Even though reduced demand and fire-sale rates have forced hotels to cut staff and operating cost, hotel guest satisfaction is up, according to the annual J.D. Power and Associates survey.

Four of the six segments -- upscale, midscale full-service, midscale limited-service and economy/budget -- improved in satisfaction in 2009 compared with 2008.

Guest satisfaction with luxury hotels, which have been hardest hit in the downturn, remained stable from 2008, the survey showed, while satisfaction with extended-stay properties deceased slightly.

"Many hotel brands have successfully focused on guest satisfaction, despite steep rate discounts, staff declines, reductions in in-room amenities and a halt on renovations," said Michael Drago, director of the global hospitality and travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

"These hoteliers know that providing extraordinary guest service in a consistent manner, in both good times and bad, is a recipe for continued success."

The survey, conducted from June 2008 to June 2009, shows an increased desire for comfort and value-related amenities. For the first time since the inception of the study in 1997, bedding and pillow choices and free parking are among the top five "must-have" amenities for hotel guests.

Other most-desired amenities include complimentary breakfast, wireless Internet access and pillow-top mattresses. Within the luxury segment, a high percentage of guests expressed the desire for high-definition, flat-panel TVs.

"Hotel guests want the comforts of home at a competitive rate," said Drago. "They don’t want to incur fees for 'extras' such as parking or Internet access. Guests are much more satisfied when their total charge at checkout is in line with what they anticipated when they made their room reservation."

Across all segments, satisfaction with the reservations and check-in/checkout procedures has improved, while satisfaction with guest rooms has declined.

The following hotel brands rank highest in guest satisfaction within their respective segments:

Luxury: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Upscale: Embassy Suites Hotels (for a third consecutive year)

Midscale full-service: Hilton Garden Inn

Midscale limited-service: Drury Inn & Suites (for a fourth consecutive year)

Economy/budget: Microtel Inns & Suites (for an eighth consecutive year)

Extended-stay: Staybridge Suites

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