Hotel Guests Less Happy With Stays, Study Finds


Ritz-Carlton was named the top hotel brand in the recent J.D. Power study. // (c) 2011 The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2011
By Jane Engle

July 20--Guests are getting less happy with their hotel stays, judging from a new survey. A major culprit: As hotels cut costs, their service and facilities have slipped.

Results of the 2011 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, released Wednesday by J.D. Power and Associates, found that overall satisfaction with hotels over the last year has slid to 764 from 771, based on a 1,000-point scale.

Despite paying about 4% more in costs and fees, customers said they were actually more satisfied this year than last with that aspect of their stays, the study found. But they were less satisfied with other aspects, such as reservations, check-in and check-out, guest rooms, food and beverage, services and facilities.

In an interview, J.D. Power Vice President Stuart Greif said that although room rates are up, they're still shy of what they were a few years ago. Meanwhile, customers are feeling the effects of recession-driven reductions in staff, maintenance and investment.

Those effects weren't so apparent when hotels had more empty rooms. In fact, last year's study had shown an increase in overall guest satisfaction with hotels.

"With lower occupancy, check-in times were shorter, you got upgrades to nicer rooms and getting on that first treadmill in the morning was not as much of a challenge," Greif said.

But as business has bounced back a bit, making more demands on service, lines have grown, upgrades have become scarcer and and other shortfalls get noticed. Facing an uncertain economy, hotels remain reluctant to add staff, he said.

The report had some bright spots. For the second year in a row, Ritz-Carlton was the top-rated hotel brand. And two chains really moved up: Hotel Indigo, rated as the top upscale brand, and Holiday Inn, which topped the mid-scale full-service list, beating out Best Western, Ramada Inn and others.

As a newer chain, the boutique-style Hotel Indigo benefits from having new buildings and rooms, Greif said. Meanwhile, a push by Holiday Inn's parent company, InterContinental Hotels Group, to improve what had been a "down-and-out brand" has yielded results for Holiday Inn, he said. (IHG is also the parent of Hotel Indigo.)

The study by J.D. Power, a marketing information services company in Westlake Village, Calif., was based on responses gathered between June 2010 and May this year from more than 61,300 guests who had recently stayed at a U.S. or Canadian hotel.