Increased Guest Satisfaction Is Driving Franchise Hotel Industry

Nevermind rising room rates and increased hotel occupancy, customer satisfaction in the hotel industry is up, a new study says.

The annual J.D. Power and Associates North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study measured overall hotel guest satisfaction based on six measures: check-in/check-out, guest room, food and beverage, hotel services, hotel facilities, and costs and fees. Hotel chains were ranked in six segments: luxury, upscale, mid-scale full service, mid-scale limited service, economy/budget and extended stay.

Consumers appear to appreciate the value of new product and service offerings being introduced by many hotel chains, as increases in overall guest satisfaction are being driven by improvements in the measures of food and beverage, costs and fees (value of services) and hotel services.

"As the travel industry continues to rebound from the post-9/11 travel slump, hotel chains have benefited from the ability to invest significant funds to renovate guest rooms, enhance room amenities and improve food and beverage offerings," said Linda Hirneise, partner in the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "The key is in adding the kinds of value-added services guests really want."

While many brands push the envelope to introduce new amenities and innovations such as satellite radio or Internet check-in, the study found that brands that improve on offerings in the tried-and-true comforts of home that make for a convenient in-room experience, tend to receive considerable boosts in customer satisfaction scores. Amenities of particular interest to consumers include a complimentary breakfast, in-room refrigerators and coffee makers, pillow top mattresses and high-speed Internet access.

Omni Hotels is a prime example. The company improved dramatically this year to rank highest in the upscale segment. Omni Hotels is the first upscale hotel brand to offer free wireless Internet access in guest rooms. Three top-ranking Hilton brands all offer free high-speed Internet access: Hilton Garden Inn, which ranks highest in the mid-scale full service segment; Hampton Inn & Suites, which ranks highest among mid-scale limited service hotels; and Homewood Suites by Hilton, which ranks highest in the extended stay segment. In addition, Hampton Inn & Suites and Homewood Suites by Hilton also offer complimentary hot breakfasts.

"With all the costs involved in travel today, guests are looking for a more all-inclusive experience when they book a hotel reservation," said Hirneise. "While there is no replacement for good customer service, consumers want all the comforts of home when they stay at a hotel, and they don't want to be nickeled and dimed to get them."

Other brands topping segment rankings include Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, which ranks highest among luxury hotels for the second consecutive year, and Microtel Inn & Suites, which ranks highest among economy/budget hotels for the fourth consecutive year.

The study also found that 41 percent of respondents booked a hotel reservation online-up from 36 percent in 2004. Hotel brand Web sites continue to earn increased market share of online bookings compared to independent travel Web sites. In most segments, reservations were booked directly through a hotel's site more than twice as often as independent sites. Online bookings were most common in the extended stay segment, where more than one-half (52%) of reservations were booked through the Internet.

The study was based on responses from more than 37,000 guests who stayed in a hotel between December 2004 and May 2005.

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