A new study of the hotel industry offers good news for travel agents and their clients. Following two years of declines, hotel guest satisfaction has increased significantly, reaching its highest levels in the past seven years, according to the J.D. Power 2013 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study.
The study, now in its 17th year, measures overall guest satisfaction across eight hotel segments: luxury; upper upscale; upscale; midscale full service; midscale; economy/budget; upper extended stay; and extended stay.
Seven key factors are examined within each segment to determine overall satisfaction: reservation; check-in/check-out; guest room; food and beverage; hotel services; hotel facilities; and cost and fees.
Overall Satisfaction Up
Overall guest satisfaction averages 777 on a 1,000-point scale, the report notes, up 20 points from 2012. This marks the highest satisfaction index score for the hotel industry since the introduction of the current study methodology in 2006. Satisfaction has increased in all seven factors, with the largest increases in reservation, cost and fees, and check-in/check-out, according to J.D. Power.
"The fact that guest satisfaction has turned a corner is great news for an industry that has struggled to sufficiently meet guest expectations in the past few years," said Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power. "Many hotel chains are finally benefitting from the long-term investments they have been making to improve their properties in terms of staffing, rooms and facilities. Furthermore, cost and fees satisfaction has increased while the factor has simultaneously declined in relative importance to overall satisfaction across all segments, indicating reduced price sensitivity among guests. These are all positive changes for the industry."
The study finds that the number of interactions guests have with the hotel staff may have a significant impact on satisfaction. Overall satisfaction is highest among guests who interact with four or more staff types, excluding the check-in staff, at 856, which is 79 points higher than industry average. Satisfaction drops to 724 when guests have no other interactions with staff types beyond check-in--53 points below industry average, J.D. Power says.
"As hoteliers experiment with automated methods of check-in and check-out that tend to reduce the number of human touch points, it is important that they use the additional staff time gained to offer a warmer, more personalized experience for their guests," said Ramez Faza, senior manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power. "Hotels should never underestimate the power of the human element. Whether it's assisting a guest with a special request or a friendly greeting from staff members in the hallway, the people aspect plays a key role in guest satisfaction and loyalty."
Top Hotel Brands
The following hotel brands rank highest in guest satisfaction in their respective segments:
-- Luxury: The Ritz-Carlton (for a fourth consecutive year)
-- Upper Upscale: Kimpton Hotels
-- Upscale: Hyatt Place
-- Midscale Full Service: Holiday Inn (for a third consecutive year)
-- Midscale: Drury Hotels (for an eighth consecutive year)
-- Economy/Budget: Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham
-- Upper Extended Stay: Homewood Suites
-- Extended Stay: TownePlace Suites
While Internet usage during a hotel stay continues to steadily increase, it remains the top problem experienced by guests, the report says. Among guests who experienced a problem during their hotel stay, 31 percent had an issue with their Internet service in terms of connection and/or speed. Interestingly, overall satisfaction among guests who experienced difficulties connecting to the Internet is 133 points lower than among those who did not have problems, whether Internet access was included in the room rate or not.
The study also finds that when guests choose a hotel primarily because of price, satisfaction is significantly lower than when they choose a hotel based on other criteria. Among the most satisfied guests overall are the 7 percent categorized in the study as scrutinizers--or those who seek out information through online hotel review sites and use it as the basis for their booking--at 114 points above industry average, according to the report.
"In many cases, hotel review sites play a key role in influencing guests to select one property over another, making them a powerful tool," said Garlick. "Before these sites became mainstream, guests tended to choose a property based on price, previous experiences or location. But now, armed with so much more detailed information from fellow travelers, guests can make more informed choices that ultimately result in more realistic expectations about the property. This can go a long way toward satisfaction with their stay."
Top Hotel Tips
For hotel guests, J.D. Power offers the following tips:
-- Make the hotel work for you. Contact the property ahead of time and ask for suggestions for things to do; have them book restaurant reservations; and get all the directions you need before you arrive.
-- If you are a frequent guest of a particular hotel, know the name of the front office manager and communicate to them ahead of your arrival to ensure they are aware of your visit. Loyalty still goes a long way in the hotel business.
-- If you have special requests, call the hotel directly, talk to the front office manager, or email them with your needs. They are usually willing to work with you when given ample time. Don't wait until you arrive to make complicated requests.
-- Don't assume all hotels are alike. Take advantage of all the information available to make an informed choice. If you know what you are getting ahead of time, you are less likely to be disappointed with your stay.
The 2013 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study is based on responses gathered between July 2012 and May 2013 from more than 68,700 guests from Canada and the United States who stayed in a hotel in North America between June 2012 and May 2013.
J.D. Power is a global marketing information services company and a business unit of McGraw-Hill Financial.