Ritz-Carlton, Kimpton, Hyatt Place top J.D. Power guest poll

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Ritz-Carlton, Kimpton and Hyatt Place topped J.D. Power's annual poll of North America hotel-guest satisfaction as overall scores reached their highest levels in at least seven years.

J.D. Power's overall guest-satisfaction score of 777 rose 20 points from last year and was the highest since the research firm began its current method of scoring in 2006. Guests were particularly happy with improvements in the reservation and check-in/checkout processes as well as with the relative costs and fees associated with their stays.

The results reflect increased technology investments on the part of hoteliers, as many companies used increased revenue to improve their reservation and front-desk systems, likely speeding up booking and check-in operations.

Overall scores were pulled up by a 21-point increase in the luxury segment, where Ritz-Carlton edged out Four Seasons to take the top spot among luxury hotels for the fourth straight year.
Hilton Worldwide's Waldorf Astoria leapfrogged JW Marriott to take the third spot among luxury hoteliers.

Additionally, while hotel revenue has been on the upswing for several years, most of that was in the form of occupancy advancements until last year, and room rates remain just below their pre-recession peaks, further pleasing guests as the economy improves. Specifically, room rates rose just 3.7% in 2011 before accelerating slightly to a 4% growth rate last year, according to Smith Travel Research. Year-over-year room-rate growth for the first half of 2013 was also up 4%.

"Many hotel chains are finally benefiting from the long-term investments they have been making to improve their properties in terms of staffing, rooms and facilities," said Rick Garlick, J.D. Power's head of global travel and hospitality practice.

As for other hotel brands, Kimpton supplanted last year's winner, Omni Hotels & Resorts, in the upper-upscale sector, while Hyatt Place did the same to Hilton Garden Inn among upscale hotels.

InterContinental Hotels Group's (IHG)Holiday Inn topped J.D. Power's midscale full-service list for the third straight year, while Drury Hotels made it eight straight years leading midscale brands.

Wyndham's Microtel Inn & Suites replaced Jameson Inn atop the economy sector, while Hilton's Homewood Suites, which last year topped the extended-stay list, this year led the new upper-extended-stay category that includes Hyatt House, IHG's Staybridge Suites and Marriott's Residence Inn. Marriott's TownePlace Suites led this year's extended-stay list, beating out IHG's Candlewood Suites.

J.D. Power polled more than 68,000 guests who stayed at North American hotels between June 2012 and May 2013.

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