The AA's inspection team will be made up of a mix of full-time and freelance inspectors going forward, as the group announced it has had to make redundancies "in order to survive" the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement, AA Media managing director Simon Numphud confirmed the company had not been immune "to the significant impact that the pandemic has had on every business within the hospitality industry", and has therefore had to "reduce the size of the business".
Earlier this year, the AA launched a new website as the first step to offering an online booking function and confirmed standalone restaurants are to be charged a £180 fee to be included in the AA's rosette scheme and annual restaurant guide in the future. However, under the current circumstances, the scheme has been suspended and those who have already paid this year will not be asked to pay next year.
The awarding body said that it was necessary to charge the fee to ensure the inspection scheme, which has operated since 1956, remains sustainable, to cover the cost of visits to sites by AA inspectors, who pay their own bill and provide feedback to chefs and restaurateurs.
The AA has restarted its inspections but there will be no printed AA restaurant guide or awards ceremony this year. Instead it has launched the free AA Covid Confident assessment scheme, and 2,500 hotels, restaurants, pubs, campsites and self-catering properties have now been awarded AA Covid Confident status in the UK.
The AA has also held the contract for carrying out VisitEngland assessments for the last three years.
A VisitEngland Spokesperson said: "VisitEngland has been contracted with AA Media Limited since 2017 to deliver our tourism quality schemes, using a team comprised of employed and self-employed assessors. We have regular communication with the AA team and they keep us up to date with matters that may have an impact on the schemes. VisitEngland has been assured that there will be no change to how the AA will deliver the service, nor will it affect how VisitEngland quality schemes are assessed."
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