down to detail. Consideration for AAA’s five levels of diamond status involves inspectors, working unannounced, assessing everything from attention to service to the number of hangers in rooms, the type of wall decor and quality of bedding, and the size, style and location of TVs.
By comparison, the Las Vegas area has 20 Four Diamond properties and 10 Five Diamond resorts as of last January, according to AAA. No Northern Nevada properties have attained Five Diamond status, AAA’s highest.
Even so, the Four Diamond award for the Atlantis will boost regional and statewide tourism’s presence in the media.
“Your Four Diamond rating will soon be reflected in AAA’s digital media and print travel publications specifically in an upcoming edition of the Nevada TourBook guide,” Michael Petrone, director of tourism information development for AAA Publishing, wrote in the July 30 letter to the Atlantis.
Indeed, it adds more firepower to the local advertising and promotional arsenal, especially for the hotly competitive convention market, said Chris Baum, CEO of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority.
“It’s something that we can work into the conversation,” he said. “It never hurts to have a Four Diamond property. It’s a seal of quality for a lot of people. It makes them feel comfortable signing a contract.
“We’ll promote it to the hilt. I’m sure that will bode well for the future,” he said.
Added Bethany Drysdale, spokeswoman for the Nevada Commission on Tourism, “It’s cliche but true: A high tide raises all boats. This raises the caliber of our destinations that much higher.”
“The RSCVA and hotels are really going after the conventions that want to go into places with high quality,” she said. “Now it makes it that much more attractive. Meetings produce a lot of money for the region.”
At the Peppermill, spokesman Bill Hughes said a Four Diamond rating “leaves the impression you’ve got a strong property in our marketplace.”
“It’s absolutely beneficial,” he said. “It elevates the status of the city, and that’s good for everyone from a tourism standpoint.”
And it’s not just the resorts that stand to gain, but the gateways.
“Both the airport and the Atlantis are committed to making a terrific first and last impression on visitors to our region,” said Krys Bart, president/CEO of the Reno-Tahoe International Airport Authority.
In the past five years, the Atlantis spent $100 million in additions and improvements, including a 30,000-square-foot spa. Farahi said the investment is paying off.
“Many properties across the U.S. have cut back their capital spending to improve,” he said. “But in hospitality, you never stop. That’s the key. You’ve got to continuously improve. We have every intention to keep pushing.”