Hotels Finally Turn the Corner on Customer Satisfaction

Hotel guest satisfaction surveys
According to J. D. Power, hotel guest satisfaction ratings in North America are up for the first time in years.

One of the industry segments that took the biggest beating in customer satisfaction during the recent recession was the hotel sector.

Annual surveys conducted by J. D. Power charted a continuing decline in satisfaction rates.  In everything from reservations and the check-in process to the cost of stay, hotel customers have been giving “thumbs down” for the past half-decade.

Until now.  

Marketing information services company J. D. Power & Associates, part of McGraw Hill, has just released the results of its latest annual survey, based on responses from more than 68,700 hotel guests in the United States and Canada collected between July 2012 and May 2013. 

J.D. Power has conducted these hotel industry surveys annually for the past 17 years.

According to the 2013 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, the overall guest satisfaction rating index is 77.7 on a 100-point scale. 

That may seem like a “Gentleman’s C,” but it’s an increase from last year’s 75.7 score. 

More to the point, it’s the first time in quite a few years in which the aggregate rating has gone up.

Where has satisfaction increased?  Pretty much in every category surveyed, with the largest gains coming in the reservations process, check-in/check-out procedures, and hotel costs and fees.

Other categories included in the study were guest room satisfaction, food and beverage service, other hotels services, and hotel faciliites.

The largest area of continuing discontent is in Internet usage.  Customer complaints are all across the board — ranging from spotting connectivity and slow speeds to usage charges.

Other areas where improvements are sought are in HVAC comfort and controlling noise levels.

What about customer reaction to rising hotel rates?  After all, they’ve gone up by about 5% over the past two years. 

But the J. D. Power survey found little concern about rate increases.  Rick Garlick, director of the survey, suggests that pulling out of the economic downturn might explain this lack of concern.  “The economy may be playing a part in price satisfaction because people have a little more to spend,” he noted.

The people who appear to be the least satisfied with their stay experience are the ones who chose to stay at a hotel based on price alone.  It’s like the adage says:  “You get what you pay for.”

On the other hand, the most satisfied guests weren’t necessarily people who stayed at 5-star properties.  Instead, they’re ones who evaluated hotels carefully beforehand using online tools such as third-party hotel reviews and ratings.  The “eyes wide open” strategy, as it were.

Such evaluation tools have made it easier to know what to expect from a hotel stay, contributing to overall satisfaction ratings because there’s less likelihood of a “rude awakening.”

The J. D. Power surveys also ask respondents to rate hotel brands.  I was interested to see which hotels scored highest in the various different categories in this year’s survey:

  • Luxury category:  Ritz-Carlton
  • Upscale:  Hyatt
  • Midscale Full Service:  Holiday Inn
  • Midscale:  Drury
  • Economy/Budget:  Microtel (Wyndham)
  • Extended Stay:  TownePlace Suites

Come to think of it, none of these results is particularly surprising.  In fact, three of the brands (Ritz-Carlton, Holiday Inn and Drury) have been tops in their category for three or more consecutive years of the J. D. Powers studies.

Additional survey findings are available here.

Golfers’ Paradise: Portland? Seattle?? Rochester???

Golfing at Stone Creek Golf Course, with view of Mt. Hood
Keeping your eye on the ball is a bit more challenging at Stone Creek Golf Course, with dramatic views of Mt. Hood ready to distract at every turn …

I live in the Mid-Atlantic region of the country. And around these parts, a vacation often takes golf lovers to North Carolina, or maybe to Florida or Scottsdale in the winter months. (Scotland is the “Holy Grail” of golf destinations, of course.)

So I was somewhat surprised to read that Golf magazine has come up with some pretty big surprises in its listing of the “Top 10 U.S. Cities” for golf, published in August.

The list was developed in conjunction with the National Golf Foundation, so presumably it was compiled with the input of the “leading authorities” in the sport.

Some of the cities on the Top Ten list come as little surprise:

  • #3:  Las Vegas, NV
  • #5:  Orlando, FL
  • #7:  San José, CA

A few others wouldn’t necessarily be ones I would have thought of initially, but they do make sense:

  • #2: Columbus, OH  (the birthplace of Jack Nicklaus)
  • #4: Dallas, TX  (more than 100 golf courses are open to the public)
  • #8: Atlanta, GA  (the Sugarloaf course is here, along with two PGA Tour sites)

That leaves four other cities that I was surprised to see listed at all:

#10 is Rochester, NY  –  This city might have ranked higher for golf in my book than Buffalo or Cleveland, but to make the “Ten Best” list is … remarkable. It was included because there are ~65 golf courses, and median green fees are a huge bargain at just ~$30.

#9 is Portland, OR  –  I would have thought “weather issues” would make this city a non-contender, but Golf magazine found otherwise. Moreover, there are ~50 courses including Stone Creek Golf Club with its dramatic views of Mount Hood.

#6 is Seattle, WA  –  Wouldn’t the (rainy/cloudy) weather be even more of an issue here than in Portland? Evidently not, as Golf magazine ranked it among the top six cities, noting 60+ courses and median green fees of around $45.

And #1 is … Austin, TX —  This city was so-named because it “has the nation’s best combination of weather, name [course] designs, and affordable, accessible golf.”

It looks like the golf lovers among us will need to start expanding our horizons when it comes to vacation destinations.

Hmm, I wonder what our spouses will think of spending an exciting week in Austin, Columbus or Rochester …?

Where in the World do Americans Wish to Vacation?

World of travel: Americans see Italy as their #1 overseas vacation destination.Have you ever wondered where Americans would wish to vacation overseas if they had the opportunity and the financial wherewithal? It’s a topic that that Harris Interactive surveys every year.

The results are now in for the 2011 survey, which queried nearly 2,200 adults online in July … and for a second year in a row, Italy comes in first place in popularity.

Countries in Europe and Oceania remain the most popular vacation countries for Americans, a finding Harris has observed in annual surveys ever since 2008. This year, the Top 10 countries chosen by respondents for vacation destination are as follows:

#1: Italy
#2: Great Britain
#3: Australia
#4: Ireland
#5: France
#6: Greece
#7: Spain
#8: Germany
#9: Japan
#10: Canada

Since 2008, the biggest shift in popularity has been in Spain (up three notches) and in Japan (down two spots). What’s causing this? One too many natural disasters in Japan? … The increased popularity of the Costa del Sol?

While Italy is the top pick in 2011 for both men and women, there are some differences when looking at the next-ranked countries:

 For men, the #2 choice is Australia, followed by Great Britain.

 For women, the #2 choice is Great Britain, and Ireland is #3.

 Baby boomers as well as respondents over the age of 65 choose Great Britain over Italy as the top vacation destination.

In viewing the 2011 results, I was somewhat surprised by the lack of any Caribbean countries on the list.

If Harris continues to conduct this survey annually, it will be interesting to see how the results change over time. I’d predict that Brazil and Argentina may start making the Top Ten list before too long. (Speaking for myself, those two would be my picks a lot sooner than some of the other countries listed above.)

More survey stats and a history of results can be found here.