Hotel guest satisfaction increases - along with internet bookings
Most major hotel chains are achieving a higher level of customer satisfaction despite the September 11 attacks, and online hotel bookings are on the increase, according to J D Power and Associates.
The 2002 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Study revealed - perhaps surprisingly - that overall customer satisfaction has increased in five out of six segments, compared to 2001's results.
The study confirms the general perception that business travel is down, and shows that the mix of guests in most segments has shifted toward a higher percentage of leisure travellers than business travellers. But consumers are not necessarily staying close to home; The distances they are travelling to hotels have not decreased significantly when compared with those before the attacks.
Good news... "The widely publicised predictions of declining room rates, and a move toward trips closer to home, after last year's terrorist attacks have not come to pass," explained JD Power's Linda Hirneise. "This, coupled with increases in satisfaction for nearly all hotel segments, is good news for the industry."
... Bad news But although the news is promising for most hotel segments, the economy/budget segment has suffered decreases in both guest satisfaction and room rates compared to 2001. Room rates have declined as much as 5% among the economy/budget chains analysed, while satisfaction is down by an average of 4% throughout the segment.
Internet bookings grow The internet is now playing an increasing role in the way consumers make hotel reservations. Over the past year, online bookings have almost doubled in every segment. Guests using the internet to book rooms often receive lower room rates and report greater satisfaction with the accuracy of the reservation.
"Consumers can find bargains on the internet by comparing both independent travel web sites and hotel brand sites," said Hirneise. "As much of the travel industry is quickly realising, the popularity of internet booking reveals a new kind of consumer. The hotel industry needs to pay close attention to this growing trend."
When asked to comment on this increase in online bookings, Tim Clark, CEO of online hotel booking service Shortbreaks.com, explained: "Online bookings can often be quicker and more detailed than bookings made by telephone or in person. And because competition in the sector is growing, many offers we make online just aren't available through any other channel." The firm - like many others - acquires new customers through discounted bookings, and drives customer retention with personalised services including world-wide hotel searches, travel advice, and regular permission-based e-mail communications.
Improving the stay The study indicates that there has been a significant improvement throughout the industry in terms of accuracy of billing and speed of check-out. Also evaluated were guests' satisfaction with their rooms, hotel services, food and beverages, and pre-arrival and arrival.
Interestingly, when asked about possible improvements to their hotel stays, almost 50% of guests expressed a desire for complimentary bottled water in their rooms - but it is not yet forthcoming. "As consumer expectations rise, complimentary bottled water could serve as a point of differentiation for some hotels," said Hirneise.
Now in its sixth year, the JD Power study evaluates the satisfaction of business and leisure guests at 52 major hotel chains across six segments: luxury, upscale, mid-price full service, mid-price limited service, economy/budget and extended stay.